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.