I’m pretty sure it’s happened to all of us . . . at least I hope it has. I’d hate to think I’m the only person in the world who’s wished a long-deceased human a joyous birthday because Facebook told me I should. Maybe I even got creative and added a giraffe wearing a party hat or included an exploding birthday cake gif, only to realize later the honoree had long since left this earth. But no one told Facebook, so Facebook didn’t know any better. And I followed directions from an unreliable source.
Not long ago I was in the process of catching up on my social media birthday greetings (because, being the procrastinator that I am, I tend to miss a few along the way), when I scanned ahead on the birthday list. I do that whenever I’m catching up so I’ll know how many I’m probably going to miss in the future—and how many I’m pretty sure will no longer care about my celebratory remarks due to circumstances beyond their control. The last time I did that was this Monday . . . while wishing someone a happy so-many-days-after-their-birthday. I looked at November 1st . . . followed by November 2nd . . . and then I stopped on November 3rd. That is the day Nancy Curtis Thomas entered the world, a world she then exited on December 9, 2019 at the very young age of 60.
Nancy was my sister-in-law, the wife of my husband’s older brother. I’m fairly certain not a sweeter person has ever walked this earth, especially not one who could combine that compassionate, loving spirit with the tenacity of a tiger. Although she had battled health issues for a while, her death caught us all by surprise and left a void that will never be filled.
Since I was already on Facebook it only seemed logical that I should go to her page. I’m not sure why, or what I expected to find, but go I did, and for the next few minutes I wandered through her life. It began at the end with a host of friends and family members wishing her the traditional happy birthday in heaven preceded by posts of condolences at her death and those closest to her sharing their grief and their memories. But before that . . . before that was the joy of family—pictures of her children and grands and the holidays they’d celebrated . . . the just because visits that didn’t require a special occasion to be together. There were pictures of Disney World and the Carter Presidential Library and being kissed by a sea lion in New Orleans . . . and opera. Lots and lots of references to opera. She had used her page to update her friends on her physical battles, to give praise when the reports were positive—and to ask for prayers when they were not. And through it all her sweet spirit shone just as brightly as it ever had.
It was only a few minutes. But a few minutes is all it took to trigger a flood of memories—and probably a tear or two. And now, on the morning of Thursday, November 3rd, Facebook will remind me one of my “friends” is having a birthday and that I really should take a moment to send her best wishes in recognition of the occasion. And that’s not such a bad thing if I stop and think about it. I might end up feeling a bit foolish if I forget they’re no longer here to celebrate, but then again, I might be reminded of someone who blessed my life in ways I’ll never be able to express.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.