I’ve heard that grief is like a fingerprint; unique to each individual, and each set of circumstances.

I lost a friend last month. Heather died from carbon monoxide poisoning, along with her entire family. Let that sink in a moment. A beautiful young family with four children—gone.

I believe the online world we live in changes the way we grieve. I live states away from all of my college friends, and we haven’t seen each other in years. We used to write letters to each other, send Christmas cards, and emails. Then, thanks to social media, I watched Heather love becoming a wife and a mom. Through pictures, videos, and words, we shared everyday moments despite the many miles between us. We became closer online than we ever would have been through paper.

When I log on to Facebook today, I still see the things Heather “likes.” My daily memories that pop up have her in them. Her pictures, words, comments, questions, conversations—they’re all there.

Every day I think of the people she was close with at church, her kids’ school, and her neighborhood. I think of her extended family, and the indescribable pain they are in. If I am hurting this much, how much more must her family and close friends be hurting? Do I even have a right to grieve, when my connection with Heather in recent years was online?

That brings me back to the fingerprint of grief. Mine looks different from those who lived near Heather, who saw her every day. But I still hurt, and so begins the grieving process from 900 miles away. Anything can set my memories in motion—anything and everything.

  • I think of Heather when I laugh and play with my 11-year-old son. Her firstborn son was also 11 years old, and I remember when he was born. She told me I would love his name, and she was right. His name was Luke.
  • A Pepsi bottle on my counter reminds me that Heather liked Pepsi. A lot!
  • Bon Jovi had a birthday recently, and I remember listening to his (loud!) music when we were in college. Heather loved Bon Jovi.
  • A mutual friend of ours lives in sunny California, and she picked fresh oranges and lemons from her trees and mailed them to me in Nebraska. She included a note, describing the scent of the orange blossoms and how they must give us a hint of heaven here on earth. Heather and her family are experiencing the glory of Heaven right now.

I want to honor Heather’s memory by sharing stories about her, and listen to others share their memories, too. Important, life-saving work has been born of this tragedy, as friends formed an organization dedicated to distributing carbon monoxide detectors to everyone they can reach. It’s called The Q Project. If you don’t have a detector, get one today.

Tomorrow is promised to no one. I’ve always known that, but I haven’t always lived like I know that. I’m doing my best to live like that now. God is real, and I’m not afraid to say it. Not anymore. His love, salvation, and promise of eternal life through Jesus are there for us all, if only we would accept it. Despite all the pain in this world, God is still good. He still sits on the Throne, and I believe the best way to honor my friend’s memory is to live like I believe it.

Sarah Luke

Born and raised in Chicagoland, Sarah now calls Nebraska home. She’s been married for 19 years to Derek, her college sweetheart. They have three sons—one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school. She worked as a registered nurse before staying at home full time with the boys. Maybe someday she will go back to nursing, but for now she loves keeping up with her family and enjoying the moments set before her. Swimming and reading are her favorite hobbies, along with boating and camping. She’s quick to point out that she camps in a camper, and leaves the tent camping to Derek and their boys!