Grieving in the Eighth Layer

I open my chat roster and see him. His name, his smile, his year-old status message. The presence indicator, an emblem fixed for days in unaltered yellow. Away. I don’t think XMPP has a code for ‘and unlikely to return’.

I check my day’s agenda and see his shared Google calendar, filled with meetings that will be missed. Parties that will carry on, short an honored guest.

Google Drive shows me a list of documents. Some have his name under ‘Last Modified’. Or ‘Owner’. Unfinished projects that will either languish or be carried on in his absence. In his memory.

Is this what grief, what remembrance, what loss looks like today? Pain, alloyed with memory of joy and fruitful collaboration, delivered via Google? The eighth layer, weeping, prodded and salted by the rest of the stack?

And the scientist in me asks what this is, what it means. To give it a name, that it might spawn a hundred papers. What do we call these electronic tendrils of a life slipping away?