The Language of Memory and Forgetting
INTERESTING STUFF – 17 October 2015

Preparing Your Final Blog or Facebook Post

It has been many years since I wrote on this topic but it came to mind a couple of weeks ago when I announced the new Elderbloggers List and spoke of the blogs that were either abandoned or had disappeared:

”Did they get bored and just stop?” I wrote. “Did they pick up their marbles and move to another address without telling readers? Have they fallen too ill to keep up? Have they died?

“In almost all cases there is no way to know, adding to the mysteries of life in general and the internet in particular. (I'll discuss this soon in a different post.)”

This is that post.

In the first go-round on this topic, 10 years ago, I wrote mostly about how nothing ever really disappears on the internet – if you know how to look - and leaving stories behind for children, grandchildren and beyond is a good thing to do.

I carried on a bit about documenting your life and urging your grandchildren to start doing that early. As it turns out, there was no need. In the intervening decade, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterist and dozens of other websites have been spawned where there is more than enough documentation of the lives of almost everyone on earth.

More importantly back then, however, I discussed a final blog post:

”I have left...a final blog to be posted. Yes, it begins with, 'If you’re reading this, I am dead,' though I intend to update it every six months or so and I may be able, in time, to get more creative than that.”

With the passage of time, I'm quite happy with that introduction – succinct and to the point. I also explained that I had left information on where to find that final blog post along with easy-to-use instructions on how to publish it.

The missing-in-action people on the Elderblogger List last month brought all this back to me. Although none of them were friends exactly, some were people I'd come to know at that internet distance and/or closeness we are all familiar with, and it is disconcerting to not know what happened to them.

Our online presences are much wider now than ten years ago. You might not have a blog but be active on Facebook. Perhaps, instead, you like Instagram or Pinterist or you have a lot of followers on Twitter. Maybe it's your habit to post comments at a particular website or two frequently enough to have made online friends there.

It is not morbid to consider how you want the people you know online to be informed when you die. It is a good thing to work out what you would like to say to the people in the web communities where you have lived some of your life when you have gone.

It has been too long since I updated my final blog post, something I'll do now that I'm talking about it here. It's important because although I'm 74 now and life expectancy hovers near 80 these days, that means a lot of people die younger. There are no guarantees and we can count only on today.

It has become commonplace in recent times for people to create their own memorial services. I've attended several for which the deceased chose the location, the music, the food, the order of the speakers and even wrote their obituaries sometimes.

Now I think the time has arrived to also arrange for the online announcement of our demise and leave instructions for someone you choose to follow through on your behalf.

You will be doing all of us still breathing a favor so that we know what happened, and you will be giving us the opportunity to mourn. It could easily be said that arranging this is now the polite thing to do.

If nothing else, it’s a chance to have the last word, and I’m not letting an opportunity like that pass me by.


Unlike your "If your reading this I am dead" I have over the past few years simply referred to that future destination as "Cemeteryville". So if you were to read the opening line on my final blog post it would probably read something like this...

"I have recently packed up lock, stock and barrel and moved to Cemeteryville. I am not leaving a forwarding address because I am looking forward to the peace and quite."

Also, as you know many of our peers start off their day reading the obituaries. Personally, that's not my cup of tea. Seems to me to be a rather morbid way to start one's day. I have informed both my sisters who will probably be looking after my sendoff to Cemeteryville that I do not want an obituary in the local newspaper. I have informed the funeral home handling my moving arrangements of the same. I, for what ever ill-thought reason, want all the people that ever knew me to think I outlived them.

Each to their own Alan G. Personally, I'm appreciative of Ronni's approach in that it is the people I will leave behind for whom I prepare, not myself. I will be dead. I was so comforted by the care my father took to make sure I knew his affairs were in order, including prepaid funeral arrangements, locations of important papers, and even his own hand written obituary. I may have written more, but I honored his wishes and only tweaked his version to add grandchildren's names, who were so key to his happiness.

My husband and I review and try to keep those kinds of records in order for our family although I need to do more to convey our wishes in disbursal of personal property. I am contemplating leaving something in writing as a parting thank you to my friends and family for being in my life.

I wish your bloggers and frequent commenters would instruct their relatives to let you know when they die, Ronni. I miss comments by several people who used to do so regularly--chief among them Sandy Dickson.

