I lost a friend this week. Someone I met in my first few months in Doha back in 2007. She was a theatre person – performed, taught, directed and produced. I was an amateur who dabbles from time to time. We were in several plays together and I was in one she directed where she helped me push my limits. We feasted together on American Thanksgiving. Her smile lit up a room, her eyes shined bright and she brought joy and laughter to those around her.
She moved on from Doha. First to Dubai, then on to Shanghai, blessing others with her talent. We kept in touch through social media – wishing each other happy birthday on Facebook, liking each other’s articles and photos, and disagreeing with each other politely during the US election primary season earlier this year.
Recently there had been hints that something was wrong as people who live closer to her were posting “get well soon” messages on her Facebook page. But last week a family friend shared news on her page that during a simple surgery something went wrong with the anesthetic and her brain was starved of oxygen. After repatriation from Shanghai to the US it was confirmed she was in a permanent vegetative state. In accordance with her living will wishes, the life support was going to be withdrawn. Official news of her passing was posted today.
I’ve been crying on and off for a week. But I’ve been smiling and laughing too, as people whose lives she had touched flooded her page with messages, memories, and pictures. Some were her students with messages of how her teaching so positively impacted their lives. Others were photos of silly moments or fun adventures. Some were messages of regrets and missed opportunities to see and speak to each other more. There was a world of people, most who don’t know each other due to geographic diversity, who were sharing, grieving and celebrating her life together via social media.
Some people put down deep roots in one place and become a part of the local community. While others spread their wings moving from place to place, building a webbed community that uses new media tools to stay connected / rooted to each other.
There have been reports for years about the demise of Facebook. As the demographics of its users shifted from college students to parents and grandparents, there have been a ton of media articles questioning how Facebook can stay relevant. My own kids, both young teenagers, spend more time communicating with their friends on Snapchat – where photos and messages disappear after a few seconds. Some say this is great because who wants a future employer finding an unflattering photo of you on social media maybe doing something that was funny at the time, but doesn’t look good in the light of day. And it is wise to make sure your privacy settings are properly tuned, and you think before you post.
But I was so grateful to have a Facebook history to look through this week. To go back and see shared moments, group photos, our shared history.
Some people share too much on Facebook, some share nothing at all and just lurk, reading other people’s posts and clicking the like button every once in a while. But I am so glad to have so many friends that do share parts of their lives – a snapshot – and normally their happy ones, successful ones – via Facebook. For those of us who don’t have deep roots, who do have a world wide web of friends, it helps us keep up to date with their lives, stay engaged, and keep those threads of friendship alive. And sadly this week it provided a forum to let us know a friend has passed via family members most of us had never met. This week Facebook provided a place / a forum for me and so many others to remember together, to share our best memories of our friend regardless of time zone or location.
So thank you Doha for bringing us together.
And thank you Facebook for keeping us all connected.
Katherine, I’ll miss you. So glad to have had you as a friend.