Sending peace and love out to NPR’s Scott Simon, aka @NPRScottSimon, who lost his mother to cancer last night. I don’t know Scott, but I’m one of his 1,254,897 Twitter followers touched by his ICU tweets. And while we have never met, we are now inexplicably connected by these 140-character messages sent by a child losing a parent.
(If you don’t tweet – even if you do, I suppose – you might be taken back by the thought of someone tweeting from their mother’s deathbed. Please put those thoughts aside and click here to see the piece from Today this morning.)
To credit Scott Simon for changing Twitter goes without saying. @SCLegislator, an tongue-in-cheek political tweeter, said it best last night when he tweeted, “I do think when the history of Twitter is written, @NPRScottSimon gets a chapter. It’s been that good, revealing what the medium can be.”
It was Saturday morning’s tweet that caught my eye, “@NPRScottSimon: My mother: ‘Believe me, those great death bed speeches are written ahead of time.’” I visited his timeline to see his previous tweets, which brought me up to speed on his sad situation. From that moment on, he and his mother were on my mind. It was a busy weekend, but I checked on his Twitter feed frequently. When too much time passed without an update, I worried. When he tweeted her advice, I held on to every character. And when he so poetically announced her passing last night, “The heavens over Chicago have opened and Patricia Lyons Simon Newman has stepped onstage,” I cried.
Today, I bought a sympathy card for Scott Simon, someone I’ve never met. I sent my condolences, and thanked him for sharing his mother and himself with us. All day long, my heart has been heavy, and I’ve checked on Scott’s Twitter feed to see how he is doing.
A self-professed social media geek, I am not as touched by what Scott Simon did, but how he did it. In the seemingly impersonal world of “friends” you don’t know and messages limited by 140 characters, Scott Simon made a personal connection. He touched parts that all of us – all 1,254,897 of us – know: the love of our parents, the love for our parents, the wretched inevitability of one day losing them.
I have had the unfortunate situation of losing two loved ones in the last few years, most recently my father. When it came to the final days, I was emotionally unable to do what Scott did. I stayed at the house, and I visited his bedside often, but I couldn’t bring myself to stay by his side during those final hours, those final minutes.
Scott’s 140-character lessons of love – along with a couple years perspective – made me see those final hours and minutes a little differently. I can’t get a do-over, but as overwhelming as it is to think of inevitably facing moments like those again, I hope to be able to face it as unselfishly as @NPRScottSimon.