Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grieving in the digital age

So it's 10 p.m. and I should really go to bed, given that I have to work tomorrow. But I decide to jump online to check e-mail. "Bad news," the subject line reads. The sister of a dear, dear friend (one of my bridesmaids in fact) who I've known, oh, what feels like forever, has been in a car accident with her husband and son, who is 7, or maybe by now had turned 8. Some idiot, or maybe a drunk, plowed into them on a Pennsylvania highway.

The little boy didn't make it. My friend's sister, who I also think of as a dear friend, is in critical condition. The husband has a broken pelvis, but will survive.

Physically, at least.

To say these people are the salt of the earth is both a cliche and a gross understatement. They are intelligent and unfailingly kind. They were the most loving parents to their son, whom they adopted from South Korea as a baby. They were so proud to be his parents--true parents, even though he was born half a world away. Now he is gone, and his adoptive mother might not make it, and I am filled with sadness and rage.

I hadn't talked to this couple for many years, but then everybody on earth (or so it seems) started getting on Facebook. So for the last little while, I've been chatting with them regularly. Getting updates on their little boy. Hearing about their lives.

And now, tonight, as news of the horrible accident spread, a bunch of us who were friends together in New Jersey, and later in Boston, many, many moons ago now, mutual friends, gathered in cyberspace to discuss what happened and to grieve. I had four Facebook chats going at once at one point. This, I guess, is how we gather now to process such shattering events, especially when we are separated by hundreds of miles.

I only wish there was something I could do for my friends, but I know there is nothing. There are no words you can say to parents who have lost a child. To a man who might lose his wife. God willing she will make it. But what they are going through, I wouldn't wish on anybody.

I'm not sure how I will sleep now.

MONDAY UPDATE: The little boy's mom died, too, over the weekend. Heaven has two more angels now.

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