This is a timely re-posting of yours.
I also created a post for my family to put on my blog when I die. FB even has an app for that. It hardly matters how old one is, for dying happens unexpectedly at every age. An annual reminder to update that post is Oct 30 , which is Create a Great Funeral Day, I suggest that not only does one create a last FB or Blog post, but also create a memorial plan, as I suggest in my blog with that name. It is rather disconcerting to wonder where on earth those blogs I've enjoying reading on-line have went. I don't plan to leave my on-line friends wondering.

I've long intended to draft a final post with instructions to my son on how to post it. (Not so simple with WordPress. I wish they'd come up with an easy option for that, such as the FB app Wendy mentioned.) Ditto an obituary. It can be difficult for a loved one to write an obituary and not at all unusual that he or she wouldn't know all the landmarks to include, such as places of employment, important dates, etc. I've have written out other notes and instructions, such as I don't want a religious funeral/memorial service, etc. Of course, once we're gone, our preferences no longer matter to us, and doing something different might be a comfort to our survivors. The best we can do is try to make their task a little easier.

Have you been reading my mind, Ronni? When I woke up this morning I decided that my project for today would be to re-write my final notice. When you first wrote about this topic I wrote my notification letter and last night I suddenly realized that I had no idea whether it was still on my computer or not. '

I had a dear friend who moved to Mexico some years ago. She didn't write often, but always wrote at Christmas. When I didn't hear from her last December I worried that both she and her husband were dead. I still wonder and wish her son's had taken the time to notify me if she has indeed died'

I was never notified of the death of my favorite sister-in-law and after a year of not getting a reply from my snail-mail I wrote a final time. Finally, another relative who was taking care of her estate notified my nephew that my letter indicated that I didn't know of her death and he wrote me telling of both her death and her husband's demise. I could have been spared a lot of worry had he written me at the time.

My point being, have someone not only send your Internet letter, but also send the notice to those in you snail mail address book. Now it's off to write my letter before I forget.

Guilt abounds... I haven't finished my will, I don't have an advance directive for my health care, and now I'm reminded that I have no plans for closing down my online presence (or finalizing my absence, I guess).

I plan to have my web site's password engraved on my headstone.
"Here Lies Bruce
My Yolasite Password is
Please tell everyone I won't
Be posting any more blogs

This is a great idea, and I hope it gathers momentum everywhere. Ha on the last word;).

Norma Hall…

Thank you for your brief but direct thought on my response to Ronni’s post this morning. Although my response was directed to Ronni and not you, perhaps she nevertheless appreciates your interceding on her behalf. I am at a bit of a loss as to how you found my comments to her post to be unappreciative which is what you seemed to imply, especially when she wrote the following in her post….

“It is not morbid to consider how you want the people you know online to be informed when you die. It is a good thing to work out what you would like to say to the people in the web communities where you have lived some of your life when you have gone.”

However on the chance that perhaps you are new here, I have been reading and commenting on Ronni’s blog since 2006 or so and if there is anything one learns about Ronni, it is the undeniable fact that she is more than capable of responding to any criticisms or remarks directed her way that she deems unappreciative, rude or distasteful with regard to her opinions or commentary and is not in need, in my opinion, of any unsolicited assistance. In fact, seems once or twice during my tenure here I just may have received a couple of those warm but nurturing responses. :)

I had an artist cyber friend who suddenly stopped posting and after about 8 months, I finally googled him to find an obit indicating he died unexpectedly a couple of weeks past his final post. I knew he was full time on oxygen, so it didn't shock me, but it made me sad anyway. Wouldn't have been any sadder if I found out earlier, and I'm glad his blog was left up so people could continue to enjoy his art and the playful experimentation he practiced. Perhaps if someone had posted about his death, all visits to his blog might have stopped, and maybe he didn't want that. Go take a peek: Deano's">">Deano's Den

People have a way of heading in the other direction from death or any mention or sign of it. Talk to anyone who's lost a spouse to Alzheimer's and they'll assure you that friends and acquaintances flee as if their own lives were in danger as soon as the signs of dementia appear. Probably the same with any kind of inconvenient disability.

