Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More On the Wonders of Facebook

August 31, 2011

I know not everyone is a fan of Facebook--too many people overshare, lots of people in a race to add as many 'friends' as possible in a bid to seem like one of the 'cool kids', political rants devolving into reactionary name-calling--I get why it's not everyone's cup of tea. For me, however, it's always been a fantastic way not only to keep in touch with my siblings, none of whom live close by, but also for me to keep in contact with my students as they travel off to college, the world of work, and all the other places adulthood takes them. I love that they don't walk out of my classroom forever--I get to actually see some fascinating places these kids go with their lives.

For my husband and me, like so many others, it's been a wonderful way to reconnect with friends from our past. We've rekindled very close friendships with former classmates we had completely lost touch with once upon a time. However, until fairly recently, Doug hadn't been terribly successful in locating some people with whom he spent some very formative young adult days with--his Navy buddies. These are guys he worked with, lived with traveled with. I've never been in the military, but it's not surprising that men who serve together develop a unique bond. Also not surprisingly, since they come from all over the country and travel all over the world, they scatter when their time in the service is done. They scatter, and in the world before Facebook, some of them lose touch forever, perhaps always wondering, "Whatever happened to that guy....?"

And then one day, just a few weeks ago, he found one of them on Facebook. You know how it goes. He was excited--thought he'd look at the guy's friend list just to be sure it was him. And there was another one, and another one. A quick perusal of their friends lists yielded more fellow Navy friends--and so on and so on. Once that initial contact was made, in short order he'd found another ten. Again and again he got the same response: It was so great to hear from him! Any idea how hard it is to search for a guy whose last name is Smith? It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. How lucky that the needle had come looking for them.

And then, as he messaged with these guys and did a little catching up, he got some very sad news. He found these guys on a Saturday, and in the course of talking with them, he discovered that another former Navy buddy--one of their own--had tragically lost his life only days before, on the previous Thursday. The men who had remained connected, or had recently connected on Facebook, were making their plans to travel later that week to his funeral in Montana. Even though we're in California, and even though Doug had lost touch with Tim over the years, he really felt he wanted to go back and attend the funeral. Not only did he want to pay his respects, but he also knew that he would be able to reunite with these men in person, perhaps the only time these men would all be together for who knows how long, to reminisce and remember--to remember Tim, and to celebrate him and his life, and the connection they all had together.

The money might be a little tight, but I thought it would be well-worth it. The timing seemed like cosmic forces at work. A week later, and he would have missed the funeral altogether. I thought it was a sign. We both thought that if he didn't go, it would be something he'd always regret. He made the reservations, and just a few days later was on a plane to meet Tim's family and to say goodbye to Tim.

It would be presumptuous of me to speak on Doug's behalf, except to say that he and all the Navy buddies were welcomed with open arms. They were even asked to play a role in the funeral itself. They were each thanked for their service and protection of our country, again and again, as Tim's family and friends said their final goodbyes. I am told it was a beautiful service, and a fitting and honorable farewell.

All of those who served with him who were able to attend the service did, in fact, have an opportunity to reconnect, bond, and share stories of their Navy days, and their time spent with each other and with Tim. They stayed up well into the night, eating, drinking, and talking. And talking, and talking. Doug returned from the trip mindful of the somber reason for the journey, but thankful he'd had the opportunity to go. The journey was meaningful and memorable, and important. I am so happy we were able to make that happen for him.

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