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The obituary was nicely written, sprinkled with loving memories and jovial asides in a few short sentences. It was posted on Facebook. It drew scores of “likes” from the writer’s friends and families. Wait, now. “Liking” an obituary? Is that just the way it is, just enough time spent in our hurly-burly lives?
Did any of the “likes” also invest $7 in a Hallmark card? Slip a handwritten note into an envelope? Make a donation in the deceased’s name? Call the friend to offer condolences?
We have gotten away from the tactile sense of loss – and, as well, of gratitude. When my children received gifts, they were expected to write thank-you notes. Sadly, members of my large extended family don’t send thank you’s for wedding gifts or gifts sent to their children, our grandchildren. We have no way of knowing whether they were received, liked or disliked, greeted with a smile or a sarcastic comment.
About once a year, I get a handwritten letter on slivers of notepaper from a relative in Ireland. I learn about the weather, who’s had a baby, been treated for cancer. I reply by writing a letter on my computer – my handwriting is so terrible from years of journalism that crafting a signature on a check is both painful and artless. But I do reply with content that can’t mirror her experience, but sketches our lives eight hours away. We do not share any social media tools. Our “liking” is done with personhood.
I can no longer convert or persuade my children. My grandchildren, though numerous, are most often so physically and philosophically remote from tactility that when adult grandchildren are seated adjacent to one another they prefer to communicate by phone texting.
How do you truly respond to a kindness or an injury with a “like” or an "unfriend"? Do we know the price of a postage stamp? Truth is we know much better the price of our cell phone plan, including data usage.
A music minister once told me, “We know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” A few kind words, spoken or written, seem tettering on the brink of “archaic.” I for one won’t go there willingly or quietly.