Post 5.11 - The Book of Life

My godmother had a birthday last week, turning 65 years old. As she's gotten older, my mother has begun to be more conscious of people dying. My godmother is fine, of course, but my mother was worried that she would not be notified if something were to have happened. Despite having been friends for nearly 50 years, there aren't many people left who would know to call my mother if my godmother passed away.

But this is not a problem unique to the older set.

Thanks to the internet, I was able to reconnect with someone I'd not spoken to, at that point, in 15 years. In catching up, I learned that he had almost died a few years before. Aside from being relieved that he had survived, I realized how devastated I would have been if I had not re-established contact in time. And unless I now specifically directed him to make some sort of arrangement, I might not find out if something happened to him even now.

We are all connected yet disconnected.

Not to be morose, but if I were to die, my posts would stop. The same might happen if I had a family emergency, I took a long vacation somewhere, or was suddenly faced with a more intense workload at my job. Silence does not equal death, but it could. The situation is no better on Facebook, LiveJournal, or other social networking sites. I've not used MySpace for years -- but I'm clearly still among the living.

So what did people do before the internet?

When I was 19, a classmate from high school died, and his passing set off a phone tree across the entire US eastern seaboard until everyone was notified that people thought would want to know. Other deaths in my life that occurred pre-internet were also handled by phone calls, newspaper announcements, and maybe the odd letter. The movement of information was always via family first, then to close friends, and then it just sort of disseminated outward.

But if something happened to me unexpectedly, I don't think my mother or anyone else would even know where to begin. Some of my contacts are solely through the internet, and my mother would have to log in to my account to really reach everyone, whether it be e-mail, a social website, or even my cell phone.

And with the internet, do people care more than they did before? I do believe there would be people who would care, as in, be upset and want to attend a memorial or something. With others, it would be, "oh, that's too bad" or "that's a shame." This is isn't to say that people don't care, but some people are closer to me than others, have more affection for me than others, etc. And the same is true of me -- I don't wish anyone to suffer an accident or anything, but some losses are going to be more painful than others, and there are definitely people that I am going to want to know as soon as possible if something happens.

So the plan right now is for me to make a list. I travel a lot, sometimes to countries with diseases we don't have here. Anything could happen, and all manner of nightmare occurs to our parents when we tend to do anything, so while the concept is upsetting, it's practical. My mother and I actually had a reasonable conversation about arrangements that we hadn't had before, from where to bury to what kind of memorial service was preferred.

So I'm working on my list now, as well as methods for getting the word out. Let me know if you need a telegram or something. :-)

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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