I just finished writing and sending an email to an old friend. Though we haven’t seen each other in a number of years, modern technology has negated much of the distance and filled in the gaps; email and blogs were not part of the lexicon when Keith and I first met and cellphones were still more a status symbol than necessity.

So yes, it’s been a while.

This time I was writing Keith at the behest of his wife, who has gracefully and compassionately been using email over the past few years to keep us all abreast of Keith’s battle with pancreatic Cancer – a journey that now has him in hospice care in another state. His wife’s latest update tells us that while there are many things he can no longer do well, his ‘one constant companion is his iPad on which he reads books and email.’ She has noted in previous updates how much comfort and enjoyment such messages bring Keith.

I am gratified that I can oblige.

Technology has certainly changed all of our lives dramatically over the past few years, for better and worse. It certainly makes situations like this more immediate; an email is received, responded to and then read in a very short time frame. There is something to be said for immediacy – and for Keith not having to try to read my handwriting.

Knowledge is power – and powerful.

Just this past weekend I learned of the death of the father of a good friend from high school; she had been keeping people posted on her dad’s situation since he entered hospice care a week before. It obviously brought her some comfort to be in electronic communion of sorts with a lot of people, and hopefully the ongoing responses help bring her some comfort.

Such is the age we live in.

Thirteen-plus years ago, my wife was on five weeks of bed rest in Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, trying to prevent the very premature birth of our son Sam. In order to keep friends and family in the loop as to what was happening, every couple of days I sent out an email detailing the latest medical developments. This enabled me to quickly get out information to a lot of people, and also resulted in responses that, in those CPU’s and tower days, needed to be printed out at home and brought to Amy in the hospital.

This turned out to be a valuable tool in stemming her boredom and disconnectedness.

The longer she stayed bed ridden, the more involved the responses became, and the more valuable they were to her as a comforting reading material. Those emails and the touching responses ended up in a ring binder that was not only a source of heartfelt concern and inspiration, but as a diary of sorts of our hospital stay – nearly three months overall, by the time Sam was born and when he finally came home.

It’s a wonderful, organically occurring keepsake, our ‘Sam Binder.’

Fast forward thirteen years: it is a fairly regular occurrence for me to be sent a link via email or Facebook to someone’s CaringBridge site, and the opportunity to quickly reach out to friends in crisis. A recent situation involving the father of a good friend of my wife’s, who was injured in an accident allowed the opportunity to offer support even without being there physically. Sometimes it’s for someone who we only know tangentially – but even those moments allow us to reach out to the persons or families we know more keenly.

These are all good things.

Though it would be easy to simply dash of an email response, hit ‘send’ and go about day-to-day life, I don’t believe most people are like that. For the most part, I think my generation (tail-end baby boomers) view this form of community as a welcome development. Even my mother regularly passes along CaringBridge and church prayer request updates from her circle of friends and generational family members that I am acquainted with.

The personal list of cyber-connections in times of need is a lengthy one; a friend of forty-plus years whose son has leukemia (thankfully now in remission); another friend from the same vintage in has struggled for years with severe diabetes. He and I chat on line often and it gives me the chance to check in, see how he is doing, offer up some encouragement, share our faith journeys with one another.

It’s good for both of us.

There are other friends with various health issues who have yet to join the technological revolution, and I must admit to a sense of frustration in having to keep track of things via phone and snail mail. This is especially frustrating for a friend of mine who lives in another state and suffers from Parkinson’s; he frequently has a full answering machine – a source of frustration on the occasions when I do think to give him a call.

I can always call back, though I admit to a certain degree of frustration and forgetfulness in that regard.

I have found it personally and professionally beneficial to keep up with technology, for many reasons I never envisioned. Though I am pretty handy with a wide array of software, accounting has never been my thing – with our without a computer. But I can certainly say that there aren’t many weeks that go by when simply hopping on-line gives me a pretty good accounting of my personal blessings.

Which reminds me:  I need to make a phone call or two.


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