Most of us love Facebook - a few hate it, are distrustful of it - but most of us love it. I am one of those people. I joined Facebook about five years ago, just to see what it was all about. It's predecessor, MySpace.com, seemed like something for the younger set to use to meet up with friends or potential dates. I was married with a family - who on earth would I want to connect with?
The impetus for me joining was actually because I saw on our church website that my pastor had a Facebook page. "He's MY AGE," I thought. So I figured it was worth checking into.
Some of my first "friends" on Facebook were people I knew and saw every day: old friends I'd stayed in touch with, co-workers. But then other people started finding me, people I hadn't seen or heard from in YEARS but who I always had fond memories of. That was when I started loving it and even though I know it's a time-suck, I can't stop hopping on to see what my community of friends is up to every day.
Twelve years ago when my dad died, I remember being so surprised to see one of my best friends, Michelle, at the funeral home. I was surprised because I hadn't called her to tell her, but she had heard through the grapevine and, of course, showed up. The only person I had called with the news of my dad's death was my boss, for obvious reasons. Who wants to call someone with that kind of news unless they really NEED to know? And crying over the phone? Totally not for me, if I can help it!
When my brother, Daniel, was found unconscious at work a year ago I didn't call anyone, but I did put out an urgent prayer request right away on Facebook. It was so easy to call for help through a keyboard because no one could hear me crying or see me breakdown. Almost instantly, the voices from my past rang out, "We're praying for him!" and I felt surrounded by love and hope. As the week went on and it became apparent that the outcome wasn't going to be good, I received message after message of condolences from people I hadn't seen in years, but who felt compelled to let me know that somehow, in some way, I had made an impact on them. I was so very grateful.
The day after Daniel died, I wrote the following note entitled "To All My Friends..." on Facebook. A year has passed, but I still have not forgotten the kindness they bestowed on me. I will never forget it.
"Every man dies. Not every man really lives." - my favorite line from "Braveheart"
As most of you know my younger brother, Daniel, died suddenly this past week. The doctors say that he was probably gone within five minutes of biting into whatever he had ordered for lunch last Tuesday. The hospital kept his body alive until yesterday, which allowed my mom, brother and sister to get to Arizona to say goodbye, and also for his organs to be donated to others who needed them. It was his final act of kindness.
Daniel was a loner. He had been all his life. He had a handful of friends growing up, but none that really "stuck." The year I was a senior in high school and he was a freshman, friends would come up to me asking me if I knew the kid in their accounting class with the same last name (VanLoozen). Pretty tough to say no with that last name, huh? They would be so surprised when I told them that, yes, that's my brother. He's so quiet, they'd say. So reserved. Doesn't talk to anyone. Yes, that's my brother.
He lived with three cats and an equal amount of fish tanks, filled with an exotic array of fish. Daniel never married, never knew the joy of his own children and had one confidante in the world: my mom. After he got out of work, he would call her and they talked for hours about politics, science, history, his pets, whatever. In the end, it was good that the allergic reaction happened at his work because someone found him quickly; if it had happened at home, it may have been days before anyone noticed.
It's a natural reaction whenever someone you love dies unexpectedly and so young, to take stock and consider what it would be like if you were to die tomorrow. Would you change anything about the way you're living now? Would you have any regrets? What would be your final thoughts on your way out of this world and into the next? After this week, I have a few thoughts that I feel compelled to share with you, my friends - both "Facebook" and otherwise.
It's strange to think that I would sit here the day after losing one of my siblings feeling so incredibly blessed. This week I have received the kindest words of support and love from people I haven't seen or heard from in YEARS - people I wasn't even sure remembered me! I want to make sure each and every one of you know that you are my friends here on Facebook for a REASON. You have touched my life in a special way - all of you - and made it so full of love and laughter. I am so, so grateful to have crossed paths with each of you, whether it was in grade school, high school, at a former place of employment, if you're a relative I hardly ever get to see, or if I just happened to pick up the phone one day when you called to book a retreat. (You know who you are!) It truly amazes me to think I have been lucky enough to know so many wonderful people and even luckier to call you all my friends. So when I think of that line from Braveheart, I know that I have truly lived, mostly thanks to all of you.
It's been a busy week and I haven't had a chance to personally thank everyone who has prayed for my family and I, but please know that each prayer has been felt in our hearts and is appreciated more than you'll ever know. Thank you, thank you, thank you all.