When Howard died, we staggered. Any death would have felt huge to the small college where I worked then, but Howard was a very popular, well-known-and-loved senior, the star goalie of our remarkable men’s soccer team, and a warm friend with tremendous character and humility. He was fine, we were all fine, when the Fall semester ended and Howard went home to Jamaica for Christmas break. But then he was tired for no reason, tests were run, a rare and strange blood disease was diagnosed, and by the time classes were starting up again, he was too ill to travel. And then we heard what none of us could stomach or quite believe: he was gone. That was four years ago last month. I miss him, and still cry when I think of him. I want very much to see his face again, have another hug, hear his voice and laugh.
In a culture where most of us have nearly instant and constant access to virtually everyone we know (or have known, thank you Facebook), some of the ordinary and universal experiences of missing people are now gone. For years I have been convinced our ability to hope or long well is atrophying with every video chat or text message. But now I wonder if humans have ever hoped or longed well. Is this because our fallen incompleteness makes us feel deficient no matter the degree of longing and hope? For some it’s “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but for others it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”
So the question remains: Does Facebook, Twitter and texting make us better or worse at hoping and longing? I don’t know, but it does seem I’m less likely today to find a friend with the time and desire to sit and talk about these things.