There are ghosts in my phone

My Facebook friends are an eclectic bunch: people from my childhood, relatives, former work colleagues, school mums, a couple of randoms that I’ve got no idea HOW they came to be in my feed …

I’ve also made quite a few Facebook friends through the blog, our relationships growing purely in the digital space.

Years ago, when I was working for a parenting website, I asked an American writer if I could republish one of her stories. She agreed and we somehow ended up becoming Facebook friends.

Traci was one of those people who share every dramatic moment in their lives in real time on Facebook, so I felt like I knew her pretty well, despite us never having actually spoken to each other.

Traci had been having a rough trot in recent months. She was a single parent to two teenaged sons. There had been problems with an unstable boyfriend. And then she got really sick with what she thought was the flu.

That fluey thing just wouldn’t go away. Weeks went past and Traci was still giving updates on how she was the sickest she’d even been in her life.

Finally, she posted that she’d been admitted to hospital with double pneumonia. Scary stuff, but I was glad she was finally getting treated.

A few days later I was shocked to see a GoFundMe post in my Facebook feed – a memorial fundraiser for Traci.

I froze. Memorial?

It said: “My best friend passed away unexpectedly on January 13, 2018. Traci was one of the strongest women I know. She battled Lupus for many years, and had recently been diagnosed with Pneumonia in both lungs. She was admitted into ICU, caught the flu and her immune system couldn’t fight it any longer. She passed from cardiac arrest.”

What?? No!

Another of her friends noted on Facebook: “It’s a tragic irony that the cost of health care might have kept Traci from seeking life saving medical care earlier.”

Both those posts rattled me deeply.

Traci couldn’t have been more than 40. She was a published author at Simon & Schuster. She was a mum with two kids, like me. How could she be typing Facebook posts one day and be gone the next?

Damn that cruel US health system. I remember being horrified while living in New York to see gravely sick people being bundled out of hospital and onto the local buses, often still attached to a drip, because they didn’t have enough health care to stay.

A bloke posted a viral video recently of a disoriented old woman being thrown out of a hospital into the cold in just a hospital gown – apparently it’s quite common and called “patient dumping”.

Can you imagine if a hospital did that here? Our system is far from perfect, but it has a little more compassion.

We were friends with a doctor in New York who told us the Canadian government had a medi-vac plane with medical staff on constant standby to get its citizens home from holidays if they fell ill, because it was cheaper to do that than leave them in the broken US health system.

As for Traci, her untimely death leaves a ghost in my phone, her digital footprint will remain long after she has gone. My brother-in-law reckons he has eight ghosts in his phone.

My grandmother’s name is no longer in my phone, but I still find myself wanting  to call her all these years later and give her updates on the great grandkids.

How can people who were larger than life be gone? How can those big personalities be lost?

It doesn’t seem possible. They’ve died, but your love for them remains, creating a huge ache in your heart.

Poor Rocco and Julian to have lost their mum Traci so young.

If you love someone, tell them.

If you hate someone, let it go.

Life is too short to hold back the good stuff or hang onto the bad.

Song of the day: Eric Clapton “Tears in heaven”


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