Letting Life Lead
I have been on the Internet for about twenty-two years, and in that time I have only ever encountered one death directly with a person I played with just about every day for a few years. Though we never met and never spoke in person or talked about anything personal and weren’t ever more than mutual fans of the MOO we played, his death still left an empty space. One day he was there, and the next his character lay sleeping forever. I do know that a lot of people on that game were impacted by his sudden passing: his wife, friends he met, and people who really got to know him. For the longest time, you could go to his virtual room just as he left it and his character was in an eternal asleep, un-reaped, and immortal. He died in 2000 when I was 27 years old, and his memorial page, though moved to a new location, is still active.
I was still young then with that feeling of immortality that we all seem to be born with, but lose at some point. It is different for everyone when we find ourselves in the moment when death is no longer a thought we keep tucked away for a later time.
We’ve always been free with answering our now five year old daughter’s questions about death starting when she was about three and half. She had those hard questions and asked every day for several weeks when things die, if she will die, if I or her dad will die, if children die, and so many more. “Yes,” we have to say, “Someday.” She was acutely aware of batteries that died, grass that died, flowers that died. Light bulbs, worms, leaves, mice, and insects.
“When I am 80 will you still be alive?”
“It would be nice to be alive then, but people don’t usually live much past 100 and 120 is pretty old!”
She would have days where she would weep and be very upset. We are not religious, so soothing with heaven is out of the question. But we did try to frame it as the way life just is and that it was okay to feel sad. A flower dies and a new one grows. Our resident hawk hunts rodents so it can eat and live another day. She came to peace with it as we all do and occasionally she will say random things like:
“Mommy, if you die I would miss you.”
I realized yesterday that social media has created ghosts of everyone who has ever shared a photo, commented, sent an email, or tweeted. It used to be that pictures in old albums would fade or be lost. Diarys and letters would go missing and eventually that person’s life would fade with the last memory. There were a few though who lived on in their works like actors in movies, models in print, artists through their work, and writers in their books. Most people weren’t Kings or Queens, Shakespeare, Mozart, Socrates, or Leonardo DaVinci. The ordinary people who didn’t create priceless violins, beautiful ballets, or write epic novels just faded as most life has always done.
But now when any of us has gone our digital ghosts will still be out there because they say, “once it is out there in the Internet it is is forever.”
Yesterday, Leonard Nimoy passed and his last tweet was: A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP
It hit me suddenly, that those words will remain long after every relative, friend, and original fan who remembers that day has gone. One day when I am gone, my children will maybe see my Facebook photos, watch a video, and follow links to the thousands and thousands of words I have typed and sent out there. Pieces of me and my life. They might share it with their own children and look at the places we went, the many selfies we took together, and the many moments caught by the camera. Maybe my great-great-great-great grand children will do a report using Internet research into the digital diaries of their ancestors and laugh at a joke I shared or groan at some awful poem I penned. They might be delighted at finding an old family recipe or reading about what it was like to be disconnected from electronics or what we wore for Halloween. Maybe they will see themselves in my digital ghost or be comforted by my experiences and struggles with confidence.
We all have a chance now to be remembered and seen as the people we were in a virtual memorial of our lives and the moments we lived rather than an epitaph on a stone or ashes in the wind. In some small way, there is a peace in that.
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