NPR Reporter Tweets Mom’s Final Moments: Touching or Undignified?

NPR’s Scott Simon’s mom is near death—and he’s been live-tweeting it all weekend.

“Her passing might come any moment, or in an hour, or not for a day,” he wrote this morning. “Nurses saying hearing is last sense to go so I sing & joke.”

Some moments maybe should still be private, right? Live-tweeting a death is… well, we’re not quite that comfortable with it yet, and we’re not sure we ever should be. Sometimes it is okay to flip off the reporter switch and just be with your loved ones in a time of pain and grief. Losing someone close to you is  hard enough as it is. Do you really want to share the moment-by-moment with a million people like you’re just filing some story?

Maybe it’s cathartic, we’ll give Simon that along with some wide latitude here. There’s a sense of devastation in his tweets that hard to miss. That latitude might stop at mom’s death-bed sex jokes, though.

She sounds like someone we might’ve liked to have known, in any regard.

Some of it is genuinely touching. “I love holding my mother’s hand,” he writes. “Haven’t held it like this since I was 9. Why did I stop? I thought it unmanly? What crap.” And this: “In middle of nights like this, my knees shake as if there’s an earthquake. I hold my mother’s arm  for strength.” And maybe this, but he’s pushing it: “When she asked for my help last night, we locked eyes. She calmed down. A look of love that surpasses understanding.” But then he goes here: “Can’t hold my mother like a baby indefinitely–have to use the bathroom. My wife coming over w/ my mother’s husband.” And here: “Just spent 45 mins looking for mother’ favorite dental floss. Waste of time? Act of faith.” At some point he requests an ICU bed and releases a picture of it next to a toilet.

While reaction has been mostly positive and, for some, pretty emotional—others have raised a few eyebrows, at least in the comment sections in the small wave of media attention Simon has created. Criticizing Simon’s overshare has only brought blowback on those brave enough to state their opinion, though. “Don’t like what Mr. Simon is doing? Then don’t read the article or his tweets. It’s that simple,” replied one. If only it were that simple. The problem really isn’t what Simon is doing or any one incident of oversharing, it’s that we’ve progressed (regressed?) to a point where we don’t think twice about what we’re sharing. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

One FishbowlDC observer in an email bearing the subject line “I may go to hell” wrote, “I’m so fucking sick and tired of Scott Simon’s tweeting about his dying mother. He’s tweeting her final moments. How dignified. … I mean,  I hope that my children respect me enough to throw me in the ground and not let the whole world know about my undignified final moments. It’s fucking sick. I hate it. Of course, [NJ‘s Ron] Fournier is retweeting his stuff at the speed of light.”

No matter how you feel about the tweets, we can probably all agree if there was ever a sense of the public versus private self, Simon has certainly erased it.

Our thoughts go out to Simon and his family. Here’s hoping they have a few moments entirely to themselves in this sad time.