Grief. It’s something so private, so personal, so profoundly felt … and yet the way in which we grieve has changed in many ways — particularly in the past few years with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Today we share links to announcements and arrangements; we post our own eulogies, professing our love and admiration for those we have lost. We write on the deceased’s Timeline. We tag him/her in photos — right away, and then even long after they are gone, which can be jarring on a tough day to see in your newsfeed… or comforting on an even tougher day.
Though this public display of grief may seem strange to some … it is is the “new normal” in a digital age. Timelines become our lifelines; our ways of connecting to those we have loved. A way to keep them alive. To remember. And to memorialize their beautiful lives.
I’ve unfortunately now experienced the tragic deaths of three very special women in the past 18 months. My cousin Michelle, who passed away from Crohn’s complications in January 2014 at 31; one of my best friends, Rachel, who also had Crohn’s but died suddenly this April at 35 during a routine ileoscope (what should have been an outpatient procedure and was anything but :(); and now, sadly, our friend Shelby, whose courageous 16-month battle with brain cancer came to an end last night when she passed away at the age of 31 — a young wife and mother of two sweet girls.
Shelby’s girls are the same ages as my kids, and she was one of Luis’s first friends at Stryker. In fact, many of our first memories in Kalamazoo include Ben and Shelby: pool parties, soccer games, cook-outs … I always loved her sarcasm and wit — she reminded me so much of my (male)college BFF Jason (who also unfortunately died from brain cancer shortly before I moved to Michigan) and she always called me “Meliss” which I always loved because she was among the first of my friends here in Kalamazoo to use a nickname with me.
Shelby’s story has been everywhere in the news — because in addition to her own story being tragic in and of itself, her husband Ben’s childhood cancer recently came back. Yes, you read that right. 😦 And so now he is fighting his own battle … in addition to having helped her fight hers + raising their girls. It’s unthinkable and unfair in every sense.
On the heels of Rachel’s sudden death almost three months ago, I’m struggling to find the positive in this genuine tragedy. I do believe in G-d and am glad Shelby isn’t suffering anymore … OK, that’s what we’re supposed to say, right? I’ll say it … but it doesn’t make her death any easier to accept. I struggle to comprehend why these terrible things happen to such good people … Michelle, Rachel, Shelby. It just doesn’t make sense why the good are taken so young. Why young children should grow up without their mothers. Why beautiful, strong, courageous women — steel magnolias each in their own right — are no longer here on earth. None of it makes sense.
But seeing all the beautiful comments people are leaving on her Timeline, the links they are sharing, the photos they are posting — memories of a beautiful life … a time capsule that spans her entire existence … is just beautiful. And this is how it is, now. This is how we grieve. We comment, we post, we share. We remember.
To be honest, I thought it was absurd when my cousin died and people would tag her in their status or write on her Timeline after she was gone. It felt morbid to me. But then I felt compelled one day to write a little heart on her Timeline. And you know what? I felt better. And so every now and then, I visit her page and leave a little love. I do the same with Rach … and I’m not alone. There’s comfort in knowing they are thought of, even after they are gone. I “get” it now.
So rest in peace, beautiful Shelby. You fought one hell of a fight. ❤ Your legacy lives on in your beautiful girls, and your strength will never be forgotten.
For those who pray, please keep her husband Ben in your prayers as he fights his own battle with cancer. ❤
For those who would like to make a donation to the family, this is their YouCaring page.