I had a personal Facebook first this morning. When I connected to Fb I saw a message from a friend letting her followers know that her mother had passed away. The message included a simple and beautiful message of appreciation of her mother.
It was clear I should convey my condolences to my friend as quickly as possible, but it took me a while to take the decision to express my thoughts on her Fb wall. My first reaction was that this was too important, too serious a subject for this medium. My Fb wall has lots on it, from invitations to jazz concerts and dance events, reminders from a young friend that his text has just appeared as the back stage story on a national newspaper, to cousins in Liverpool telling the world what film they saw last weekend: it was Rise of Planet of the Apes by the way.
To put all of these things beside a message of condolence might seem incongruous and risk being frivolous about the serious matter of a family bereavement. After some thought I did write a short message of condolence and there it is now on my friend’s wall.
Of course I should not have worried. Throughout the day, as different time zones have seen people connecting, messages have been added constantly from around the world: I should explain that my friend’s work has taken her to many countries and she has students from past and present who are international. Some messages are personal, others more formal, some are profound and deeply moving. All of them are sincerely meant and are respectful in every sense.
The best thing is that my friend has received the warmth and comfort of these good wishes so immediately, in the first moments of her bereavement. She may well receive kind wishes in the form of greeting cards by post in a week or so. Whatever medium we choose to express our condolences, those of us who write are proving that we are friends in the real sense, not just Facebook friends.