Post Death Presence on the Internet?

In September of 2006, Bill from Winnipeg, began a blog after receiving a diagnosis from his doctor.  His last sentence on his first blog was:   

  “So day by day, I hope to journal my last journey and show that it doesn’t have to be that bad or scary. Hope it helps someone.”

“The Dying Man’s Journal” opened with no known date for the last page.  Who knows how many lives Bill has nourished?  There’s no syrup dripping over his words.  He serves concepts on a bed of healthy authenticity.

Today, Bill reposted the ninth article he wrote in 2006 – an analogy about the dying process.  Bill addressed the tough part – the thought of leaving his family.

Still feeling awe over Bill’s willingness to share so deeply, I moved on to my next subscription.  Imagine my surprise when I found this post from Ted.com:

Adam Ostrow: After your final status update

Would I want to have some robotic compilation representing me?

I think not.

I hope I am willing to move on and embrace whatever is next.

Besides, the compilation would immediately be out of date.

Would my friends and family enjoy some unchanging, perpetual version of who I had been?

I prefer their memories having free rein.

How do you feel about it?

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49 thoughts on “Post Death Presence on the Internet?

  1. Thank you for drawing my attention to Bill’s blog. I loved his analogy between the birth process and the dying process. I’ve heard that idea before and have even experienced the concept, but never heard it articulated in as calm and comforting a way.

    On the other hand, Adam Ostrow’s exploration of the ramifications of our digital record on the cloud was…a bit perplexing. I suppose if being able to embrace a robotic compilation of a loved one’s earthly presence could comfort some people, great. But frankly, I wouldn’t want to rely on any such artificial device. Just as I reject open-casket funerals, embalming, and burial, I reject the notion of any device or group of devices standing in for a human. That is what memories are for. To have a record of a person’s life is one thing: the journals, albums, blogs, digital media records All of those things help to enrich our memories of people who have moved on. But to compile all those things into some quasi-replication of the person is, to me, ridiculous. We all need to learn to grieve, to honor our dead, and to move on.

    Maybe I missed the point?

  2. I will let whatever happens …happen…but I won’t engage in any effort to do what he suggest will be possible…seems too freaky to me. ;-) hummm…but it might make a good poem. :-)

  3. I don’t care what happens to my digital record once I’m gone.

    What I do know . . . I would not spend time or money to have a cup of coffee with a holographic image of a deceased relative. :D

  4. This is thought provoking indeed. As one who writes personal essays and memoir I really have to think about what that means. I don’t want a hologram of my loved ones but do I want my loved ones reading my memoir? Of course!

    But the spiritual side of me also knows that this is an illusion and we live in a dream world created to keep us thinking we’re separated from God.

  5. Over at my previous blogging platform, we had three people journal their dying process. It was terribly sad. But they died and that was it. I think that ‘absentee’ communication with them after their death would be quite ghoulish.

  6. Ha! As if my family needs more of me! My blog is for the now. I like to remember my loved ones for all they shared and taught me while here. …and I like to remember them in the form of those that are still with me; the quirks, the looks, and the stories. I know they are all embracing their “now” and that comforts me in those moments I miss their company.

        • You were just on my mind and here you are. I agree, Leslie, that it could prolong grief. I shared this very thought in my comment to Magsx2.

          I was thinking of you because I wanted to acknowledge your last comment, “I know they are all embracing their “now” and that comforts me in those moments I miss their company.” There have been times when I simply want my mom! I want to hear her voice, wallow in all her knowing-ness, and be deeply understood. I don’t believe anyone can replace a mother’s insight. Plus, my mom loved me enough to be honest with me and help me see my foibles. Without her, it can feel like I’m working with one arm! Your comment reminds me to once again be an adult and be happy that she is in her “now”.

  7. Hi Amy .. interesting video – and no .. not for me. However having some famous grands and great-grands .. I’d love to know more about their lives .. which I can’t access now …

    I’ve subscribed to Bill’s blog .. I’ve just read a book by a sports journalist-tv presenter who died of cancer at the end of the 90s .. which is very informative .. about her thoughts to dying, her attitude to her teenage daughter .. and the wheels of challenges she went through with a positive attitude .. which I hope has helped many with a terminal illness.

