Social media gets a bad rap, but I’ve found it often affords a message or connection to friends of long ago. This week I learned it may even offer links to people who are long since gone.
Proof in a three part story.
Shortly after we moved to Lafayette, a friend called from a thousand miles away to tell me that another friend had tragically and unexpectedly passed away. The situation, full of heartbreak, focused largely on the three young daughters our mutual friend left behind — the youngest daughter barely three months old.
Even though distance separated us, my friend was the kind of friend I had expected to grow old with.
We adopted Piper from China shortly before my friend died. Life was full of complications, and I didn’t think I could manage the trip for her funeral. Though I have few regrets in life, ten years later, I still regret that decision.
I should have gone.
I’m not sure what I was thinking. Except that I was so full of grief, I could barely function.
The most difficult part of that grief was feeling so alone in it. Other than my husband, no one around me knew her or could tell and re-tell her stories that made me laugh and cry.
Somewhere in my brain, I remembered that before we left El Paso, Texas, for Lafayette, her mother told me of Louisiana friends she wanted us to meet.
You know how well-intended people always tell you those things.
I’ve told a thousand people those things.
You also know how few of those connections are ever made.
About four months ago, I needed a two-seater bicycle for a photograph.
I looked and looked and asked all the usual suspects to no avail.
Finally, I posted on Facebook: “Anyone have a bicycle built for two that I could borrow?”
As happens on social media, someone posted that she did.
The odd part of her post was that, even though she was my Facebook friend, I didn’t know her. Early in the Facebook game, I friended people who shared common friends. (Eventually, I came up with the novel approach of only friending people who were actually my friends.) At any rate, this person who I didn’t know instantly rose to the status of “good people,” based on her offering of the two-seater bike. She sent me her phone number and address.
My husband and I drove to her house, had a lovely visit with her and her husband, loaded the bike up and delivered it again a week later. In fact, I wrote about her in my Mardi Gras column. She was the one decorating shoes for the New Orleans Muses parade. During the course of our bike exchange, neither of us could figure out exactly when or how we became Facebook friends. Regardless, I was happy our paths had crossed.
Tuesday night my bicycle-built-for-two friend sent me a Facebook message.
“I think you might have known my Godmother when you lived in El Paso.”
I froze. Things suddenly came together.
This new friend and my old friend shared the same given name.
For good reason.
They were both named after the same person. My friend’s mother was the bicycle-built-for-two-friend’s godmother. Their mothers had been best friends growing up.
But a thousand miles had prevented the daughters from knowing each other well — even though they shared the same name. I immediately called my new friend. She explained their familial connections. I told her about how, all these years later, I still grieve my friend and regret not going to her funeral.
She said, “Well, you know her family. You know they aren’t the kind of people who would want anyone living with regret. They’re all about moving on.”
A part of me wanted to say, “But this was a friend so special that you never really move on completely.”
Instead, I was comforted that someone finally gave me permission to move on.
With permission comes responsibility. I’ve held on to a collection of audio and video tapes of times she and I shared (on a crazy radio and television cooking show I hosted in El Paso). I’ve waited for the right point to pass those tapes on to her daughters.
Maybe it’s time.
Messages are sometimes delivered in mysterious ways.