It will begin with a vague post. “So shocked!” “Gone Too Soon” “#RIP” You will know something has happened but won’t know what. Suddenly more and more of the vague posts will flood your timeline. You will follow the comments in the post looking for clues. At some point the familiar name of an acquaintance you knew only from high school, or TV, or Facebook or the church parking lot, or as a friend of a friend of a friend will pop up. You will join in the shock. You will question how someone so young died so suddenly. You will return to the comments on each post.
Someone will post #RIP and link to his name. You will click on her profile looking for the story. She wasn’t that close a friend but you need to know. You will search through mutual friends pages looking for answers. To feed your curiosity. At some point images of vehicles in a crash will emerge. “He stood no chance,” you will think. Or “Oh, the cancer was stage four, maybe they shouldn’t have bothered with treatment,” you will say as you engage in an inbox conversation with a doctor friend. Or “Suicide? Aiii why? Depression? Kwani he didn’t have friends? He should have just picked himself up.”
In the midst of it all you will scribble a thoughtful status update about the last time you saw him. Years back you shared a class. He always saved you a seat. You bumped into her at a concert just two weeks ago. She looked so happy. You will miss her. And then you will return to her profile page. You will go through her final posts and read the “signs”. You will think to yourself she probably saw it coming. He lived his life to the fullest and died doing what he loved best. A Paul Coelho “share” will signal to you that death was imminent.
You will start a whatsapp conversation with a mutual friend. “How did the accident happen? Was he drunk? Did he have a lead foot?” In your feeble attempt to purge the reality of the loss, you will confine a whole human’s lifetime to a drunken error of judgement regardless of how they lived the day, weeks, months or years before. You will apportion blame to the deceased because “he should know that bikes and Subarus are suicidal” or “she shouldn’t have been out at night anyway.” You will be indifferent to the fundraiser to return a body from India. “If it were me I’d be cremated” or “They should’ve just treated her at KNH instead of leaving the family in debt.”
You will join the Facebook page “In Memory of…” and share a thought, a verse or a link to a Don Moen song on YouTube. Or just be silent. You will find out where meetings are happening and probably never show up, or go because another mutual friend is going that you don’t mind sitting with. You will take a couple of hours off from work to show up at the funeral service; if the venue is “close to town”. You will wipe a tear through the tributes while asking your friend who the guy sitting next to the mum is. You will stare at his girlfriend pitifully. You will post and tag your location with a picture of the funeral program to show the world how much you cared. You will view the body and join a circle of old friends chatting on the sidelines. You will attend a funeral and you will go home.
And somewhere on the pews of the same church, someone will attend that same funeral, and wish they never had to go back home.