This week I was shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden death by heart attack of a college fraternity brother. So many thoughts wash over you upon hearing of a tragedy like this: The hole left behind by his passing, the loss to his wife, kids, siblings and parents; his young age, and the re-realization that you yourself are a mortal being in time.
This friend and I were not close. In fact, we had lost touch for over two decades until out of the blue he friended me on Facebook a couple years ago. After the salutory exchange of messages exclaiming our happiness to be reconnected — we settled into the all-too-familiar Facebook friendship. The one in which we keep tabs on one another through Facebook Wall updates but little else. You know those types of virtual friendships.
In fact, social media has so over-saturated our lives that many of us our experiencing “friend-fatigue.” Who on Earth has 200…300…500 close friends?? And why would we care about keeping up with such a large group of “tenuous” friends that really have nothing to do with our day to day lives?
Then the news of my friend’s passing… It started infiltrating Facebook Nation. From the rumor mill, to sad confirmation, to an outpouring of grief, to the posting of warm memorials from friends and colleagues of every corner of his life, posted for us all to read and share communally. From people I didn’t know, to old friends who’d long since escaped my orbit (even on Facebook).
Then of course it hit me. Every religious and spiritual philosophy holds as one of its key tenets that we are all connected. That every meeting between people, no matter how brief, has meaning and leaves a lasting ripple that radiates outward to forever. Of course believing that intellectually, and feeling it viscerally are two different things.
But then from the magic of my computer, I came to grieve, with friends, virtual-friends and strangers alike, for someone who was a part of my experience many years ago. And for a brief moment we were all connected and sharing a communal moment. A virtual light shined and technology, of all things, exposed those delicate filaments, invisible ties that bind and connect us all.