I was scrolling Facebook when I came across a friend’s post expressing their condolences for a friend who recently died. I wasn’t friends with the deceased, but a link to his Facebook page was in the post. His name was Brad.
I clicked to Brad’s page and by the dates on the comments I gathered he died the day before. He looked to be my age, mid to late thirties, too young to have died. His profile picture was of him and a young girl, seven or eight years old. His daughter, I assumed. They were standing next to a roller coaster and had the same toothy smiles and poky ears.
There was no occupation listed and no pictures of a significant other. Just lots of pictures of the young girl and Brad fishing. One in particular showed Brad standing in an old john boat in some tropical location and the entire boat was filled with long, greenish-yellow fish. Brad had one knee on the edge of the boat and was holding a fish in each hand, smiling as wide as the river he’d just conquered.
I went back to the comments. Lots of RIPs and I’m going to miss yous and many recalling their last words with Brad.
I can’t believe you and I were just planning our next fishing trip.
Brad, I’m so glad I called you to ask about your new job. I’d been meaning to, and if I hadn’t, I don’t know what I would have done.
And then there were comments from people who didn’t get that last chance. They were on their way to talk to him. Or they had wanted to talk to him for a long time but now they’d never get the chance. I scrolled further down his page until I got to Brad’s own posts.
He was Yankees fan. Lots of posts about how much the Yankees were going to miss Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. That other Yankee fans should count their blessings. And he was either finding or had found religion. Lots of posts about redemption and forgiveness.
His death appeared sudden and unexpected. It didn’t feel like one you wait on with family by your side, dying peacefully in your sleep. But I still wasn’t sure. Was it a car accident? Heart attack? Work accident? Drugs? Then again, maybe it was expected, and the posters didn’t know he was sick.
I went back through the condolences, a nagging sensation of being left out growing inside me. If it was expected, like cancer, wouldn’t somebody say something? Wouldn’t they say, Brad, I know you are in a better place now. I’m thankful you won’t have to suffer anymore. I’ve seen those words before on other Facebook memorials. I’ve snooped like this before and always been able to discern a cause of death.
I’ve seen people speak of their thankfulness for mercy. Where was the mercy? Everybody was telling him they’d simply miss him. And they wish they could speak to him one more time. Just one more time. Over and over, the words, one more time, being posted.
I went back to his pictures, looking for changes in his body, but he never lost weight. His hair didn’t fall out. No images of hospitals. No shots of big family events in his honor. Nothing out of the ordinary. Normal pictures of a normal man who just up and died. A man who one day made the post, Yankees- the dynasty isn’t over yet, and the next day had a hundred people telling him how much they’d miss him.
I was on my lunch break, and as I sat in a courtyard next to my office, studying a dead man’s Facebook page like a police investigator, I felt the creep growing. The creepiness of me snooping. The creepiness of death, especially premature death. And the creepiness of posting goodbyes on a website that might go on living forever. Every birthday for Brad people would post birthday wishes. On his death anniversary those same friends would post pictures to remember the good times. I’ve seen it before.
Wanting to stop I turned my phone off and for a few minutes watched a couple of guys smoke cigarettes. They were taking about going hunting this weekend and their conversation struck me as banal, almost insulting. This creep wouldn’t let go.
I went back to his page and looked at his profile picture again. Brad and his daughter were giggling like they had just shared an inside father-daughter joke. And the sky behind them glowed a dusty orange. A perfect moment, a moment I couldn’t get past. That moment had inexplicably gone from a personal favorite, one Brad used as his profile, to the memorial picture on a dead man’s Facebook page and I still didn’t know why.
What I did next I knew was wrong and insensitive and creepier than anything else I had done but I couldn’t help it. I had to know. So I opened up the comment box on Brad’s page and typed, What happened to Brad?
Then I went back into my office and sat at my desk. For the rest of the afternoon I kept refreshing Brad’s Facebook page, hoping for a response, but never got one. It was like I was the ghost on a dead man’s page and nobody knew I was there watching everything.