Like most everyone else trying to avert actual work, I’ve been reading online stories about the sudden death of Brittany Murphy. The actress, whose work I don’t know – I couldn’t even tell you what movies she’s been in – apparently once dated the actor, Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher, in what to me is an egregious and appalling move, one that either highlights his youth or my age, tweeted his condolences.

“2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany’s family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon.”

Dude, where’s your common sense? I’m not simply disgusted that he used a format that sets limits on expression, I’m also disgusted that he shortened his limitations: hacking down brevity into even smaller units. Will he Skype his eulogy at her funeral? Could it really be that this makes me old school? that tweeting your ex’s death is actually appropriate? I realize that letter writing is a thing of the past (I’m surprised we even have stamps!) and that people email their thank yous and condolences left and right – I accept that, do it myself, even – but this is a new low. Maybe I hold death too dear. Am I being overly precious to expect that a condolence be sent through a proper channel? Is it wrong to be offended by someone else’s expression of grief? I mean, at least he expressed it, right?

Well, I guess to me a condolence should portray reflection, and sorrow should be offered in a more meaningful and personal way. Your words are an attempt to provide comfort. The meaning of life may be unclear, but I’m certain it means more than 140 characters. A condolence is a gift given from one subjective heart to another. When done well, it’s a heartfelt offering, a compassionate expression of shared grief. A condolence might even make clear the impact the departed had on your own life, might even allude to the way your own life was transformed by the person who is now just a conglomeration of memories. Together, all these offered condolences create an etching into the air, an indelible impression for the left behind.

If Kutcher’s grief for the loss of a loved one is contained to 140 characters, how many do we have to use on him when he goes?

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