Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Funnelcake Fail Day

these aren't my friend's dogs, by the way; they just look like this

I hate the Sympathy-Suck aspect of Social Media almost more than any other thing about it -- someone writes about their "bad day" and everybody is supposed to chime in encouraging words of love and support. We've all done it now and then, and sometimes a kind word -- whether it's from relative strangers or devoted friends -- is just what we all need. But in Social Media, every tragedy is equal, and a garden variety heartbreak or angry boss seems to get the same weight and measure as death or divorce or cancer. I'm as guilty as anybody (bearing in mind, we do have a Family Cancer Twitter, where my relatives can get brief chemo and radiation status updates; truthfully; it's handy). But the format has its limitations, and some days, I really hate it. Because I've grown so reliant on it as a means of quick and easy shorthand expression and communication, I get angry when it fails me.

Today, I got genuinely tragic news about a grad school friend who died. She lived far away, and this tragedy isn't my story to tell, and I am not even sure who all has been notified about what -- so there isn't much I could or should or would say here. She hated facebook (not that I'd post it there), and I ditched my personal Twitter awhile back (qwitter), not that this is the kind of thing you could share there either. It's certainly not my place to write her eulogy. This isn't even my grief. There are those out there who knew her and loved her and saw her every day of her life, and I wasn't one of those people.

But as I sobbed out some of the details to an ex on the phone (who didn't know her, and for some reason, that made it better), he said some things I took comfort in about the way I will maintain her memories, and how there is still a process for grieving and mourning, even if it has to be done from far away where there's no pie to bake, no chicken to fry, and no immediate family to care for. I am, as he would know because he knows me pretty well, particularly lost without my rituals. Without the process. I live by those things and when I don't have them, I fall completely and totally apart.

So, the strongest memory I keep coming back to is how I almost killed one of her dogs while she was on her honeymoon. Not on purpose (of course). The dog just got really, really sick. I took her to the vet (of course). I stayed there with her. I watched her little IV line, and when I brought her home I spoon fed her plain yogurt and rice and broth, as directed -- and stayed up all night, every night -- with her tired, dehydrated little head drooping listlessly on my shoulder. She almost didn't make it. I was tortured over whether or not to interrupt the honeymoon (a million miles away, where nothing could've been done), and confess what was going on. I decided not to, but when they got home, I blurted out every graphic detail of how I had almost killed this dog, and how sorry I was, and if she did happen to die (she still wasn't out of the woods), I would take full responsibility. And what my friend said -- and I know she meant it -- was that accidents happen and that it wasn't my fault. And then she said one of the kindest things anyone's ever said to me, which was that if her dog had died, she could only hope that it would've been me there with her at the end, to love her, and to make sure she wasn't alone.

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