Monday, April 11, 2011

big sister

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.


OneTiredEma said...

Now I feel guilty for not Skyping my parents in...weeks? (Though Skype is worse than the phone! I think.)

It's great that you have all those archives. Of course it's not good enough!

PS Uberimma was surprised that you and I had actually met before this year. (Living 60 blocks away will do that...)

Alissa said...

That's funny, as much as I hate the phone, I'd rather Skype. I think it feels closer to being in person, and I'm always happy to talk to people (I like) in person.

Even though I was there, and we talked about it at the time, I was just now bowled over by the fact that the funeral was over when Shabbat ended. I just... words fail me.

Make sure you back up those chats and other memory bytes (hey, like what I did there?). I had all my emails from when Morey and I first "met" saved, but somehow they missed getting backed up. And then my hard drive crashed...

Tine said...

Persephone, you and your phone aversion make me feel so NORMAL. Thank you! :) I hate talking on the phone too. To pretty much anyone. Can't explain it. But I will battle any monster you like through the computer.

I can't imagine life without the internet either. Although I have not (yet) grieved a loved one in this way, I've found so many friends and comrades and so much support online -- and have stayed so much better connected with real-life friends and family -- that I haven't a clue how I got along before.