At various points, I’ve written about the increasingly significant role of social media, allowing loved ones to accompany individuals, couples, and families through significant transitions during the life cycle, be it preparing for a wedding, anticipating an impending death, or facilitating grief in the mourning process. I’ve never seen a more beautiful unfolding of the (world wide) web of love that in the past week with my dear friend Janet’s experience in losing her much-beloved mother.
Janet has always been a very active member of her social media community. While some people seem to continually post vapid or self-serving messages, my friend’s notes, pictures and posts are cheerful, uplifting, and welcomed by her “friends,” near and far. As a devout Christian, her words are often spiritual in nature, drawing from the Bible and Christian writers, as well as her own well-earned reflections. She turned to this loving community as her own mother’s health declined. With her mother’s passing days ago, she was beautifully enveloped in the words of encouragement and empathy from her broad network of friends. Death and the mourning process—and the “home going” to use the words of our African-American brothers and sisters—is a uniquely dual experience for Christians, recognizing the real loss of a person here, on earth with their beloved community, while rejoicing in the firmly held conviction of the deceased’s reunion with the Holy Father.
As Janet and her sisters pondered their beautiful mother’s spirit-led life, they inevitably shared photos from the years—baby pictures of her Mom, wedding photos from her wedding 50+ years ago, early photos of their bustling family of six, and recent shots with the dozens of grandchildren who live because of this woman.
I increasingly recognize myself to be a person strongly drawn to visual imagery, and through the “magic” of Facebook was able to harvest photos from the girls’ Facebook pages, creating a short video gift for them. With a few stock videos and classical music thrown in, the clip may serve as a tangible keepsake for Marilyn’s loved ones and a small token of my love for dear Janet, who I can’t be with physically at this time. More and more families, it seems, are including video tributes of their lost loved ones as part of the funeral or memorial service (or life celebration, if you prefer). And thanks to a range of easy-to-use technology tools, even Luddites like me can make an emotional offering.
So let the healing continue in person and over fiber optics, with strong imagery present all along the way.