Gmail is eerie to me these days. I still use it, but it has a haunted aspect.
A little over two years ago, my mother passed away. Despite this fact, her presence remains as a ghostly part of my gmail account. When I mouse over her name in my contacts list, a stylized picture of her face appears, hovering, until the mouse moves away. I have archived emails and voicemails the linger, despite her absence from this world. She still has a toe hold here. She remains, though departed.
I am thinking about that today. Today my friends buried a friend of mine. She passed away a little over a week ago, and the funeral was today. Thirty-six years old. Too young. I couldn't be at the funeral. It is eight hours by car, and my wife and daughter are both sick in bed. And yet, here on Facebook, I am connected to the events. I have managed to get a status update or two throughout the afternoon. It breaks my heart that I could not be there. I wanted to be. But the sting is lessened, somewhat, by these odd electrical connections.
And here, in various places, I have her emails and messages to me. I have inklings of places where she and I were connected randomly -- she quotes a lyric from one of my songs here, we have a mutual friend there. None of it adds up to the weight of her absence, but the weight nonetheless is palpable. Substantial. Like my mother, my friend Elizabeth still has a toe hold in this world.
For the last twenty years or more I have kept some records of things. Projects I have been a part of that make me proud. The files they kept on me from grade school and high school (yes. I have them). My poetry, such as it is, and my writings (even the bad ones). Pictures. Old cassette tapes. Every rejection letter from every school and job I ever applied to. I have these things.
Why? Because I want, to whatever degree possible, to leave a breadcrumb trail when I am gone. I want to have pieces that others can piece together. It won't add up to my life, I know, and the life it adds up to will probably only be a parody of the one I lived, a shadow play. But dumb show or not, I want to leave the breadcrumbs and have them be found. I want to leave a toe in this world.
When we were cleaning out my mother's house, there was so little time. So much got passed over, and thrown away, or lost. If she intended tidy endings and well-kept meanings for me, I missed them in the maelstrom. I have had to make my own meanings. So will you. Meanings are for the living, not the dead. No matter how much I would like to control my meaning when I am gone, the best any of us get is the phantom face during a mouse-over.
It is all there is. It is enough.
And so I say goodbye again to my dear, strange mother, as I do every time my mouse glances near her name and that face appears. And I say goodbye today to Elizabeth, though I am certain my goodbyes will echo again and again as I bump into her toe holds here in my digital world. Goodbye. I have loved you as best I could, and I love you still, in my own strange and halting ways. Please pray for me as I pray for you. I hope we meet again -- not as a mouse over, but, as promised, face to face.
I love. I miss. I hope.