Death and Social Media: Facebook Friends For Life

Anders Nilsen. Big Questions.

It’s been said too many times that social media is changing our relationships and degrading our ability to genuinely connect with others, but all those “superficial” interactions take on a unique significance when social media meets death. In a totally bizarre way, social media enables us to be friends with dead people.

And for that, I’m very grateful. Continue reading

Take Your Present Back: The Past Is Not a Trap

being and time

Yesterday was Daylight Savings and by springing forward we “lost” an hour. Perhaps your witty Facebook friends also updated their statuses by asking: “Where did the time go?!” I’ll roll along with serendipity because, as of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about time, how it shapes our lives, and how conventional wisdom on the matter can be a little misleading. The saying goes: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift; that’s why they call it the ‘Present.'” Sure. But there’s more to it than that. Continue reading

On Learning to Listen and Social Media Whores

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Figuring out how to cope with a terminal illness and deal with death has been the most present theme for me over the past week. My students and I spent a couple of days discussing these topics in our Medical and Healthcare Ethics class. After a colleague  mentioned in passing that his health was “not that great,” we spoke for nearly two hours over coffee about finding purpose in doing graduate work when you are faced with an unexpected and drastically shortened timeline. And, although this is a frequent occurrence, one of my closest friends and I talked even more than usual about what it means to live after a loved one has died. All of these conversations were punctuated by seemingly serendipitous finds of related videos and songs over a number of days.  It was one of those times when one’s attention is primed to pick up on such things more frequently and with greater ease. It seemed natural, then, to assume that I would write my reflections this week on such a weighty, important, and pressing question: How do we live when we really know that we are going to die?

But I’m not going to. At least not right now.

Maybe it was because I really do want to write about this question and these experiences, and perhaps also because I appreciate the gravity that can surround their consideration, that I found myself feeling quite adverse to the idea of doing so. From my own experience, I know that it is inappropriate (if not downright offensive) to talk to people about what they might be going through and how they should handle their feelings. In those situations, the most important thing one can do is just be present, sit with the experience, and listen. So I had a weird little moment when I thought, “Ugh. I don’t want to come off as that person.” And I totally blame Twitter and Facebook for my hesitation to write. Continue reading

The Most Desirable Pain

boil pointcrop

Like small, delicate, little bubble worlds unto ourselves we emerge, take shape, grow, travel, and move. And then we meet others, at a particular moment for (what we may not always realize is) an indeterminate amount of time. Sometimes we touch. We cling. We gather and crowd. Then other times we separate. Eventually, at some point, one or both or all move away, go away, disappear. There are others, of course. Always others. But there was also that one. Those few. Those others before. And for that time, while we were, we were close. Extraordinarily close. Continue reading

for a friend, far away

today has been a strange day. i woke up with anticipatory dreams, verging on psychic predictions–that a phone charger would be left behind on a loved one’s travel, that a conversation with a long-term supporter would address the lessening need for our time together because life and things just continue to get better and better. and in the waiting room, a journal of medicine was resting in the chair next to me, different from the usual copies of AARP. I glanced at the table of contents–new patient-oriented methods, placebo treatments of asthma, and something about leukemia.

i thought of my friend. Continue reading

New Year Askesis and Bodily Goals

New years come as if they are the moons themselves that renew each January. Each one has a face if you look closely, and shadows from the past mark the features of the year to come. What is and has been for whole revelations are revealed through a light that reflects back from a source that I know all too well. It’s illumination remains, and my hopes and dreams are illustrated on future night skies. Again.

Last January was welcomed with an opening up my living space and the sound of two voices with a single guitar resonating off of bathroom walls singing about birds and sanctuaries. The yellow bathroom light brought about the first rise of the sun. And then the song was left unfinished, unpolished. A tone of disappointment for a hope of deep love echoes still.  Did this set the rhythm of connection and loss? What changes these moments make. Continue reading