Remembering Luke Perry

Buddhist teacher Ethan Nichtern said on Twitter this morning, that to his generation nothing says impermanence like the passing of US actor Luke Perry. He was one of the faces of our generation and may he rest in peace.

When I heard of Luke Perry’s stroke a few days ago, I reacted as I usually do when I hear such a thing; sadness for those involved but also a strange thought crosses my mind. I wonder how I would explain this to Terry, my high school sweetheart who died at 22, just 9 weeks after we were married.

Since Terry’s death in 1993, I’ve been trying to figure out what we’re doing here. I still don’t know but I feel like I’m getting closer to a few answers. After all these years, I still think of him most days, and especially when I hear some news like this. I imagine myself telling him the news and his response. I’ve imagined myself explaining iPhones or Snapchat, the dismal state of the NRL, that I now have a 19-year-old son. He would love mobile phones, hate what has happened to his beloved rugby league and I hope we would be proud of the life I now have. At the very least, he’d be grateful that he’s never been forgotten.

When I think back to the life-changing events of my teens and early 20s, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if social media had been around then, I would not have had the skills to navigate it. I was an oddball and felt ostracised by my unusual interests, a 7th child in a world of 2-child families. I was too weird for the smart kids and too straight for the weird kids.

I can only imagine how meeting my Family of Origin would have played out had Facebook been around then. I shudder to think of how I would have handled losing Terry if I’d had to deal with seeing him every time I opened Instagram. Or weathered the cruelty that I suffered (and handed out) after he died if it was splashed all over Facebook.

But people deal with this kind of thing every day, their private lives open to all-comers, either willingly or without their consent. I remember an acquaintance saying that Terry and I weren’t really married because it had only been 9 weeks. Well, I don’t know about you, but I felt married the minute the pastor said, Man and Wife. Imagine if she’d posted her opinion on Facebook. Fark.

Perhaps there are benefits? I could have easily connected with others going through similar experiences or accessed articles, podcasts or online counselors that might have helped me understand what I was going through. I might have come across information that encouraged me to grow up and deal with my grief, anger, and resentment in more mindful ways.

Perhaps I would have built some bridges rather than burning them like Russia retreating. I might have salvaged and even cultivated relationships instead of salting the earth like a Roman general.

But I doubt it. I really doubt it, and we will never know.


  1. Kalliope

    Doesn’t matter. People are pretty ingenious and find all sorts of new and inventive ways to get under each other’s skin. We adapt and come up with new solutions that serve a generation of similar demographic and experience. Which may or may not impact others, but people don’t like to miss out.

    1. Christine Betts

      Oh make no mistake, I take 100% responsibility for the crazy that may have happened had social media been a thing and much of the crazy that did! I’m not sure how people your age and younger have navigated their way through teens etc. blows my mind.

      1. Kalliope

        It was an exciting way to meet new people and pretend to be others to bully the people we hated in real life and avoid potential consequences by denial and incredulity.

  2. jordanquirkcole

    My step-dad died very unexpectedly a few months ago and it’s been an eye opening experience, to say the least. My mom has had a hard time returning to Facebook and has shut herself in. Grief somehow stands the test of time, from my observations. I think there’s always that initial period and then you return to “normal life” whatever that means anyway. Thank you for your insight, truly.

    1. Christine Betts

      Thank you Jordan. My heart goes out to your mum. Make sure she has someone to talk to. Even one person can make all the difference. I can’t believe I survived it and here I am 25 years later. As Frances Mayes wrote, the surprise is that it doesn’t actually kill you. Sending you both love and healing 💕

      1. jordanquirkcole

        Thank you. I am doing my best to be there for her, as well as my 7 year old half sister, and make sure they are surrounded by the right people. It’s definitely been an eye opening experience for us all. Thank you.

      2. Christine Betts

        It’s the hardest thing. Although all these years later, now that I am a mum I understand how horrific it must have been for my mother in law to lose her only son. Time gives perspective. I wish I’d been kinder to her.

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