“Why has someone added me to another Facebook chat group?” I seethed silently as the notification popped up on my screen. Note to self, read up on how to control people adding me to groups. It was from Lucy, and now I trust her and she’s not always on messenger so I figured it was something legitimate or important and checked out who else had been added. I knew them all by name at least, and subconsciously hit ‘wave to the group’ as you do to be polite. No one seemed to know the purpose of the group as people waited eagerly for some sort of clue. Was it another attempt at a reunion, or some major celebration? More people were added, but these weren’t names I was familiar with, so I doubted it was a reunion. Some were swapping greetings, and as most hadn’t seen one another in more than a decade, someone finally asked the ubiquitous question what was happening?
“Dan died last night from a diabetic coma, and I’m trying to let everyone know,” Lucy replied.
Suddenly there was an influx of short sharp messages, ranging from understandable shock, to others offering to tell others. Then came the inevitable questions of the funeral and who isn’t on Facebook that needs to know. I watched the group expand with more names that I hadn’t heard in decades appearing, and with it some fond memories of parties, copious amounts of alcohol being consumed, and waiting for night buses to get home. Some names I didn’t have a clue about, but that’s the thing in college in that everyone uses nicknames and you never really knew their surnames, because quite simply you didn’t need to know. Messages flashed up with tributes to Dan, as I racked my brain as to who was Dan? I knew the name but I couldn’t picture him, and I’ll be honest that many of my college days were spent in a slightly inebriated stupor especially at parties and at the heavily subsidized college bar.
Finally I plucked up the courage to message Lucy and ask who Dan was, because I felt bad reading all these comments and not being able to contribute in an honest manner. The worst thing is on these group chats, everyone can see who has read what as well. Lucy sent me a photo and the penny dropped. Yes, I remember him as a rather kind and gentle soul at parties and when we were at the bar hanging out. He was like the kind of little brother you wished you had, and she then posted the photo on the group chat. Others then shared their own photos too, and for a moment we are all back at college, in the bar remembering how close we all were back then. Those were the halcyon days where we all ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, and supported one another through the highs and the lows, as young adults embarking on the freedom of life.
It’s reconnected friends who haven’t heard from one another for decades, and I commented that some of us should try and meet up and not at a funeral or wake of one of us. I understand everyone has moved on, and you get bogged down with the intricate intimacies of everyday life, but leaving it too late is that something you can live with? We all will die, but Dan was one of the first of our crowd, and bar murder, an accident or the big c, with medical technology people don’t expect to die before they are 50 if they are healthy right, unless we indulge in unhealthy amounts of booze, drugs and protected sex?
It’s May 29th 2018, and today is his funeral and memorial service. Many couldn’t attend because they live miles away and they have to work. I’m sure Dan is fine with this, and the fact people care and are thinking about the good times they shared is what he would have wanted. A couple of decades ago, we would have all been preparing for the first college ball; the lads scrubbed up well, and the girls made sure no one had the same dress as them as we prepared for the ultimate parties of the season. We were all in our late teens, on the brink of adulthood, and learned how to party and have fun. This is also where some long-lasting bonds were made unbeknown to us all, and while I didn’t know Dan well, I knew him well enough to know he one of the good and kind ones.
I don’t recall the last time I saw Dan or in fact most of my former college pals; probably at one of the numerous leaving parties that were held. It was also a difficult time for us all, as we no longer had that security of knowing where we would be at a given time during the week, or even where we would be living. That is the scary reality of adulthood and looking for a real job. Gone were the summer days of freedom where the only worries were exam results and where you were going to live next year, and of course money. The truth is money has and always will be a factor, but living as a student teaches you how to live well and have fun on limited funds. That lesson has served me well, and still is to this day.
Many will raise a glass to Dan tonight, in fact as I write this to celebrate his life and to remind us how precious life is, as he leaves the building, to enter a new one. As for the members of the Facebook group chat, this will give some the impetus to reconnect with others they haven’t seen for years, others will be somber and reminisce at the old days, and others will carry on, sad, but glad it wasn’t them.
The summer holidays are approaching, and I detest summer for it was always a lonely time for me. I always dreamed of going off on group holidays to explore à la Enid Blyton, but the reality is that people needed to get summer jobs (although today they don’t exist due to increased EU migration), and before you know it four years of freedom have flown by, and you’re left with a hazy web of memories. They are good ones though where there were always smiles and laughter with the occasional solemn moments when everyone looked out for one another. One such moment is when a girl (Emma) died from meningitis in halls and everyone banded together. I knew her, and spoke to her 48 hours before she died. It was in the common room as we all watched Neighbours; I said I’d see her after the weekend as I was dashing home for to pick up more clothes. By the time I returned she had already died, and the halls were in quarantine.
Dan’s departure reminds us that time is precious and if we really want to do something or to see someone then we can make time if we so desire. For back then we lived each day for the present and were so full of hope. The question is are we still able to say that as fully fledged adults with responsibilities, or are we trapped on that hamster wheel living how we think we are supposed to, rather than how we choose to be?
Eventually we will all leave this building for another, but when one of us leaves unexpectedly, perhaps it’s a reminder that we should reconnect here before we depart rather than through a string of messages on social media? Perhaps that’s Dan’s greatest legacy, is reminding us to live, and that those unconditional forged bonds meant something all those years ago. Many of us are raising glasses to you Dan, for you left a little earlier than expected, but in doing so have reminded us of a far greater lesson and that is to live in the here and now. While social media helps us to reconnect, it’s then up to us to act on things. Don’t put off things for that perfect moment, because it doesn’t exist, and I’m sure Dan would agree with me.