Note: what I’m writing is not intended to be a eulogy or memorial for anyone. These are my thoughts inspired by the passing of a peripheral friend. My friend Melissa Kaercher wrote a terrific memorial. I suggest you read it.
Over the weekend, news came that a peripheral friend was severely ill and would soon pass away. Within 24 hours, we learned that she was gone.
I’m not going to pretend that I knew Holly very well. Sadly, I didn’t know her very well at all.
I’m a performer so it could be assumed that I’m an extrovert. And sometimes I am.
When I find myself in large group situations, however, I tend to gravitate towards people I know well. It takes me a long time to open up to new people. That isn’t their fault. It’s mine.
I knew Holly because she attended Butt-Numb-a-Thon – a gigantic, weird film festival I also attend every year. I talked to her for a few minutes here and there. But I didn’t really know her. She was one of dozens of people with whom I have a glancing relationship for one weekend every year.
She’s gone now and what I see online is an outpouring of love on her Facebook wall. Yet that wall isn’t her. It is a digital shadow of her.
I don’t believe in an afterlife so I don’t believe she will ever see any of the kind words that were written about her. They are there, perhaps, for her family or loved ones but more, I think, for the person who left the post.
I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. We all have to process grief in the way that feels right for us. Grief is not for the dead, it is for the living.
I’m more amazed at how there is a shadow Holly out there on the internet who will be there for some indeterminate length of time and who acts as a surrogate for the person who is no longer there. The posts will cease after a while but she will still be there in some strange sense.
There’s an idea for a horror movie in there…
Looking at the outpouring of love for someone who is no longer with us, I have made a decision.
Kind words spoken to a ghost in the machine aren’t enough for me. I think I need to say kind words to those who are still alive.
So yesterday, I decided to honor the memory of Holly (and so many other friends who have passed) by telling people I appreciate them while they are still around to read it.
If you get a personal message from me tomorrow or next week or next year, that’s why. One message a day. Give or take.
Life is short. You never know when someone will exit your life forever. I’d like everyone to know how important they are to me while they are still around to appreciate it.