This week, Amy Burvall @amyburvall posted this tweet. Initially curious but on reflection, confronting, she makes an excellent point.
If you disappeared, who would care?
On the same day, my mother calls me to let me know that it’s my sister-in-law’s name day (I’m Greek Orthodox, so Saint Days are celebrated). Mum was calling me to remind me to give her a call and wish her a Happy Name Day (because I’m hopeless with dates and I’m also not religious so these things slip from my mind).
However, my mum said a curious thing to me.
She said, “Make sure that you never let go of family.“
She added, “During lockdown and COVID, it’s easy to not connect with anyone but please don’t make the mistake of disconnecting with family. At the end of the day, it will only be your family who will be with you in the end. This period of isolation we’re all having is making us realise what is truly important and we realise that we cannot live secluded and isolated life.”
So it was strange to get both these messages on the same day.
However it did get me thinking. If I was to disappear, the only people who would immediately know about this would be my husband, followed soon after my direct family members.
Once the news would reach my Greek aunts (they’re better than any online social networks) my disappearance would reach across the extended Greek cousin networks across Melbourne – many of whom I haven’t seen or talked with in years (we only see each other at major celebrations).
I’m not sure if the news would ever reach my good friends as quickly because they’re not known to my direct family.
Some years back, my best friend passed away with an aggressive cancer however, it was by accident that I found out that she was ill. It was the type of friendship where we knew each other for years, we served together in the Navy too but through this time, I had never met her family. I had been calling her and leaving messages on her phone finding it strange that she never responded. Never did I think that she was “ghosting” me (true friends will NEVER ghost you).
She had been going through cancer treatment at this time so I had a sense of foreboding.
Days passed and still the same. I was leaving voicemail and getting the sneaky suspicion that something was wrong but I had no way of contacting her family because I didn’t know them! Soon after, I got a phone call from Navy who called to let me know that she had passed away recently and that a funeral was to be held soon but didn’t have any other details.
(I’m lucky that I have an extended network of Navy and ex-Navy friends who keep me in the loop albeit nowadays it’s more about funerals).
I was beside myself. I didn’t know what to do but all I knew was I HAD to be at the funeral. I was balling my eyes out that this had happened during this time and I wasn’t there for her. I was also ANGRY at myself that I had never taken the time to get to know her family as well. That our interactions were only with each other over the years.
So I called my networked Greek aunt and pleaded with her to find out for me IF on the Greek grapevine, she had heard anything about my friend’s mum. After about a couple of hours, I get a call back from my aunt telling me all the details of the funeral and it was such a relief. Despite the family saying that it was only for direct family members, I still attended because I felt compelled to be there to say my goodbyes. As it turned out, the funeral was a large affair attended by the Navy too given that she had served her entire life in the military.
However, this situation got me thinking about my friendships as we get older. I have a few good friendships with people but if they disappeared, I would have no way knowing that they’re not around because I have no connection with their direct family members or their husbands/wives.
More than likely, I’d find out on social networks. How sad is that?!
I do wonder if it’s an age thing however. When we’re younger we have close ties with friends but then when we marry, have kids, we grow old, we may divorce, our friendships change but do we have friendships where if we were to disappear, would you be first to know – and not find out from a generic post on social media?
I think a lot has to be said about ensuring that we at least maintain our connections with friends and family at this time. It’s a sobering thought to realise that if anything happened to you, there’d be no one who was there with you.
On an aside, there are TONS of videos on YouTube by people talking about this lack of friends they have in their life. Across all age groups, cultures, genders, you name it – it’s an issue.