I’m back at home now after burying my precious Allie on Friday in her hometown of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. The church was filled with flowers, and the service was upbeat and memorable. The anchor team from WAAY-TV in the 90s was there, and several served as pall bearers. Hundreds of people showed up at the visitation Thursday night to express their love and support.
Her mother, Ma Jane, held up well and was surrounded by family and friends, and I don’t know what I would’ve done without the loving support of my friend Holly from Huntsville, the entire Hughes family, and the hugs and kisses of my sweet daughters, Brittany and Larissa. Death is a time of extreme emotions, and I don’t know how those who don’t have a familial support system endure the agony of such a loss.
It’s raining here in Nashville as I write this, and that pretty much describes my mood. But I’m going to be okay, and it’s going to be okay. I have that deep, unshakeable assurance this morning. I know there are many bad days ahead, and that I’ll burst into tears over the silliest of things, but I also know that she wants me to move forward, and that’s a part of what I want to talk to you about this morning.
There have been more than a few raised eyebrows over the post I wrote upon returning from the hospital Tuesday morning. Let me explain.
I believe — as Doug Rushkoff wrote in his book “Get Back in the Box” — that the internet isn’t a media phenomenon or a technical phenomenon as much as it is a social phenomenon. In this sense, he wrote, it will change everything. In our increasingly postmodern culture, the greatest social connection we have beyond family is our tribe, a concept both practical and esoteric. We choose our tribe, whereas we don’t choose our family.
We learn from each other, and this, too, is the postmodern way. “I experience (I participate), therefore I understand” isn’t just a bunch of nice words. It’s the cornerstone of all that’s new and all that is to come. If we don’t experience something for ourselves, we look for the experiences of others, especially those close to us.
The sense of loss that I felt that morning was overwhelmed by a fear so profound that I can’t even begin to describe it. My whole world was torn out from beneath me, and I was scared to death. The only — and I mean only — place I felt safe while I was awaiting the arrival of family and friends was right here at my keyboard. If I moved even a few steps away, I began to feel suffocated and would race back. I wrote the post and I sent an e-mail, and what happened after that kept me going. Hundreds upon hundreds of people responded, and I can’t tell you how important that was to me.
People I didn’t know (I’m apparently a member of many other tribes) shared their thoughts, poems, condolences and experiences, and that was enormously helpful to one so adrift in fear and the unknown. This is profound in its implications for the future of humankind, and I hope you all can see that. We are not alone. None of us. We need each other, and we have the shared knowledge and capacity for compassion that will save the world. I mean that with all my heart. Our institutions have failed, but we will not.
Blogger and Marcom:Interactive president Gary Goldhammer wrote a beautiful post later that day that touched on this: Death in the blogosphere: what we gained from Terry Heaton’s loss. He writes about the outpouring of love expressed in the comments to my post and makes a very important observation:
Many of these mourners knew Terry only through his writing. They didn’t know Terry personally, they didn’t know his wife, and they didn’t know Terry’s favorite food or football team. Yet the pain in these people’s comments seeps through the computer screen as if Terry was a blood relative. There are condolences, poems, prayers and personal reflections. There are people stripped of all pretense and puffery, commenting not out of the need to get links, but the need to share love.
Say what you want about bloggers and social media. Question bloggingï¿½s veracity and its place in the world of modern communications. But never question the power of one man with a computer and something to say to move a multitude of strangers.
Through his loss, Terry Heaton has given us all the opportunity to connect in a deeply personal way to him, Allie, and each other. And for that, Terry, we thank you from the bottom of our blogging hearts.
We were unable to attend church very much, but that didn’t bother either of us, and I’m sure it didn’t bother the Lord. We talked a lot about her upbringing in the church and the struggles she’d had with faith in the years following a dreadful family tragedy involving her father. But her middle name was Faith, and so she just lived it. For Allie, it wasn’t so much what you espoused as what you did, and especially as it related to other people. She was always saying hello to complete strangers — in the store, on the street, anywhere. She LOVED life and spread happiness and joy wherever she found herself.
We read the Bible before going to bed, and she loved the Psalms. She was fascinated by the Old Testament stories and adored the red words, but it was the Psalms that ministered to her the most. After we’d read, we’d kiss and say, “Time to go nye-nye, go seep seep. ‘He gives to His beloved sleep.'” She loved that verse most of all, and it was the last thing I said to her as we closed the casket.
My prayer for each of you this day is that God will bless you and keep you. May He repay you in kind for the love and support you’ve so generously shared with me. And may you experience — if even for a moment — the love that I found in my precious Allie.