What We Leave Behind

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My uncle’s birthday came and went a few weeks ago. Just before it, I received (of course) a Facebook reminder. Obviously, however, wishing him well was a bit difficult…. given he’s now dead.

Screen capture of Newsweek Europe.
Screen capture of Newsweek Europe.

Unlike so many others, I didn’t write anything on his wall. He’s not on his PC in his home office (as he never got to the mobile device stage), and he’s never going to read it. Seeing so much of what was scribbled on it, I remembered this I’d written in 2014:

Excerpt from "Frontiers," on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Frontiers,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

Another uncomfortable aspect of death nowadays is “confidentiality.” Out of the blue about a week after my uncle’s death, one of my cousins sent me a Messenger note from his late father’s account. (That cousin didn’t know my email, and isn’t on Facebook himself.) When I saw it sitting there to be opened, with my dead uncle’s photo next to it, it momentarily creeped me out.

He had my late uncle’s password.

My uncle and I had exchanged quite a few messages over the years. Some were recently about my writing; and I write under a pseudonym because I’ve written about lots of still living people whom I’ve fictionalized, and they might recognize “themselves” if they saw the characters. (Seeing “himself,” my uncle – author he was – didn’t care about his own fictionalization.) Before that, messages between us were often about personal issues; and while they weren’t “horrors,” I nevertheless wasn’t too keen on anyone else seeing them.

I don’t know if my cousin scrolled up into the Messenger “archive” (he has not said), but that experience served to remind me how anything we write down can be read by someone at some time. True, old correspondence can be found in an attic by accident and read too. But unlike paper letters which can be incinerated in a fireplace, always remember this as you type away via the net: email and social media “never die” and are NEVER really “confidential.”

2 comments

  1. I certainly understand where you are coming from. you have my deepest condolences. Having a ton of friends and family can be awesome until one by one they start to die. I also have friends who still have sites up and have wondered if it’s to keep their numbers up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I now have several Facebook friends who are no longer with us, which is something that is of course going to become more common for us all. I do wonder how Facebook will eventually handle it. It’s gonna become a less than pleasant experience for living users to have lots of “dead friends” constantly turning up in their timeline; that might cause us “lives” to want to be on the site less, something I’m sure FB doesn’t want either.

      Like

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