    As to having my life analysed after I’ve gone – no thank you! However I can perhaps see some advantages .. way too much information around though – how much can we take in ..

    .. and our life is for living – for experiencing this minute .. not for constantly churning bumph through our brain .. we need to remember we are part of this earth .. an insect has as much right as we have to be here, as does that grain of sand …

    Having said that I love to learn … cheers for now – Hilary

    • I share your thoughts, Hilary – life is for living, indeed. It’s remembering to get out of the head and into the heart so we can share every moment with each life form. Hmmmm, those grands and great grands sound interesting!

  8. Hi,
    A very interesting video. I don’t like the idea of a robot representing me at all, and it could easily work against people I feel. We all grieve differently and for some it is hard to let go, I feel having something like this would make it even harder for some people to get on with life after losing a loved one.

    • Good point, Mags. In facilitating Grief Recovery groups, I’ve heard people say they had to leave a loved ones possessions untouched for years while others are compelled to remove reminders immediately. It has nothing to do with how much the departed is loved and everything to do with how the one remaining has to to grieve.

  9. That is just so weird. I totally agree with Leslie in my sentiments about my loved ones who have passed. I do wonder, like you, who would even consider such a company.

  10. My dad died from a brain tumour, my mum from cancer. Both were ‘not quite with us’ at the end and wouldn’t have been able to blog even if either had had access to the technology (which wasn’t available to them at the time anyway). Neither of them would have wanted their lives kept going in the artifice of robotics or holograms or social media because it would have made their daughters’ – my own and my sister’s – lives more difficult rather than easier. What people want after their loved ones die is to have their loved ones back, not representations of them.

    I suspect that Adam Ostrow has never lost anyone close to him. People who’ve not experienced loss directly just don’t know.

    • Until we have experienced some aspect of life, we only intellectualize about it. Those who have lived through experience, while listening to the pontificating intellect, are stung by the absence of heart.

  11. oh, Amy that was really sad … I personally wouldn’t be able to do that! I don’t know, I think when someone is gone, that’s it. You respect the memories, but you move on, in other wise the sounds of death will soak into your life too …

      • Hi Granny,
        I love what you said, here. There is a fine line between someone who is terminally ill and us because we are all terminal, this life, as we know it. I don’t like it that some have to suffer with illnesses that there is not a cure for and often face horrid side effects from the drugs and treatments they are given plus have to deal with the knowledge that they may not domuch good. Life becomes something that includes the ever-present thought that they may not be here tomorrow. So, in essence, all of us who come here are leaving something, right now, while we blog and share. Our topics are just different. Because, tomorrow I may find out I have a terminal illness, am I going to push the delete blog button? Thank you for this, your question causes me to pause and think. …and feel.

  12. This is a wonderful vid, Amy. Thanks for posting. I think that those of us who are writing and blogging are leaving a memory behind. For some of us, that’s the reason for blogging. I don’t know about anything more formal. I don’t think my family would appreciate my posting photos of them on the Internet. Not all of them are into that sort of thing. I can see where it would work to good effect in some families.

    I love what CaringBridge is doing by providing a blogging service for people who are ill (not necessarily fatally so) and for those who are dying. We have one friend who passed on and it’s nice to still be able to access her blog, though she died two years ago. I know her husband often goes back to it and is comforted by it. It also helps people because she died of a rare cancer and – as a scientist – was able to understand and explain everything that happened. People still visit her site to learn.

    In the end of course, we all live with a death sentence and it’s a healthy thing to face that and accept it. We never know how or when our “time” will come and good planning is a wise and wonderful thing to do … even to planning such a legacy as this gentleman describes.

    • I didn’t know about CaringBridge. Thanks, Jamie, I will have to take a peek.

