Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Checking the obituary section of Facebook

A member of my graduating class from high school died yesterday. It was not me. This time.

When you're relatively young and someone you know who's exactly your age dies, your own mortality raises its weaselly little head and says, "Boo." It's like coming home from work and finding Death's business card tucked into your front door.

Was in the neighborhood today and thought I'd check in. Will be in touch.

He was not a friend, but in the small high-school I went to, our circles crossed from time to time. Our last names were close enough alphabetically that if an unimaginative teacher sat us in this order, we were seated together. In our very small music appreciation and theory class our senior year, we walked over to class in the adjacent middle school together every morning, commenting on the weather.

He was kind of a goofball. The kind of big, lumpy guy who would say or do things in class that made everyone make "WTF?" faces at each other before we knew what WTF faces were. Though it wasn't like we were laughing at him; he was in on the joke.

And now he's gone.

The details are fuzzy, but it seems to have been an accident. A senseless accident that has everyone scratching their heads. As if there's any other kind.

It had Facebook buzzing for a while. But then, because we had all lost touch with the deceased, we went about our day.

"How sad," we said.

"Too young."

"He will be missed."

His family will miss him and mourn his untimely death deeply. My heart breaks for them. But can we, who talked about him today from the comfortable distance of texts and social media, miss someone we only thought about when reminiscing about our high-school days? I think it's more likely that his death affected us all today because it made us feel our age and our vulnerability. Death knocked on the door, and it wasn't for one of our parents or grandparents. It was for one of us.

My mother used to talk about how she subscribed to her hometown newspaper after we moved to northern Kentucky simply to keep up with the growing number of friends and former classmates who were dying. I found it morbid. But that was before Facebook, and today's circle of "Did you hear?" announcements was no different really than Mom checking the obituary section of The Advocate every week and immediately calling her fellow ex-pats.

"Remember so-and-so? He died last week."

How sad. Too young. He will be missed.

I imagine I will be reading these words a bit more frequently now. And fearing each time that my number is up next.

Never send to know for whom the Facebook tolls; it tolls for thee.

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