Sunday, October 10, 2010

Condolences for near-total strangers

I had an odd experience involving an old buddy... and to call him a buddy is perhaps a stretch.

On Saturday a friend-of-a-friend reached out to me, or rather, the wife-of-a-friend-of-a-friend reached out to me, on the occasion of the passing of her mother-in-law.  Now some background information is in order:  I met the guy (K) through a guy whom became what I consider my best friend (J).   Now J and I hung out together and did a lot of crazy stuff -- back in the day.  And on more than a few of these adventures, K was there.  K & J are probably best friends, as I know through J they still see each other with regularity (a big help here is that they live nearby each other).   J was famous for his New Year's Eve parties, and those would account for some 90% of the time I saw K and the gal who would later become his wife (C).   Again, that was back in the day.

So I knew K & C, but it's not like we were ever close, nor have we remained even that remotely close over the years.   I believe the last time I spoke to either K or C had to be, more or less, the last time I saw them, and that's over 20 years ago.  The e-mail C sent last week was the first of any communication - verbal, written, or electronic - in all that time.  I cannot, in good faith, confirm whether they were invited to my wedding, so it's possible it's closer to 25 years since we've last spoken.

So to get an e-mail relating the passing of K's mother - whom I never met! - after 2 decades is quite startling.  What am I to do?  Emily Post, et al, suggests sending e-mail condolences is rude, but am I really going to drop everything for a guy who I haven't spoken to forever?  C included information that the mother's funeral will be this week coming -- in Florida.   What am I supposed to do with that information?

When my friend J's parents died (separated by 3 or 4 years), I was unable to attend either service due to severe, personal issues I was going through.  But as we stay in touch a few times each year by phone and e-mail,  a few long-form phone calls where I could recount the very fond memories of his parents was the very least I could do on his behalf.  But truth be told, because of the various pressures and realities of life, I haven't seen J in nearly 18 years!  And I call him my best friend!

So I am left with sending by e-mail condolences to a near-stranger, on the passing of his mother - whom I've never met.   After all: is asking for a current mailing address to mail a proper condolence card appropriate when there's been no communication all this time?    And as we were never really close back then, do I really have a need/want/desire/obligated to be so forward/inviting now?

There are people I know through my blogging, whom I've never met, but for whom I hold more concern and interest in their lives (and their parents, for example) than I do for K.  Case in point: someone I know online has related the details of the surgery this person's mother went through.  I never met the person, and certainly wouldn't know the mother if I tripped over her, but I was checking for updates to see how her surgery and recovery were proceeding.  But I have come to know the person over the last few years, so I can understand the concern for the person's mother, and the stress of the situation.

I am at a loss in this area where this guy K is concerned.

I do not think I am callous, but I just cannot see what  I am supposed to do for a person who has become all but a stranger to me.

What say you?

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