Fans of Harry Potter and other fantasy stories often imagine what life would be like with magic, forgetting that in our modern world, there are plenty of miraculous inventions that seem magical in nature. I was reminded of this last week when I learned my aunt was dying. I wanted to write her a letter and wound up using Facebook to say goodbye.

At first, I intended to sit down and write her on beautiful stationery that I would send by snail mail. Every time I tried to think of what I would say, I teared up, so the first twenty-four hours after I got the news, I struggled to get started.

But I was eager to do something quickly. Aunt Leigh had lung cancer, which had only been diagnosed the week before, and the doctors said there was nothing they could do for her. She had a few weeks left at most, and already had hospice workers in her home, easing her pain in her last days.

As I fought to sit down and write the letter, I thought of Facebook. My aunt was online every day, sharing uplifting posts and liking everything I put up almost as soon as it appeared. There was a good chance if I used Facebook’s messenger, she would see it pretty quickly.

Writing to her online also took a lot of pressure off me, because I no longer had to fill a whole sheet of stationery. I wrote a short note, sending her my love and wishes that she might be as comfortable as possible and surrounded by family in the time she had left.

A few hours later, I got an answer. She sounded serene and grateful for her situation, emphasizing all the love she was feeling from those around her and the excellent medical care she was receiving. She ended by saying:

Stay as happy, healthy as you can and enjoy the days. Hug your sister and nephew and husband often.

I wrote back to assure her I would be following her advice and got another response before the day was out.

Perhaps this doesn’t seem magical to anyone else. But it isn’t just the warmth of this personal interaction with a woman I loved and admired that makes me so grateful for the instant communication of Facebook.

Aunt Leigh died only a few days later. If I had followed my initial instinct and written her a traditional paper letter, she would never have seen it, not with only two business days to make the journey. She wouldn’t have known I was thinking of her or that I would miss her, and I wouldn’t have had the comfort of knowing that while no one wanted her to go, she was ready and already at peace.

Facebook is not a perfect tool. Interactions there can leave us annoyed, bewildered, even angry. But today I see how magical it is. It enabled me to have a last loving interaction with my aunt, one I will treasure until the day I die.

Have you had a magical experience with Facebook?

8 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye: The Magic of Facebook”

  1. I don’t use Facebook much these days but depended on it just a couple years ago. My older sister moved to Abu Dahbi which in the Middle East. She and I fought like cats and dogs growing up but as we got older we became best friends. When she moved we depended on Facebook and Skype to stay in touch and were able to talk every day. October 2017 she moved back home so I have had no need to use social media much since. But for 4 years it was a wonderful instrument for me. In those years I had 2 kids so it was nice to be able to share the experience with her even though she wasn’t here and she had a daughter so I got to know her in her first few months of life. Today my sister and I are still best friends and she was able to be there for the birth of my 3rd child and our children are best friends so having social media helped me keep the relationship I had with my sister and now it has grown to our children.

    1. What a great example of how social media can help us build and strengthen loving relationships. It’s easy to see the downsides of technology (and Facebook) and to forget all the benefits we get from it.

  2. First of all, I’m sorry to hear about you losing your Aunt Leigh and her being taken so quickly. But what an interesting point about Facebook. You rarely hear anything positive about it these days despite Facebook permeating nearly every aspect of human experience these days. I’ve reconnected with long lost friends, learned more about myself through such reconnections, have found research items that would have been impossible without Facebook let alone with the Internet, and have appreciated learning more about the world in general in a lively and dynamic medium. We struggle with the addictive nature of Facebook, and with the abuses inherent in such an open system, but yes, the things Facebook enables us to do and experience are nothing short of miraculous.

    1. Thanks, Liam. Her peace in facing her end has made the loss a little less painful for me, but she will be missed.

      I can be a real curmudgeon about technology of all kinds, seeing only the bad side and forgetting the benefits. So it helps me to remind myself of the many ways I benefit from Facebook, social media in general, and all the technological advances (like word-processing!) that we enjoy today.

    1. Thanks so much. I’ve always hated goodbyes. I cry every time I watch Dorothy say goodbye to her friends in Oz. But life is meetings and partings. So I will hold on to the good memories and the wisdom she shared with me even as I feel the pain of her loss.

  3. I’m sorry for your loss Kit. Losing those we love is never easy. I’m so glad you had the chance to say goodbye to your aunt, and to have those last, meaningful words from her. Facebook isn’t perfect, as you said, but it does give us opportunities for connection that we didn’t have before. Blessings to you in this upcoming year.

    1. Thanks. Really, the last exchanges I had with her have completely changed how I feel about her death. The power of connection is amazing.

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