The thing about memorial services is that everyone has all these wonderful things to say about the deceased and I always wonder, “Did you tell him while he was still alive??”
Anytime Mark comes home and tells me how nice it was that a co-worker, colleague, friend had done something particularly considerate, useful, nice, I tend to ask, “Did you tell him/her?” Sometimes, in order to be dramatic, I add, “- you never know if you get another chance!” People die, you know.
Four years ago, I became friends on Facebook with someone I remembered from a long time ago when I attended the UU Fellowship. Even though we live in the same town, in these last four years we ran into each other only once, at the grocery store, and awkwardly said hello and how are you and I hope things are going well. Other than that, Bob Patterson became part of my daily life: almost every day, he had something to share, something to say on Facebook, always intelligent, usually witty. I loved his dry humor. Then, a couple weeks? months? ago, I discovered that he shared things on Pinterest as well. Not often, but occasionally I would comment on his posts, sometimes he commented on mine. Nearly every day, he was there, on Facebook, and Pinterest. When he got sick, I wished him well, and we probably said Happy Birthday.
His posts made me think, they made me smile, and I loved sharing them with Mark.
Just the other day, I was particularly happy to find that Bob had shared a link to a beautiful book – I was looking forward to seeing if the library has it – and I thought, I really should tell him how much I appreciate and cherish his daily musings, his sharing of things that interest him but then this weird thought kicked in: won’t it sound weird, you know, like, inappropriate? I mean we hardly know each other – won’t it sound creepy?
Then yesterday, mid-afternoon, as I was checking Facebook on my phone, as I do several times a day, there was a new post on Bob’s wall:
Friends of Bob,
Last night Bob passed away in his sleep. For those of you in the area, details about a service are pending.
Taylor, Josh, and Owen Patterson
It literally took my breath away, I had to read it a couple of times for it to sink in. And then it sank in, and I cried. At first it wasn’t even the pain of having lost part of my daily life. It was the pain of never having taken the time to say, “You know, Bob, I really like your posts. They make me think, make me smile. Thank you for being on Facebook every day.” The pain of regret because I had missed my chance and now I would never be able to say it to him. I, the one who urges people, “Don’t wait until someone’s memorial service to say how much they mean to you!” – I didn’t do the most decent of human things: say Thank You.
There are many comments pouring in on Facebook. I was surprised – but shouldn’t have been – that there are a lot of people like me out there: people who may not even have met Bob in person but cherished his near-daily online musings, his comments, people who loved reading the back-and-forth between Bob and friends, people whose lives will be a little less bright and a little less warm now, without Bob.
At the same time, I also feel a – warm urgency, urgent warmth in those comments: people who usually only talked to Bob now talk to each other. There seems to be a desire, a need to connect. New friends are being made.
Bob wrote his last Facebook post on January 13. Two days later – an unusually long time for Bob to not say something – one of his friends, Danielle Beeson, posted on his wall:
Where are you Bob? Not used to not seeing you here
He “liked” the post but didn’t write a response.
It saddens me immensely that we now have to get used to not seeing him there anymore.