My grandmother used to say her side of the family had the Bizzarro (her maiden name) curse, not being able to sleep through the night. She and her ten siblings were renowned for being up and ready to start their day by 4 or 4:30am. Sleeping an 8 hour night was not in their DNA; it confounded them trying to comprehend why everyone else was not accepting phone calls by 5:15am. I have inherited the curse. Regardless of what time I go to bed, by 4am, I am as wide awake as if I had slept a full night, but I know better than to start making calls.
What do you do in these wee hours of the morning? Usually, I first check e-mail and then read a book. This morning’s e-mail set me off on a different path. My brother sent me a link to the virtual obituary for my father. If you are curious, you can find it here. Coincidentally, I woke up thinking about technology and condolences, particularly the lack of them I have received from family members.
Technology has gone beyond the boundaries of death. We can pay our respects, pay for a virtual candle to be lit, and share photos of the loved one. What we cannot do yet that I am aware of, but will most likely be the next step, is having an Internet funeral. With video cameras and high speed Internet, you can have 24/7 viewings. Why bother leaving home or Starbucks when you can pay your respects while sipping your mochachino.
I received a few condolences via Facebook, and even fewer directly through e-mail. Yet only one was from a family. First it makes me wonder about how personal relationships have changed with the advent of social networking sites. If people had to actually shop for a card, write on it, buy stamps, and mail it, how many condolences would I receive? Today, I would guess the answer would be none.
When I look at my brother’s FB page, he has dozens more condolences than I do, but what is strange to me is that many of the people posting them are locals. Is it more publicly advantageous to post a condolence rather than make a phone call or send a card? What I think is it let’s us off of the emotional hook the easy way. Take the 3 minutes to type a note and call it a day. I know I am not going to see the bereaved until long after the funeral and by then it will be a forgotten topic, so I can avoid any emotional outlay.
What really made me wonder was the post by one of our aunts. She is not some distant aunt, but the wife of my mother’s brother. She posted on my brother’s FB page that her daughter “happened to see something” and told her. OMG, she lives twenty miles from my brother. A phone call is local, without any toll charges, yet she posts a note? The clincher is that she knows that I am on FB, yet didn’t bother to exercise her tendons long enough to send a note to me too. While I am on that topic, only one relative, a second generation cousin, sent a note. Other cousins are “friends” on FB, but not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Okay, call me a hypocrite if you like. I am not returning to the US for the funeral either. What I may have spent on travel and so on I sent to the funeral home to cover expenses of a funeral that was no longer covered by any insurance policies. My brother paid half too, so it was not like I had to foot the entire bill. Regardless, I am going to be curious to see who shows up from within a 25 mile radius. This is where you test the waters of family values in a life and death situation.
As coincidences go, this article popped up as I was typing. I am not alone in this thinking.