How We Remember

My mother died Friday, June 21, 2013. That’s less than a week, and this is the death that officially makes me in charge of joint family memories. I am now the eldest of my generation on my father’s side with my mother the last of her generation on both sides. I have older maternal cousins still, but no aunts, no uncles, no grandparents. We all want to remember well, and I first went to the rituals of memory for death that we have set up in the United States: the memorial service, the newspaper obituary, and the funeral. For many reasons, these traditions were simply not functional for us. Our family does not live in one small (or big) town. My mom lived in many places in several states and made friends along the way. Having literally everyone fly to the location where the vault is (even I would have to drive six hours) seemed barbaric and more expensive than many could handle. She has no living friends in that community, only acquaintances. Even the newspaper obituary has morphed into disfunction– those wishing to do more than list name, date, and funeral home must pay, with $1000 not an unusual sum. Oddly, individuals cannot submit obituaries; the funeral home must. What of those who don’t have a funeral or memorial? The system is broken.

FBAlbum

My solution was a Facebook photo album and it is a good solution. Through the comments, memories are shared, and thanks to the new feature that allows commenters to attach a photo to a comment, a sizable photo database can be built, complete with tagging. For example, I have photos where I don’t know everyone in the photo. I’ve already had a cousin step in and tag the people so that everyone can know who is in the photo.

Finally, through a commitment to posting a photo a day until I run out, I have an activity that takes the place of the more traditional modes for closure. The difference I think is that this method works and creates an archive, a memorial, that exists past a single hour on a single day. I feel like I must do something. This is one thing I can do.

 

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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