The other night I was up late trying to finish a few blog posts and felt pretty defeated. I was disappointed with my drafts and basically just uninspired.
I then tried to work on the young adult novel I wanted to pen, and instead I sat staring at a computer screen with 32 words on it. And they sucked. Every one of them.
As I often do, I contemplated why I gave up a career that paid me quite well and worked around my schedule. Sure, I didn’t really enjoy it, but the money was good and the focus on my insecurities was a lot less. I thought about the emails I received from my old clients encouraging me to come back, the offer from my former boss saying there was always a job for me.
My demons were talking, and they were sounding smarter by the minute.
I decided to throw in the towel for the night and checked my Playdates on Fridays Facebook page one more time before I went to bed.
That’s when I saw it on the left hand side of my screen.
“Invite your friend Ali to like Playdates on Fridays.”
My friend Ali died of non-smoking related lung cancer two years ago, and I swear she just spoke to me from the grave.
Ali and I were born just a few months apart and shared a lot of pizza together in college. We reconnected on Facebook years back and re-formed our friendship. Although she had not yet started her own family, she was always sending me notes about my girls and how blessed I was. I told her how envious I was about the concerts she attended and the life she had built for herself. We got together a few times in DC but we were pervasively connected through social media.
Ali was a huge supporter of my writing. “You should totally start a blog,” she once told me. “You would be great at it.”
And I responded with a standard self-deprecating remark like: “Sure, you and my mom could start my fan club!”
Then she got lung cancer. And it changed my life.
Although Ali’s only blood relative lived thousands of miles away, her friends stepped up to the plate — in a huge way. I have never been so inspired — these people with jobs and families and responsibilities were there for this beautiful woman up until the moment she passed. They put their lives on hold so she could enjoy what remained of hers.
For those of us who couldn’t be there physically for Ali, we tried to do what we could. We raised funds both for her care and for Free to Breathe, an organization dedicated to raising awareness and research for lung cancer. During this time I wrote an article for our national sorority magazine, The Key, that talked about how Ali’s illness had brought us all together again. After reviewing the piece, Ali sent me a note:
You really have such a gift for writing and expressing feelings and things in such a touching and inspiring way. Thank you for taking such care with the story.
Ali gave me such a gift. The piece was my first published under my own byline, but her opinion meant even more. She is a major reason why I started my blog and began writing a book. Ali was robbed of her opportunity to chase her dreams; what an insult to her if I quit chasing mine.
But I had forgotten this. I let my daily life get in the way of what I love. Again.
Until Ali popped up telling me that she wanted to like my page. Because she wouldn’t have just liked it. She would have shared it and sent me messages and told me that I should keep going.
I know what you are thinking. It would be easy to write this off as some coincidence, some well-funded Zuckerithm developed to make me even more attached to Facebook.
But it’s not.
Right before she got really sick, I sent Ali a card with some funny cats on it. She was a true animal lover, and I knew she’d get a kick out of it. She sent me a note that said this:
Thanks for always having such encouraging and beautiful words to say…..whether to me or in general.
Ali’s Facebook page has remained active even after her death. It connects all the people who came together from so many different facets of her life. I believe — with all my heart — that Ali knew I needed to hear from her, that I needed someone to encourage me, to “like” me.
So I could do that for someone else — through my writing.
Because when your friend talks to you from the grave on Facebook, you listen.