When I set my wife up with a Facebook account, after she came home from the hospital following her bone marrow transplant, I had connected her with maybe 100 of my friends from church and work. She took a liking to it. By adding her work friends, her old military friends, and friends from a Stephen King fan club group, she built her network of friends to more than 500. (She’s down to only 300 friends now. That could be my influence, or the influence of her death, or maybe both. How would we test something like that?)
A handwritten note that I found showed what she liked about Facebook: she could contact anyone, any time.
I’ve been posting frequently to her Facebook timeline. Facebook enables you to “memorialize” an account; so her account now is “Remembering Bethany Bugay” (and I would encourage you to visit there and look around to see what I’m talking about).
She was a remarkable woman in many ways. She kept journals throughout her life, and I’ve been finding and working my way through some of them. I’ve thought about writing more about her life, and a number of her Facebook friends have asked me to continue writing about her.
I may or may not continue to do that. Some of the things I’m finding have not been flattering, in a way that I’ll try to describe below.
Elsewhere, where Facebooks suggests friends, one of them was a person named “Gifted Dreamdancer”, a friend of one of my wife’s friends whose profile photo appeared to be a meme that featured someone nearing the edge of a cliff, and this saying:
“Be Weird. Be Random. Be Who You Are. Because You Never Know Who Would Love The Person You Hide”.
My thought was, if this person were truly “gifted”, he or she would understand that “weird” and “random” are not commensurate with being gifted. If you are hiding “weirdness” or “randomness”, what would make this person think that that is what you truly are? Certainly, it is a lack of a Christian viewpoint, which would hold that “what you truly are” is “created in the image of God”. And that a true gift is a kindness; it is not something that should seek to distort or to be harmful in any way.
And yet this type of attitude – wrongheaded as we would see it – is actually quite widespread in our culture. It brought to mind an Avril Lavigne song that featured this “lost-and-wandering” message:
Isn't anyone trying to find me?
Won't somebody come take me home?
It's a damn cold night
Trying to figure out this life
Won't you take me by the hand?
Take me somewhere new
I don't know who you are
But I... I'm with you
I'm with you
More straightforwardly, this kind of confusion was described in a song about Marilyn Monroe:
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in …
I say these things to note that, before we met, my wife had this kind of characteristic in her life. She had been sexually abused as a child, and not only as a small child, but on a continuing basis. She ran away from this, but the very act of running away set off a chain of events that got her into even more trouble, which I would say, shaped the rest of her entire life.
Beth not only kept journals, but cards and letters and other memorabilia as well. When we were married, I actively stayed away from these people (and I certainly didn’t want Beth to contact them – old boyfriends included).
But now that she is gone, I’m finding that I have a kind of curiosity to “fill in the gaps”, to add pieces to the puzzle that I had not found before. Really, to understand what made her tick. I’ve contacted several of the individuals who played a role in her earlier life, and virtually all of them have said, in one way or another, “we were young”, as a way of explaining away some of the really stupid and harmful things that they did. One person said that she was “spontaneous”.
When you’re young, that’s decidedly NOT the time to “be weird” or “be random”. In your youth is precisely time to “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth”. The reason for this, according to the writer of Ecclesiastes, is because “the evil days [will] come” and “the years [will] draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’”.
In your youth is the time to understand that you are capable of making very bad decisions that can affect the rest of your life. Since, as young people, you have most of your life yet to live, for that reason, you have the very most to lose as well.
Beth was abused, and that led her to get herself into a position to make decisions that affected her life for the rest of her life. One thing led to another, setting off a chain of events that led her to the military in 1980, to the military again in 2002, got her deployed to Iraq, exposed to Benzene, which caused her leukemia, and led to her eventual early death.
She made bad decisions, but others, instead of legitimately caring for her, took advantage of her, and took what they could for themselves of her bad decisions. The results, I find, were devastating, in more ways than one.