Someone who I went to school with died recently after a long battle with drug addiction. I remember going to his house once in the seventh grade, when we listened to the Scissor Sisters while mouthing "You can take your mama," while feebly attempting to play along on the guitar. It was before we became aware of what was "cool," and we were beautifully ignorant of how lame we were. Our paths diverged in high school, and when I heard that he had died I had not spoken to him for years. After I found out that he had passed away, I went to his Facebook page because that seems to be what we do these days when someone's life ends. I found dozens of posts from people telling him that they loved him, missed him, and would see him again soon. Grief poured forth on the screen before me.
What I began to think about is what might have happened if more of these Facebook grievers had let this man know how much he had meant to them while he still lived. This was someone who had struggled with addiction until it overcame him.
What if more people had shown up in real life the way they were on Facebook now? Perhaps most of them had lost touch like I had, and this virtual shrine is all they had left to pay their respects.
What comes to my mind is the plight of the ghosts in Harry Potter -- no matter how they might try to cling to that indescribable feeling of being alive, there is nothing that replaces being a... being. This virtual world we have created for ourselves is similar in that as we inch closer to replacing human connection with digital interaction, we risk becoming shadows of our true selves, yearning for something we once knew but are now incapable of attaining.
Technological advancement is considered human advancement, but somewhere along the line, we have become sloppy about keeping up with the very things that make us human. People seem to be worried that everything we do in the digital world will be there forever, but to me it feels impermanent. How can anything compare to the words I say as I look into the eyes of someone important to me?
We usually choose, beautifully, to remember the parts of someone that brought joy into this world, and this is how I felt about my friend. My sense though is that we do not tell each other often enough what these best parts are while we are all still around. And waiting serves no one.
From time to time, I imagine what people will say at my funeral. I picture the whole scene: The location, who is speaking, the songs that are playing, where the sun is in the sky, how forceful the wind might be against the faces of those come to mourn. I think about what I hope people will say during my eulogy -- about the impression I left upon the world. "He was never afraid to tell you he cared about you." "He led with his heart." "He wasn't afraid to be weird." Thinking about it in this moment, these are indeed the things I want people to say about me when I am gone. I want people to feel all of those things about me now, though.
So I am attempting to wake up with these thoughts in mind. Showing that I care, following the path that my heart has laid out, taking pleasure in the infinitesimal joys that come with each day. These are not just the things my loved ones will talk about after I am gone, nor are they just the qualities my acquaintances will virtually recall. These are principles by which I will continue to try to live. That will be my memory, my legacy -- more everlasting than anything in the digital world.