How Many Dead Friends Are There?


James Sputnik Gjerde: 1/24/1962 – 12//27/2002

AT LEAST ONCE OR TWICE a week The Metaphorager‘s access logs reveal that someone is reading “Letter to a Dead Friend,” a 2010 paean to my still-dear psychic twin James “Sputnik” Gjerde. At this writing (March 2019), there have been 72 views in the past twelve months alone; it’s the second-most viewed post in that time, and the tenth-most of all time. As I favor artful bluntness in my headlines, it seemed natural to title it thus.

Little did I know that it would generate such traffic.

Since the ‘logs showed this article had surfaced via search-engines, I first thought it was from people wanting to make one last goodbye Sputnik-ward. Which, of course, led to typing “letter to a dead friend” into Google, just to see what would happen.

Says Google: 171,000,000 results. (And mine’s not even on the front page.) That’s about half the population of this country.

That’s a lot of dead friends.

It’s hard to say a final goodbye. When Sput died, it broke me for more than a year — therapy and medication notwithstanding. So I get why somebody would write such a letter, even after their grief had largely subsided: to make one more virtual connection, voice one more deep longing, heave one more sad sigh.

Part of the reason my grief broke me was that it was the first close death I had ever experienced, and I didn’t know how to handle it. Though the grief has largely subsided (after all, Jim died just over 16 years ago), the blog traffic and Google results helped me place my first loss in some sort of context.

I hope it also helps me with the next one.

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