For my Facebook friend who is in pain

By Brianne DeRosa

It must pain her, I think, pausing on the Facebook notification.

It must pain her, but “likes” are silent and secretive. They never let on.

We connected through the magic of the internet—an old friend of mine, a new friend of hers. Her son was in crisis, they said. Could I help?

I accepted the friend request. We 21st Century Moms have to stick together, after all. What followed was a deluge: hopes, fears, clinical facts. We exchanged photos and heart emoticons. Our boys. Hers was only a little older than mine. They were both beautiful, with round faces and innocent eyes. Both their names had four letters. Both of them started with L. Both of them were growing into themselves, beyond babyhood now, learning who they were and who they wanted to be.

Both of them struggled. It was the struggle that brought us together, but the similarities, I think, that made us stay.

We talked on the phone a few times. When she called me from the car line at school crying, I took the call without a thought—even though it made me late for my own kids’ pickup time. When she needed an advocate, I stayed up nights researching for her. I called her kids’ pediatrician and explained to him what I thought was going on. I walked her family through the referral process. I tried to prepare her for the testing. Through it all, across 1,182 miles, we kept exchanging the pictures, the likes, the tiny daily markers of support.

It must pain her.

There is no good way to begin the telling of awful news, so the message bearing her family’s tragedy came to me with this opening line: “I just thought you’d want to know.” And what it contained was a shock, though of course in some small part of me I did know, as we all do. I knew that sometimes accidents happen, and sometimes people die, even ten-year-old children with round faces and innocent eyes, even children whose names begin with L and have exactly four letters and who love to draw and model things with clay.

Even the children whose futures keep us up nights, whose tomorrows we fight for, may have a finite number of days on this earth. And that’s how it was for the other four-lettered L boy.

While he was alive, his mother said, he had worried about his future. What would happen, Momma, if he couldn’t ever read? What would happen, Momma? Would he get a job? Would he have a family? Would he have a good life?

Sometime during the aftermath of softly grieving for a boy I had never known, it struck me that all his questions had been put to rest. And the days—the years—of worry, his mother’s worry, our work together to try to fashion “yes” answers to those questions, they had all been for nothing. We had spent our hours together worrying about a future that was never to be.

No amount of care, no number of sleepless nights had made him read. And none of it had allowed him to grow up. As it turns out, worry doesn’t do much at all for the future except allow it to steal from the now.

It must pain her, I think, as I see the “like” from her on my Facebook post. It’s a beaming photo of my own L boy, now almost two years older and so many inches taller, excitedly holding up the script for the school play after he found out he got the lead. His round face is flushed with pride. He shines. And she “liked” it.

Every click on my profile must be a bolt through her Momma heart. I know it’s a jolt to mine.

We don’t talk anymore. There’s no longer a reason to, and if we’re honest, I think we’d both say that we’re too different to have ever been friends in real life. What bound us together was our two little boys, and the instant connection of recognizing in someone else the private struggle you thought no one could possibly share.

If worry were a measure of love, we poured out more love in our brief and fervent friendship than Shakespeare ever covered in his sonnets. If worry had the power to change things…well, we all know how differently this story would have ended.

But I’ve seen worry exposed for what it is: a joy-stealer, a love-stifler, a moment-killer. What keeps me up nights now is wondering how much love and happiness I haven’t been able to enjoy with my son, because I’ve been distracted by worrying about his future.

I’m sure she’s had that thought, too, since.

Her tragedy, laid bare on the imperfect life journal that is Facebook, is my daily teacher.

And it must pain her.

Brianne K. DeRosa, mother, wife and self-employed writer/consultant, chronically overshares and overthinks. As the parent to a child with special needs, she is constantly caught between the opposing poles of wanting to help everyone, and wanting to forget it all for a while.

Cynthia Angeles, Grief

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