I often write of the advantages of social tools for work; collaboration, cooperation, sharing resources and ideas. But this is different. I had, with the aid of social technology, the opportunity to be a part of somethings so much more.
Recently, after a 5 year battle with Ovarian Cancer, I lost my cousin at age 53. She was my oldest cousin, separated by years and miles we were not close as adults. However over the past 6 months her youngest son maintained a Facebook group where he updated hundreds of family and friends on how she was doing throughout her fight. Encouragement and prayers filled the group from every direction – daily. My cousin and I actually chatted about a month ago on Messenger as I was out for a walk. It was the first time in decades that we connected. We “talked” of kids and work, and the weather. It was easy, comfortable and personal. I wished her well and let her know she is in my thoughts often.
Upon hearing the news of her passing (by her son in the group) my mind flooded with memories of our youth together in Western New York; swimming in my grandmother’s pond, going to Bingo, bowling, holiday visits, her wedding and other events. The Facebook group however fills in the years after for me. Photos of her are posted regularly, tales of her friendships keep appearing, all building the story of a full life from so many perspectives.
I learned much about her, her career, charity work, her friendships and how much she meant to so many, and why. The picture is of a whole person, one that no one could every have gotten without this group.
Today the group is a place for many to continue to grieve openly and have a virtual shoulder to lean on. It’s a place where people, sharing a common bond, are extending relationships with new friendships being birthed through her death. Ultimately though it’s a place to celebrate a life with an eternal message for the living – how to be in this world and how to leave it.
What a gift.