The news this morning of the death of 23 year old Christina Darling came as a deep shock to all who followed her on Twitter.
Most of us never met her, and knew little about her in real life, and yet the death of someone so young and vibrant during a gap year seems especially tragic.
The expressions of condolence to her family and friends sounds so very formulaic and conventional – something she never was – and yet it is also entirely right.
Many of us may never come to know know what happened. We may not feel it our place to intrude as total strangers by asking those who know.
Most of us encountered her in cyberspace and may never get closer to the reality of who she was, and yet a wide variety of people from different generations, places, opinions and attitudes either followed her directly or had her remarks on life delivered by others into our timelines. Somehow, we ended up caring, though she and most of us would reject too much sentimentality.
With her feisty opinions, quirky observations and occasional photographs she shared something of who she was with anyone who was interested in knowing.
Twitter can often be about “stream of consciousness”; it is disjointed and haphazard and yet by its very nature we encounter what one might accurately describe as her spirit. We knew so little about her in depth but her spirit enlivened us and now is gone.
Some of us will remember her in prayer, which she may or may not have appreciated, nevertheless that is what we shall do. In the community sharing which is the twitter medium, that is how it is. One can join in or avert one’s eyes.
As a libertarian she would have defended our right to engage with this tragedy as we are best able. She would equally have defended the right of those who respond to our response with ridicule.
Those of us with a Christian faith come to these times with a repertoire of responses; we are never short of great poetry and reflective philosophy to express our sentiments. Some may recall Ecclesiates “To everything there is a season”: we may wonder why Christina’s season was so short and yet the contextualisation of loss is so much easier when one has a secure framework with which to relate.
Others may look at the silent twitter account for an inkling of what is happening, and perhaps a few recall the famous phrase at the empty tomb “S/He is not here”. Implicit in that phrase is presence elsewhere.
On the morning the news broke Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church tweeted something you might find helpful in understanding our perspective and contribution in such tragic circumstances.
“Christianity explained makes little rational sense, but fully lived expresses powerful love, forgiveness and sacrifice, touching hearts”.
Christina sometimes made “little rational sense” but she did live fully, loved life and certainly, we are surprised to find, she touched hearts.
She had ambitions to challenge ideas, to achieve and to write. At one level she will not now realise them and yet already she has achieved something pioneering in this crazy world of cyberspace.
She was a presence, a connector, a cheerful maverick to whom complete strangers gravitated as her thousands of followers testify. She gathered disparate folks because she provoked and interested them; they might argue, share or laugh together, and so she made a community of the disparate, which is incidentally quite a Christian thing to do.
Her community are now sharing cyber bereavement. That is a rather new phenomenon, and slightly odd.
It is not something any of us would have wanted from her but it is something we might contemplate. Who knew that this odd world of social media would engage us in this way.
Christina’s passing is a novel significant and challenging cyber event. Most of us have not encountered this, though it will happen to all of us sometime.
What is the etiquette? How do we express ourselves?
Should we make our own provision for telling our cyber chums when we pass?
Can we avoid mawkish over preparation and an outbreak of cyber-shrines with multiple versions of the song” My Way” – something one suspects Christina would have abhorred. If she stimulates the avoidance of such kitsch she would surely approve.
The medium will surely dictate a variety of responses to this sad event. You will be neither surprised, nor one hopes, offended if Brother Ivo gives her the ever optimistic Christian valediction.
“May she rest in peace and rise in glory”.