Saturday, October 18, 2008

Virtual Funeral Part 2

Since my first post on Virtual Funerals, I have come across several more. Here are some highlights: First is a tribute page for the virtual friends of a virtual character whose real life counterpart died. This site includes many links to places where 'The Sojourner" spent her time, and many shared memories and eulogies posted by her friends. This is very similar to the phenomenon of tribute pages that are posted for real people, and Myspace pages that perhaps began when a person was alive, but continue after death as memorial pages.
Next is a screen shot of a virtual anniversary memorial service, and a friend's thoughts upon the occasion:
Tonight in SL is the one year memorial service for Kelise Hailey, she was a young transsexual woman whose struggle became to much for her to bare. She committed suicide. She was my friend.
I owe my own life to Kelise. When she left us I was in a very dark place, torn between this world and something else. Losing her fixed my resolve to stay for good. No matter how low and depressed I feel, no matter what happens in my life. I made her a silent promise and I will keep it. I keep a candle lit for her in SL to remind me that no matter what happens, no matter how dark the days might seem for me or anyone else. You're never truly alone.
When I'm quiet and alone my thoughts often drift to her, a year on and I still can't hold back the tears. I miss you Kelise.

Finally, here are some thoughts shared on the passing of another SecondLifer, and his virtual memorial service:
Most of you out there will have probably known of an internet friend who passes away. Someone whom you never met but who you spoke to, argued with, laughed with and generally had some form of conversation with. You may not have known them other than a name on a board or you have have shared things with them about your real life. And when that person is not longer there are postings and comments about them and how they'll be missed. Today we learnt that the player behind the SecondLife avatar Shucks Valkyrie had died from a heart attack there was an impromptu memorial service held in the cemetery of the Tombstone, Arizona sim, his most recent place to be. I've never attended a virtual funeral service before. It was odd yet it worked. The sim manager said some words of remembrance and then someone started the words to Amazing Grace. Each line was delivered in chat, completely unprompted, yet there was no duplicating of lines as it was taken up by mourners. Someone even kicked in with a recorded audio version of it. I only met Shucks a handful of times but he was always having fun and making others laugh. He will be missed.
These online funeral services are powerful reminders of our need as humans to gather together to say goodbye. Together we share the burdens of sadness, and the gifts of memories whether we are in a funeral parlor, a church, a tavern, or in cyberspace. This is something we need to do together.

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Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization.


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