I must tell you, Ronni, how timely this article is for me. I LOVE your site and I like it so much, I'm in the process of going back to the beginning in 2004 and reading them all from the archive and saving the ones I particularly like in Safari. But then I realized that if you were to die or give up your blog, the blog would be shut down and I could no longer access them from the internet again. So now I have to copy and paste them all including comments (which I love) in a note app on my iPad. I want them to read maybe years into the future and that's the only way I can think of to save them regardless of if your blog exists or not. It's a lot of work, but well worth it. I look forward to Time Goes By more than anything I read from the Internet. Thank you so much for this.

Oh my god, Mary - that''s a bit much, 11 years of back posts. I sure wouldn't try. Do keep in mind that nothing ever disappears on the internet - it's always somewhere - and my blog will be here for a good long while after I've gone.

Alan G and Norma Hall: nothing from either of you seems out of place - just a conversation about how we might let people know when the end of time comes for each of us. We'll each do what we feel is best or that we can. I just hope people I know here won't disappear without arranging to let us know.

Well, you scared the bejesus out of me with that title. I thought you were abandoning us and stopping TGB. Don't scare me like that!
I'll work on my own farewell post. Something along the lines of the old tombstone, "I expected this, but not so soon."

The Atlantic has a great article this week debunking "nothing ever disappears from the Internet" -- important food for thought for anyone relying on ephemeral electrons to preserve something for them!

Adrienne LaFrance

Thank you, John Gear. The Atlantic article is right. The real truth is, the Web is unstable both ways.

People misinterpret "nothing disappears". It's meant to be a warning. When you're creating content, it's wise to assume that whatever you write could come back to haunt you thirty years later, because it just might. People forget this all the time. They act as if they're just talking and their words won't outlive the sound waves. And that's it's not true.

But it's not a promise, either. Nothing lasts forever. People don't, so why would we expect our creations to? Even carved stone crumbles, and all its emotional meaning vanishes long before the ancient runes become illegible. Electrons are not carved stone. They're dynamic. Their information exists only as a process -- and by their very nature, processes stop. There is a value in trying to preserve as much as we can, but ultimately, if it goes, it goes.

Nothing can change that it did once exist. Sometimes that's enough.

This topic caused me to remember an acquaintance my husband and I made on a flying trip to Fairbanks. We got weathered in at White Horse in the Yukon and had to stay at the F.B.O. there where we met a kindly character, Bill. He flew to Alaska every year to visit his daughter and grandchildren. After we spent a sleepless night camping overnight at a campground on the airport in Fairbanks, our new friend looked us up with his son-in-law and they took us to a motel....we were so happy to get out of there.

The next fall we visited our friend, Bill, in Palm Dessert, while driving through the area. At Christmas I sent him a card and in a few months received a note from his daughter that he had died. It was good to know the reason we had not heard back from him and I appreciated her thoughtfulness.

I, too, need to write out my obituary and my wishes re disposal of my body when I leave this earthly plane so my husband or daughter will know what to do and what to post.

I don't post often, but my sister introduced me to this blog. She would go on and on about 'this crabby old lady'... I have enjoyed this blog enormisly. My sister died in 2013. Her Facebook page is still on the web. She would post often on this blog. She was Judy Wolfe.
I read the obits first, then the funnies. Thanks for having me.

So glad I can add to this very popular post. I think we are all concerned about losing our identities online once we are gone. It certainly struck a note with me! I've been scrolling up and down Ronnie's Elderblog list this past while, and have found (even though she has updated it) several sites where the author has not posted for some time. So I go through the list, "Did they get bored?", "Are they sick?" "Have they died?" It would be comforting to know.

TO be remembered is perhaps a happy dream. But I realized long ago that. unless you had made some long lasting imprint on the world, the most..that most of us can hope for is to be remembered by our children, and grandchildren and maybe theirs. I'm ok with that. Uncertainty is part of this world's existence, so leaving parting words or thoughts are of a very temporary nature.

Alan G., probably too late for you to see this comment, but I am so sorry if you took offense at my post. We just differ on our approach. You want to leave a mystery by pretending to outlive your friends and family. It's your choice, and I'm sure with a twinkle in your eye. I just meant I wanted to make it as easy on my survivors as possible because they are the one's left to deal with loss or mystery. I probably should have not mentioned you in my comment. Lesson learned. We all don't know each other well enough to assume we know how we will be understood. Cheers and good day to you.

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