Her name is Emma, and she has cancer. It came on her like a tsunami not that long ago and has showed no mercy. Within months of her public announcement of:
“I have cancer!”
she rallied around her prognosis with superhuman strength, love and more courage than anyone I’ve ever known.
She also put technology to use, airing her fight against this monster with regular updates and photos and messages to her enormous community of friends, family and followers far and wide.
I met Emma at a live event I attended in Baltimore. It was 2013, and she was a friend of my friend Leta who introduced us at the VIP party the night before the event officially began. Emma was wearing a simple black dress, one she’d had to buy earlier that afternoon because the airline had lost her luggage.
She looked elegant and sophisticated, two words I will forever associate with her. She smiled the entire evening, telling stories of her entree into the coaching world, writing her first book and elevating her life to a level she’d been imagining for herself and her son for years. I liked her immediately, and have enjoyed following her journey ever since.
Today I happened to open my Facebook app on my phone and see she was broadcasting live from her hospice bed. She had the camera propped against her chest, facing out at a circle of loved ones who were reading the comments people were posting below the video. At one point she said, “Oh, my bones really hurt right now” but she didn’t let that stop her from expressing to each person who shared a sentiment her gratitude and love.
It’s a cliche to say that cancer is cruel. Aided by tech platforms like Facebook Live, people like Emma can show us that we don’t have to let it hurt us where it matters most — in our hearts, our souls, our love. Yes, our bodies may not win the battle against the beast, but our legacies can and will live on if we are willing to open up to the world and say, “Life is more than just me and is so much bigger than we know. Here, let me show you. Let me use technology to show you how life can end with grace.”
Emma talked about an infographic she has created with 10 lessons about life she wants to leave behind. She said her son will continue to post on her Facebook page and keep the best parts of her there forever. I’m not sure if Mark Zuckerberg had Emma’s last days in hospice in mind when he first imagined Facebook. I doubt it. But what an incredible gift technology has given us to experience the full range of what it means to be human, from birth to death to everything in between.
May your spirit soar in your next life, dearest Emma! You have touched so many lives with your infinite love, compassion and grace. With these humble words, I can only hope I have honored you and what you stand for as you make the transition we all will face one day. In your dying, you have truly shown us all how to live.