Alex and I had never really met, but we knew each other. A picture of me fishing had been featured on a outdoors Instagram account, and he had started following me. We chatted quite; he lived in the same neck of the woods as I do, and we liked the same bar on the outskirts of the small town I grew up in.
We always “liked” each other’s photos and we’d comment on each other’s fishing pictures and continued this “online friendship” for almost two years.
One day I logged on Facebook, and my newsfeed was flooded with people writing on his wall. “Rest in Peace”, “Rest Easy”, “I already miss you.”
My jaw dropped as I quickly went to his profile, and realized that my Instagram friend had passed away. He had been killed in a boating accident, while fishing over Memorial Day weekend.
As someone who is no stranger to death, I couldn’t understand why I started hurting all over for this kid I had never even met. But I did – I hurt for his parents, his friends that were with him that day, for the officers that had to deliver the news to his house, and everyone else that he had been close to. Why does timing insist on being so cruel?
I view death now as a “rite of passage,” something we all will meet, whether we are ready or not. So how do we even begin to make the most of the short time we have? I wish had an answer.
Grieving the death of someone you only know via online, is just another complication of this technology based world we live in. But that doesn’t mean you are not allowed to feel something.
One of my best friends passed away a year ago, and it still hurts so much, but at the same time I feel his presence in every gust of wind, in every whiff of BBQ, and in every laugh in the local bars.
The only advice I could offer to someone that recently had an “Instagram friend” pass away is this: live your passion and surround yourself with people that also live their passions, and root for you. It’s okay to feel sad and angry when someone dies, but treasure what that person brought to you every time they posted on social media, as silly as that sounds. Re-read the direct messages. And then, walk away from the fear of unexpectedness and rejoice in the time you still have. Make it count.