Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A death in the family in the age of Facebook

I found out on Facebook that I lost my uncle today.

Less than an hour after he had a heart attack in Chennai, India, someone distantly related to me posted the news on our extended family Facebook page.  Since I get an email every time someone posts there, I got the news as an email.

I can't help thinking about the first time I learned a family member had passed away.  I was in grade 2 and came home from school to find the front door of our apartment locked.  It was never locked during the day.  (This was a long time ago when people didn't lock their doors during the day.)  I had to knock on the door.  My mother opened the door and I saw that her face was wet.  I asked her if she'd been washing her face and why was the door locked.  She just pointed to an aerogramme on the coffee table.

I read the aerogramme as best I could since I was only 7 but I realized it was news that someone had died.  I asked my mother who it was.  She said it was her sister, whom I'd never met as my family had left India for Canada when I was a year old.

She'd died in childbirth two weeks earlier which was how long it had taken for the aerogramme to travel from India to Canada then.

So in my life, the time it has taken for the news of a death in the family halfway around the world in written form to be received has gone from two weeks to a couple of minutes.

I was able to call my cousin on his mobile once I saw the Facebook post and he told me that his father had indeed died of a heart attack less than an hour earlier.  And I could try and express myself to him somehow in that moment.  Thanks to mobile phones.

The faster news hasn't made the emotion less.  Also thankfully.

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