      Great to hear about your friend, Jamie. If one of my family members had a blog on the Net, I would likely appreciate going back to re-read it. It would be a bonus to know it had such purpose as to help others.

      On the subject of a composite, however, If someone told me one had been made of my mother or father, I would be cautious. My siblings and I already have quite individual perceptions of our parents. It must be quite an experience to see a movie made of a family member. Would a robot do a better portrayal? This whole matter brings out such individual filters!

  13. I love Bill dearly–and I gain so much more than I ever give when I show up there……. I’m pretty sure that’s NOT suppose to happen–so…..I’ll keep trying to even the score and keep going back until I do! ;-)

    As for the computer compiled auto-analysis of my life courtesy of everything I’ve ever posted?!
    Seriously, I was a bit taken back by the whole process–and then they tacked on the hologram.
    Ummmmm……no thank you.
    I’m pretty predictably unpredictable. I’d shudder to see what they’d end up with. And I don’t see how that’s respectful and compassionate to those who’ll be doing the grieving.
    Maybe that’s me and my limited knowledge/understanding of what he’s suggesting will be accomplished by the deal.

    In other words…I don’t get it. LOL

    Bill–I get!!!!
    This fella and the suggestions he’s making–notsomuch!

    • Mel, I appreciate you so very much. Thank you for your comment – I have so much respect for Bill as well. When he and Vi came out to Victoria recently, he and I wondered if we could connect. I had the house painting kicking off so I couldn’t dash off at sunrise, on a ferry, over to spend a hour with them in the BC Ferry parking lot as they waited to head to Vancouver. But I would have loved that. At one point, he even got the Ferry to give a toot as it passed through the Pass where my island sits.

      I wish him second wind as he recovers from the trip.

  14. Another night of insomnia as I struggle to cope with my mom’s passing a few weeks ago and I find myself here reading your blog. I found it – plus the comments – most interesting, and comforting.

    When a person passes on we are left with memories, photos and if we’re lucky some of their thoughts on paper. The thought of a robot supposedly representing my very own loving special Mum creeps me out. As Val said,
    “I don’t think Adam Ostrow has ever lost anyone close to him.”

    • Rosie, I trust that you and your loved ones know that you simply need time. Who knows how long – for sure it will be your time and not anyone else’s. If you are experiencing things that make you wonder about your sanity, please know it’s just the process – full of feeling, fleeting movements, bursts of crying, sleeplessness and rogue waves of forlorn. Hold tight to your healthy, nurturing comforts.

      I promise you, Rosie, that I feel my mother’s love profoundly whenever I think of her. I sit with her at will and feel so grateful that I finally understand that love is stronger than death..

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  16. Amy, I visited Bill’s blog and read his recent posts. He appeared to be more calm than people who are “not” dying or who don’t know when they would die. Knowing that the life that is left in you can be counted in months or even years could make you realize the purposelessness of this mad rush to get things done, to earn more, to save more, to buy things…

    I am suddenly thinking of Randy Pausch who did something similar and who decided to use his time in the best possible way. This is also the philosophy that underlies the masonic ritual of the near-death experience, which helps a mason decide upon a path that will make the best possible use of the time that he has on this earth.

    Additionally, here’s a link to the Death Clock (http://www.deathclock.com/). When I stumbled upon this site, I ran…I just didn’t want to know how many years I had left in my life…

    • Bill has outperformed medical predictions – seemingly surprising himself. I was just thinking about how he’s going through his bucket list again! His wife and he just completed a second rather arduous car trip, for him, from Winnipeg to Victoria to visit family. You remind me to go around for a visit because I haven’t heard from him for a while.

      Randy Pausch was indeed an inspiration. I want to be like him! You encouraged me to do the Death Clock and just learned I’m going to live until I’m 105! I’m really not sure I want to! I’ll change my mind when I can teleport to any location at any time!

    • Hi Shafali and Amy .. I’m pleased to say I’m not quite going to make 100 – but I’m well on the way to it .. before my time is up – that is good to know – a good few years ahead to enjoy … good news I reckon!!

      Cheers Hilary

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