Wednesday, January 19, 2011
During the last week my heart has been broken by the loss of my dear sister-in-law to an aggressive cancer. Her name was Dazzling Deb and she was a bright star who certainly dazzled everyone with her bigger than Everest personality and extraordinary ability to love all and make everyone she met feel extremely special. To her the saying “strangers are friends you hadn’t met yet” was the code she lived by. She was vivacious, bubbly and amazing. She turned 55 seven weeks ago.
This is not a blog about her and the terrible loss to our lives though, this entry is about my observation of the use of social networks and the internet to spread the news and as a catharsis for those left behind grieving.
Her husband through his work has a vast network of friends across the world, he posted the news of her death onto his Facebook page as his status update. Within hours he had over 200 comments and expressions of condolence from his friends. Dazzling’s Facebook page was filled with messages to her from people expressing their love and sadness at her death. People also posted onto their own pages as status updates their sadness at the loss with photographs of Deb. They opened their privacy settings so that friends of friends (Friends of Deb) could mourn with them. They were sharing their loss and mourning with Deb’s friends, people they had never met, but with whom they had a connection in this amazing woman.
The funeral was set for Friday afternoon, only 3 days after she left this mortal world, and only 52 hours after the arrangements were made, the information was again placed on her husbands Facebook page. One of the instructions was that NO BLACK was to be worn, everyone had to wear the most colourful clothes they owned. This information was again republished on friends of friends pages. We Googled Dazzling Deb’s funeral and 4 hits came up within 24 hours of the announcement on various websites around the world.
The program was created and emailed to the printers within 24 hours of the funeral, and was printed and ready to go for pick up at 9am in the morning of the service.
The service was set for a 3:30pm gathering for a 4pm start. Many people were there at 3pm and they kept coming until there was standing room only at 3:15, they overflowed from the chapel to the outside annexes, and by the time the service began there were over 500 people attending - with no one wearing black and all dressed extremely bright and cheerfully and, many having had traveled from all over Australia, New Zealand and further afield. All of these people had been informed the news and arrangements mainly through Facebook and the use of other online connections.
The wake continued until 6am the next morning and the whole event was a celebration of her life as she would have liked it. She had time to pre plan and set specific instructions of who was to do what at the service, what she would be wearing and even down to the menu at the wake. She had previously published this on a family wiki page we had set up to ensure in the event of an untimely departure, her wishes (and others in the family) would be known. This also made it incredibly easy to arrange the funeral and we did not need to guess or assume what she would have wanted.
This whole event to me was an amazing testimony of how connected we really are to others through the online world, and how not only important it has become, but also how we use it as the main means of communication and for making things happen. I recently saw the movie 'The Social Network', and although the story of Mark Zuckerberg does not put him in a good light, he has certainly changed the way people of all ages connect with each other across the world in such a short amount of time, (and probably in no way ever envisinaged in his Harvard days) In this instance, it certainly allowed for “those willing to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9).
Will miss Dazzling forever....