Today I found out I lost a friend.
Depending on who you are, you may tell me she was no friend at all.
I haven’t seen her face to face in 15 years.
I haven’t spoken to her in person or over the phone in 15 years.
When I did see her in person every day, I hardly knew her. I rarely said hello. I never gave her a hug. We seemed to have little in common.
So how can I say she was a friend?
A few years ago, I reconnected with her on Facebook. Yeah, that evil, news-manipulating, capitalist sell-out, anti-social “social” networking site that is the root of all evil and the source of so many present day issues. That place that takes us away from the people and family we should be paying attention to, that serves as nothing more than glossy fake snapshots of our made up lives meant to impress one another. That one.
The thing is, that place that so many condemn is where our friendship grew. In my carefully cultivated circle of Facebook friends, I built a world that connected me to people from my past and present, around the globe, and made them a part of my every day life. In ways that would otherwise be impossible, I was able to become part of an intentional community that cheered me on, comforted me, challenged me and ultimately changed me. Instead of an echo chamber of back-patting clones, my Facebook world is inhabited by a diverse neighborhood of liberals, republicans, anarchists, atheists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, feminists, pro-life advocates, pro-choice advocates, monogomists and polyamorous, bisexuals, homosexuals, asexuals, Asians, Native Americans, Europeans, North Americans, South Americans, college educated degree holders, high school drop outs, philosophers, mechanics, seniors, millennials… Each person brings a unique experience, a different perspective. For the most part, my Facebook world is filled with laughter and moments of joy. Sometimes we are angry – at each other or at the world. Occasionally we carry each other in grief. Almost unfailingly, we walk together with mutual respect and the common thread of decency.
This world I have created is one of my most sacred spaces. As an introvert, my online community has given me a space to be real and raw, to interact when I can and how I can, and has opened doors that would not otherwise be open to me at all.
Sarah was one of the pillars of my community.
Through the years, her voice was one I came to seek out again and again. When we agreed, her reasoned responses driven by her unfailing kindness challenged me to not forget those on the other side and to seek out their voices in order to increase my own understanding. When we disagreed, she did so with respect and grace, and taught me the importance of making sure I remember to speak with and not at those who may think differently than I do.
While kindness and acceptance underwrote everything Sarah did, she was not afraid to speak up and speak out strongly against the things she viewed as wrong. She spoke passionately about women’s rights, against racism and homophobia, against bigotry and religious intolerance. She believed in a Loving God and she reflected that Love into every corner of her life… and into my life too.
Sarah was a loving wife and mother. Anyone who knew her knew how much she loved her family. Her two beautiful boys just so happened to make their way into her life through adoption, and man were those boys the luckiest kids around. She spent so much of her online life talking about the joy they brought to her, and you can see from her many photos the deep joy she brought to them in return. How few of us get to be loved like that.
Sarah also came from a blended family, and often brought up her relationships with step parents and parents alike. It never seemed to occur to Sarah that the extra people in her life were anything but a blessing, and where so many others struggle to find enough room to let everyone be loved, Sarah’s heart seemed 10 sizes too big for all the room she had in it.
I talked with Sarah many times over the years, mostly about the meaningful stuff, the kinds of things that have no easy answers. Even when I wasn’t a direct part of her discussions, I would read along as I always knew she’d have something insightful to add. I like to think once in awhile I challenged her in the way she challenged me, because otherwise it seems far too one-sided a gain I got out of the deal.
The one thing I never did was take the time to really spell out to her how much she’d come to matter in this online world of mine.
And now I can’t. I don’t know what her email is in heaven.
Sarah, if you can read this between your choir sessions with the angels and your Torah lessons with our Jewish Jesus, accept my apologies for waiting too long to tell you all this. Thank you for making my world so much better. Thank you for letting me be a part of your circle. Thank you for helping me become a better person.
You have no idea the hole you have left in my Facebook world, and in the hearts of so many.
We promise to take care of your boys as best we can. We promise to never stop telling them about you, to never stop teaching them the same lessons you taught us. May we be as kind to each other as you have been to us.
I promise to keep you alive in my life.
I’ll see you on the other side. Make sure you save me a spot in the circle.