Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The Facebook Reconnect and Death Notice

I was a little bored tonight and procrastinating about some work I needed to do. After I finished dinner, I checked my email and trolled a bit on my Facebook feed.

Thinking about my online "friends" and wondered what was going on with some of the people I know but never seem to hear from anymore, I decided to plow through my friend list. I found about 25 "friends" who had deactivated accounts so I unfriended them as I scrolled down.

Rhonda and Brad top row. Getting
ready for the Governor's Ball in 1978.
I came across my friend Rhonda Mooney who I met in high school while participating in the YMCA Youth and Government program. She was from San Diego and I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley.

We met in San Luis Obispo at the elections conference in 1978. She was a year behind me in school, but we became friends and even went to the Governors Ball together in Sacramento that year. I visited her with my friend Dan Burgess once in San Diego but hadn't heard much from her until we reconnected on Facebook in 2012.

The most recent posting on her timeline was from January 30, 2016. Only four days ago. But it was odd to me because it was one of those pictures you see people post where there is a candle and a saying about when you are missing someone. My first thought was that she and a friend had lost someone close and her friend Terri was sharing this with Rhonda to help her feel better.
Rhonda, Dan, and Theresa circa 1978
As I scrolled down, I saw that Terri had posted several more of these types of images and videos over the past several months. It wasn't until I got down to June 15, 2015 when I found out that Rhonda had passed away last year. I knew she had some major physical problems but I didn't expect to see this news. I immediately searched the Internet for an obituary but found nothing. She was a very private person when it came to social media, and there were only a few pictures on her Facebook page.

Lisa and Rhonda
I was surprised to see one photo I had sent her from my visit to San Diego in 1978. I had the first comment on the photo: "I see you are playing the 'if we had Facebook in the 1970's' game. Well played."

I also found this beautiful photo of Rhonda and her friend Lisa.

I'm still kind of in shock about this news. Finding out that a friend died randomly via Facebook seems so strange and inhuman. On the other hand, had there never been a Facebook I probably would have never seen her or thought about her much the rest of my life.

I was having dinner with my daughter Emily last night and we were talking about those difficult years in Middle School and I asked her if she was still in touch with some of those friends. She said she was connected to them online, but she doesn't talk much with them if at all. Mostly she's moved on and stays in touch with her college friends and those people she's met since moving back to the Bay Area. I wondered silently whether or not she'd still know any of those people 35 years from now, and if being connected online would help keep them close. It seems unlikely to me.

I knew Rhonda loved cars and jeeps and driving in the desert and mountains and there were many postings about this part of her life.  I found out that she loved music and found postings about Roy Rogers and BB King -- two of my favorites. I read all the comments on Rhonda's timeline after her niece announced her death. She was very loved and is sorely missed by many.

For now I'm left with only the memories of those youthful days in high school and a good friend who is no longer with us. I'll leave you with the idea that technology can bring us together but it can't truly connect us as humans unless we make the effort to connect.

Looking at these two photos I took back in 1978 helps me recall her, but there was so much in life that happened since those days. We spoke on the phone once or twice a few years ago, but I can't say I knew her as she was when she died. I only have bits and pieces from her online profile.

And, I never got to say goodbye.

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