When a Facebook friend dies there is no protocol to follow. Sometimes the person sets up a list of a few friends to notify and spread the word. Other times, you just hear through a long grapevine and, occasionally, you never know why someone stopped posting. Those latter friends hang out in a strange limbo of not knowing. Were they incapacitated or did they just leave everyone behind one day in an exodus away from social media and its time sucking traps? What we don’t take into account is we have contact with these people often every day of our lives. How many “in real life” friends or even family can you say that about? Just over a year ago, I had lost a precious friend after a stunning and quick illness, but we shared a large group of people together. We grieved, and still grieve, together for the enormous loss she left behind.
On Friday, I learned of Bruce’s passing from a mutual friend. Bruce often disappeared for a week at a time due to limitations on his data streaming. When two weeks passed, I still didn’t notice. It seems like he liked and commented on some of the things I posted last week, but I guess that was three weeks ago and I’ve lost track of time. Caught up in my own problems and grief, which I didn’t share publicly, I didn’t notice him not being there. Had I posted about the death of my beloved uncle, or the struggles my mother is going through, he would have been one of the first ones there with a kind word. Even though he was on the other side of the world, in Australia, he always seemed to be around.
Bruce, also known as Unusual Ape, was a big man. Sometimes he got in trouble for hitting people, but almost always it was a man who abused a woman. I can’t imagine what would happen if he came upon someone abusing an animal, because of all the things Bruce loved in his life, it was his dogs… especially that “boofhead” Trouble. He would often record them lying in bed with Bruce’s big hairy arm across them, scratching their head and laughing in his deep rolling laugh. The thing about Bruce? He didn’t much care for people… not in person anyway, but his virtual friends were another matter entirely. He’d send messages, little videos, voice recordings, he posted the coolest stuff and wrote poetry. He had an enormous love and pride of family . His sister put up an obituary for him, “Ohana” it said, because, you see, Ohana means family. That’s from the Disney film Lilo and Stitch. No one believed in that more than Bruce.
A few years back, he bought a piece of land out in the Middle of Nowhere, South Wales, Australia. He documented his days long trip there in video. His dream was to build a Hobbit-like house, though he was going to start simple. He drew out a rough plan and started building a fence around the property. He may have been lonely sometimes, yet he had a joy out there which is difficult to describe. He’d arise at dawn to the sound of birds and watch the sun come up. Often he’d share these moments with a post.
I’ll miss the bastard. Facebook without Unusual Ape? Unthinkable. He was rough around the edges, but had a heart as giant as the moon. How could an asthma attack take his life? I can’t fathom it.
Such a heartbreaking thing. As someone with asthma, I don’t even want to think of how awful that must have been for him. It sounds like he was larger than life in more ways than one, and the world is poorer without his presence.
It’s definitely hard to lose an online friend. A couple years ago, an active member of the Fiction Writers Group community passed away suddenly from cancer. It was sudden for us because she never told anyone, but back then, when we were only 2,000 strong, it was a huge blow. The whole group grieved her loss. And then her Facebook account became a zombie account…. Facebook sending birthday reminders every year since. Because the text is a generic “Wish her a happy birthday!” it always stings a little. I guess that brings into question the next hurdle… how long do you stay “friends” with a legacy Facebook account?
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Thank you for your kind words, Alex. The very thought of an attack like this must be terribly frightening. Sadly, Bruce was two hours from a hospital and didn’t have ambulance service out where he was. He bravely drove himself the distance; his dogs by his side. My sincere wish for you is that you never experience anything near to this in your life.
I ask the same question, how long do you stay friends? Earlier this year, I let one go. It was just too painful to see his birthday come up and the wishes of people who didn’t notice he was gone. I have two more, Bruce and one other dear friend. It’s not time to let them go yet.
I wanted to thank you for this fantastic read!!
I certainly enjoyed every bit of it. I have you book
marked to look at new stuff you post…
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