My Mom is on Facebook

My mom, cradling my son, Zack, just hours after he was born. August 2003.

You know that list of your Facebook friends, the one that’s in the column to the right of your news feed? Yeah, that one. I’ve never thought too much about it, except to wonder what the algorithm is that decides which friends appear, or whether it’s because they’ve recently looked at your page or what.

Well, I can tell you now that it’s definitely not people who’ve looked at your page recently, because I just signed in to Facebook to see my mother’s name at the top of my friends list. She never even put a photo in her profile, so next to her name it’s just the blank, white silhouette of a woman–which is kind of fitting, since my mother died a year ago, and she’s just a memory in my life now. A long string of memories.

I clicked over to her page, where there are just a few family photos, and a wall post from a cousin of mine, cheerily wishing my mother to “get well soon.” My mom had signed up so she could see the photos I post all over my wall and in my photo albums, so she could see more of me and my son and my boyfriend, since we didn’t often make the drive to visit in Philadelphia. (Until she got sick and my dad got sick and then suddenly I had plenty of time to drive back and forth to Philadelphia, every day, to take care of her and to take care of him, and to try to prepare for the end of parents.)

Who is the big admin in the sky? Shouldn’t he or she be pruning the Facebook pages so our dead friends and parents and sisters and cousins don’t rub shoulders with us in the internet in this way? I am sure I could figure out her password without too much trouble, but I don’t want to be the one who actively erases these last little bits and bytes of her. And it just feels wrong to block her; I want her to be able to reach me in whatever ways she can, even if it hurts.

Oh, dear internets: how you take and you give and you give and take again. Just like life.

 

About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses: a divorce and house disaster that led to a book (Falling Apart In One Piece); a week after the book came out, my parents suddenly fell gravely ill, I resigned from my job (and, apparently, my career), my son went into crisis, my parents then rapidly died four weeks apart, and my boyfriend (who had moved in with me and my son just weeks before the book came out) began the painful journey of realizing we couldn't make our relationship work (that story unfolded on this blog). Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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12 Responses to My Mom is on Facebook

  1. Susan Tang says:

    Oh Stacy. I have no words. My mom is still on my e-mail contact list and I can’t bear to delete her 4 years after the fact. I keep thinking I’ll get up the balls to do it one of these days.

  2. Jonna says:

    My husband and his 4 brothers and sisters decided to keep their mother’s FB page open after she died last April. (There is some method of contacting FB to alert them that someone has passed away. Not sure if they attempt to verify through public records or what…) Some of them and many of the grandchildren teenaged and up grandchildren write on her wall pretty regularly, on holidays, her birthday, when something good happens. I find it a little jarring, personally, when the posts pop up, but I’ve gotten used to it and they all really like it. Different strokes, I guess.

  3. Sarah Maizes says:

    So poignant. I love the way you tell a story.

  4. Karen (Morrison) Tester says:

    Stacy,

    I was taken aback when your Dad’s page showed up as one who had mutual friends with me, like Dara, my Dad etc.

    At first it bothered me, then I kinda thought how it was nice to “see” him the next time it happened. A pleasant reminder of my memories of Morrison Christmases, how I’ve always felt your Mom was so stunning and reminded me of Elizabeth Taylor and just a general “stop and smell the roses” moment.

  5. MamaRobinJ says:

    This breaks my heart. I can only imagine how hard that would be and I can totally understand the struggle between not wanting to have that reminder and not wanting to actively do something to make it go away either.

  6. I really get this. These things always bring me up short, too. As you know my father died last year, just a bit before your parents, and up until about a month ago my cell phone still listed their number as Jim & Syl and had a photo of both of them that popped up every time my mother called me. At first it was soothing, but had become jarring, so I changed it. Sitting there, deleting his name from the listing, changing the photo to one of just her was another sad moment of remembering.

    But, on the other hand, I am actually in the process of building a website for my father, so his amazing photography work can live on. Yup, the internet is funny that way.

  7. This must be so hard. Worse then running across the stray photograph in a drawer, or a letter you find, where you recognize the handwriting immediately.

    I recall trying to find an old friend I hadn’t heard from in awhile, and searching him out on the internet, only to find he had passed away.

    Strange world. We know so much. We know so little. We find our ghosts when we are least prepared.

  8. Scott Morrison says:

    I thought about deleting their accounts last year but couldn’t do it. I am reminded of them at strange times in strange ways. I am never prepared. The hurt is so strong. My life has changed so much, mostly as a result of their passing. I wonder what they think. But mostly I just miss them. Sometimes a lot, some times a little, but always some.

  9. Ana R. says:

    Stacy,
    You can contact Facebook to let them know you’re loved one has passed away and they will turn their page into a “memorial” that way you can still see their profile without them turning up unexpectedly in the friends column, etc.
    I’m pretty sure that you can’t post on their wall if they do this some ppl prefer not to notify FB because they do want ppl to continue to post on their loved ones walls or feel that it’s a way of still interacting with the deceased. (like what Jonna mentions in her comment above) Maybe this is something you would like to do in order to keep the memory alive.

  10. Rebecca Brandt says:

    Hi Stacy, I can somewhat relate.

    Katy R.’s FB profile was not deleted after she died in February 2009, and I really wanted it gone at first, as the sight of her smile tore me up everytime it came up. Through the past two years I’ve actually sent FB messages to her at really difficult times, seeking support, venting, bitching at her for not being here anymore – I don’t know if anyone in her family has access to it, has received the messages, etc. but it was very helpful at the time to feel like I was reaching out to my dear lost friend at some difficult times.

    Your writing and insight is invaluable, as is your friendship. Peace, friend!

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