Credit: Paul John Higgins

Just when we doubted HIS goodness, Madeline, three days after her murder, posted on Facebook.

“Thanks for the kind words!” she wrote.

We’d posted all over her Facebook wall. How we missed her. How we knew she was in a better place. And she responded to our comments.

“Miss you, too!”

“I AM in a better place.”

“It’s SO cool!”

“I know. I can’t believe I died, either! WTF.”

Shocked at first, we were then overcome with a sense of relief. That our words were not in vain. That our comments on the social network site had importance, connecting the two worlds.

But we still had questions.

I had questions. I’m her older brother, I’m supposed to have questions.

My first question was this: “Who murdered you, sister?”

She answered, right on my wall: “The gym teacher. DUH. He was like totally in love with me, LOL. But his breath stank so I didn’t go for it, and he freaking killed me with a pipe.”

It became clear why she hadn’t responded to his comment on her wall—the only one she’d ignored. He’d posted that they would honor her at the next basketball game. They’d win it for her, he said.

We assaulted his Facebook page in response to her accusation, demanding that he turn himself in. “I WILL NOT TURN MYSELF IN,” he posted on his wall, defiant, just hours later. We retaliated by defriending him, all of us, simultaneously. He responded to our retaliation by killing himself. Turned the engine on and closed up his garage, the slow death of a coward. We wondered if he could get back on Facebook from where he’d likely gone. We waited for his friend request for weeks, months. He didn’t friend us, which confirmed to us that though Facebook had reached Madeline, it wasn’t accessible in hell. And there was justice in that.

My second question to Madeline was: “How did you get on Facebook from the other side?”

She answered, but this time she simply hashtagged my name so people could see her response on her wall and she wouldn’t have to answer the question constantly. “God gives us one wish after we reach Heaven. Some people wish to come back to life. Some want to know all of the secrets of the universe. I wanted to get back on Facebook. So I asked Him. I said, ‘Hey God, can you get me back on Facebook?’ And then it was.”

Seven hundred people liked her response.

This answer made sense to me. Madeline didn’t have many friends while she was alive. People didn’t pick on her, they just didn’t notice her. She only started getting posts on Facebook after she was killed and gained the popularity she’d never obtained when she was living. She’d tried, she really had. Too hard. She paid attention to all the latest trends, buying the newest albums of the newest pop stars. She went to the movies every Friday night so she’d be seen and have something to talk about on Monday. She stayed after school, joined groups she had no interest in like the student council or spirit club, because she thought it would raise her visibility. But it probably only raised scorn. Maybe if she hadn’t stayed after school so much she wouldn’t have caught the attention of the gym teacher, who was coaching the boy’s football team and liked awkward, desperate girls, eager to please, trying to please. And maybe if I would’ve said something, told her she was perfect the way she was, maybe if I’d been a better brother, he wouldn’t have had the chance to go after her, and she wouldn’t have been killed. I wondered if she felt that way, but I didn’t ask her. Other people had questions that took precedence. Many asked what God is like.

“Oh, He’s cool,” she said. “Kind of a nerd. A cool nerd.”

People responded with exclamation points, smiley faces.

“Let me upload some pics,” she said.

We almost died ourselves when she posted that.

But it took her two long weeks to put up the pictures.

During those two weeks people hounded her on her wall. “Are the pictures up yet?” they asked with excited emoticons. “Can’t wait to see HIM!” By the time two weeks had gone by, we wondered if she’d left us forever.

But Madeline finally came back: “Sorry for not posting! Time doesn’t work the same here! It’s so weird, LOL!”

She then posted the pictures. She made a whole album and titled it GOD.

She almost crashed the Internet. Almost immediately, her friends boomed from 900 to a million. God HIMSELF, right there for us to see. But here’s the thing: He did look like a nerd. A guy with big square glasses, thin, with a short-sleeve, buttoned-up shirt and brown khakis. He smiled with Madeline as she took a picture of the two of them in an office building. Then in a parking lot. Then a video rental store.

The unspectacular nature of not just Him but His realm broke the enthusiasm over Madeline’s return. Where were the clouds? The light? The glory?

Where was God?

Really? That’s really HIM?

People couldn’t help but post these comments, especially when they saw the picture of God eating a chalupa at a Taco Bell.

“Someone wished for Taco Bell,” Madeline said, confused by our disgust.

My God would not eat at a Taco Bell,” posted Samantha, a deeply religious Mormon.

George Dundy, a guy Madeline had never even met, wrote bitterly, “What next? God at J.C. Penney? God at Macy’s?”

“There is no Macy’s in Heaven yet,” Madeline replied. “But someone wished for a J.C. Penney last week, and God’s putting in an order.”

“Putting in an order? Fucking hell,” George said. “Way to take the magic out of things.”

He was defriended the next day.

The rest of us didn’t go as far as he did, but we felt the same disappointment. We stopped asking questions about the afterlife.

Madeline didn’t get it.

Maybe she was just so caught up in the attention she’d received. You score a million friends in one day and see what you do to hold on to them. Keep in mind, even though she was dead, she was still just a kid. Death doesn’t bring wisdom, we learned, regretfully, from Madeline’s posts and updates.

“SO BORED,” she declared one day.

“I HATE FAKE PEOPLE,” she bellowed from the depths of her realness.

And that wasn’t the worst of it. She kept sending us applications for things like Mob Wars and Killing Zombies. She always responded to everyone’s posts, all one million of us, since she had a whole afterlife to work with. On the worst days, she’d post apologies and condolences for things that hadn’t happened yet but that she knew about because chronological time has little meaning in Heaven. I learned my German shepherd, Rex, was going to die two days before it happened by way of her random comment: “Rex keeps licking my face! LOL!” Emily Walters, Madeline’s friend from high school, found out that her mother was going to die when Madeline posted: “Can’t believe what happened to your mom! Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her!”

She’d become almost unbearable. People defriended her in droves. I tried to tell her that she needed to step back a little. But she didn’t listen. It was too late for me to be giving her advice.

In a last, desperate attempt to recapture our imaginations, Madeline began posting pictures of herself with dead celebrities like Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, even Benjamin Franklin. But they were doing things like high-fiving, watching TV, and playing darts. As a community, we agreed it was in bad taste.

By the time those pictures went up, Madeline had lost most of her Facebook friends. She finished the rest of them off by posting: “It doesn’t matter, anyway. The world’s ending in ten years and all of you will have to deal with Judgment Day.”

A low blow, to be sure.

But I stayed with her, despite the pressure. A part of me was glad that she’d lost all of her Facebook friends. I’d have her all to myself.

I asked her how her day was.

She posted a sad face.

I posted: “I know and I’m sorry.”

“Thank God for Facebook!” author Timothy Moore

She posted: “It doesn’t get easier. Not even when you’re dead.”

“No, I guess not,” I posted.

“I miss you,” she posted.

“I miss you, too.”

Smiley face.

Exclamation point.


Next: “Moving on at the Hipster Gym”