I had a dream the night before I left for college that one of my good friends died. The weird thing was that I found out on Facebook. I logged in and visited her page for who knows what reason, and there were all these comments wishing her well in the afterlife. I don’t recall how I reacted in the dream, but I remember that when I woke up, it put me in a funk for the rest of the day. Even after I verified a few times that the dream wasn’t real. Even after I packed up and started out with my dad and little brother, navigating the twelve-hour journey to school. But, anyway, I know there’s nothing more boring than hearing about someone else’s dream. And, besides, finding out that you had died was nothing like that.
I remember the first status I saw was a simple “RIP.” Then, a “RIP, Captain.” I thought that this was coincidence and, more specifically, that the latter status was referring to a dog or some pet. But then more and more kept popping up.
The student body president wrote a status that spoke to the impact on the community. Your friends wrote inside jokes. People that didn’t know you sent their thoughts out to your family and loved ones. I didn’t. I didn’t know what to say.
It kind of reminded me of the time when my first grandparent died. I hadn’t really been that close to him. I was young. Sitting in the hard church pew and watching people weep over his body, I was, more than anything, sad that I wasn’t sad. That’s kind of how I felt when I finally found your page and started reading all of the things that people posted on your wall. I was sad, but it was not specifically for you. It was for the people you left behind, the fact that this happens, and the thought that even those of us who are certain of something else after life can still be scared of how we get there.
I saw that your wall was filled with more confessions of love and grief and memories shared. Like flowers piled around a cross on the side of the road. It’s like I am sitting behind your grave, and I can hear everything that everyone says when they visit you and some of them talk to you like you are still alive.
People posted their favorite pictures of you. I realized then that I had seen you around campus maybe once or twice, and I tried to remember what I had thought of you. I couldn’t. I thought that maybe I could get to know you from your profile and the things that people were saying. But, I don’t think that knowing what sports you liked or what music you listened to really helped that much.
I wondered then what someone might be able to tell about me from my profile. I visited my interests page and reconsidered what my favorite quotes and movies might say about me, if they were the only part of me that could still speak. I wondered what my friends and acquaintances would write on my wall. Would my page be filled with the same kinds of thoughts as yours? You sound like the perfect person. I don’t know how it’s possible for anyone to be as good as it sounds like you were. I hope that you were. I hope that I am. Suddenly confronted by the selfishness of my reaction, I forcefully clicked away from my profile to some other page, any other page. I ended up back on yours. I scrolled down to find your last status update. I give up after a while; I guess you didn’t update it that much. The last activity I see of yours is simple, mundane, checking in with a friend. Of course it is.
I wondered how long it would take for your parents to make your profile private. They couldn’t want people loitering around the internet, gawking at their child like I was. Could they? Would they even be able to log in to change anything? Surely someone had to be there to collect the notifications that piled up for every new comment or picture you were tagged in. It must be so strange for them. Like walking into a room of yours that they didn’t know you had or reading your journal. I would walk so carefully around that room, being sure not to change even the slightest thing. Or maybe I would do just that, shifting and re-organizing to make the perfect picture of you.
I still don’t know how you died. I Googled your name, but no news came up. I hope it was peaceful. I hope it was an accident. 33% of deaths in our demographic are from car accidents. I know because I Googled that too. No; I hope it was something more natural and slow, so that people had a chance to get used to the idea. Actually, I don’t know what I hope. There is no good way for someone our age to die. As if there is a good way for anyone to die.
In the coming days, I may return to your page again once or twice. Maybe someone will post the details of your memorial. After a while, I will stop visiting your page. I will think of you every once in a while. I will think of you at the start of the semester when people return and friends re-unite, and your friends will have one less person to see, as if you had gone to study abroad again or something like that. I will think of you when I go home for Christmas, and your family experiences their first holiday without you. I will think of you at graduation, when I am so grateful to finish what you didn’t get to. And after that, who knows when I’ll think of you again.