It's clichéd, I know, but I can't get over how much technology has changed the character of one of the oldest experiences in the world: grieving.
Let's leave aside the fact that every one of the friends mentioned here is a friend I made online. My family was so surprised to find that my bewilderingly virtual relationships translate into real - and really nice! - people. But that's not unique to this situation; blogfriends have been my salvation since my infertile years, or even before.
Photos shared online, videochats, spreading the word by email or facebook instead of phone tree: again, I think we're familiar with the benefits of these, without needing to tie them to loss or mourning.
But here's a new one: I never would have dreamed our eulogies for my sister would be online...or that I'd be more glad than embarrassed. It wasn't planned in advance, I don't think, but it made perfect sense: by the time our family in America emerged from Shabbat, we had already buried my sister. I can't imagine the unreality and disbelief of hearing that. They wanted - needed - a way to experience the funeral in realtime, as much as we did.
Much later, I discovered another. Because of the awful difference in time zones, my sister and I didn't try to talk on the phone much. (Yes, okay, I hate the phone even in this country, but phone phobia AND time zones? Dude, I give up.) We IMed instead; often when I was supposed to be sleeping or she was, trying not to wake our spouses with the glare of the screen or the clicking of keys. And because of that, I have records of conversations going back...years. Not even anything as coherent as you'd put in a letter, just chats, in the true sense of the word: random, rambly, hilarious. Things we might have said while hanging out on the couch at 1 AM, and never remembered in the morning.
It's not enough. It doesn't replace being able to actually hang out on her couch. It didn't make her any less far away. I'm still struggling with the fact that we lived on two different continents, with a wide, wide ocean in between.
But I think of how different it all would have been, before we discovered we could live online, too. I can't imagine.