World Wide Wake?

Let’s say you’re in the midst of a month-long trip to Thailand,
helping the Burmese refugees. Catching up on your email one day, a
note from your mother informs you that your grandfather has just
died. No need to fly home, it says, you can watch the service over
the internet; you can even contribute memories and condolences on
the web. It’s no futuristic fantasy. A new wave of online funerals,
memorial services, and tributes to the deceased makes attending a
funeral as easy as logging onto a website.

The internet is becoming a new hotspot for grieving, Michelle
Sipics reports for Dragonfire. After hearing of Animal Planet
star Steve Irwin’s death, Australians gathered in real places,
planning memorials and vigils. But people from all over the world
posted memories, chatted, and instant messaged about Irwin online,
writes Sipics. Notably, ‘in a virtual world called Mulgore,’ inside
the game World of Warcraft, ‘trolls, orcs, undeads, and taurens
were gathered near a small pool of water in the city of Thunder
Bluff to hold their own memorial for the Crocodile Hunter.’ Such
memorial services are not out of the ordinary in the World of
Warcraft, which dedicated gamers have played to death (literally,
as two have succumbed in recent months to ‘videogame related
death’), reports Marc McEntegart for the tech-news site the
Inquirer. In cases like this, fans from
various corners of the world can find one another and relate their
immediate reactions to such news.

In the real world, some funeral homes have expanded their
offerings to include webcasts of services, catering to clients with
kin far away, reports Ramin Ganeshram in another
Dragonfire article. ‘North America is
extremely multicultural, and so at some point, almost any funeral
home will find itself serving residents from other countries with
family members who cannot attend,’ says Bahman Motamed, co-founder
of Toronto’s Online-Funeral.com. The company also
has served families in Israel, India, and Iran. English families
‘scattered across the globe,’ can also take advantage of such
services, since a local crematorium recently installed a webcam,
reports the UK daily,
Peterborough Today.

Also contributing to the web-mourning scene are sites that pay
homage to the departed as a top priority, writes Sipics. The
website Eons, ‘a
MySpace for seniors,’ provides death notifications and obituaries
that can be customized by network members. MyDeathSpace, on the
other hand, focuses on MySpace members who have died — often
teenagers or young adults — with links to their profiles and
information about them. The site’s founder, Mike Patterson,
maintains that the site’s chief purpose is to ‘teach viewers that
life is fragile,’ relays Sipics.

The spate of online mourning has spurred a discussion about the
value of human contact in the grieving process. Some see webcast
funeral services as ‘a natural progression from weddings and
newborn babies being shown to happy families online,’ reports
Peterborough Today. But many involved in the projects
concur that virtual grieving will never console like the physical
presence of fellow mourners. As Peterborough Community Church
employee Caroline Cameron explains: ‘Obviously, the most important
thing at a funeral is the personal contact between family and
friends, providing support at a traumatic time. This personal
contact is always the first preference, but if this is not possible
then it’s possibly a good idea to give access to the funeral in
this way.’

Go there >>
Funeral
Homepage

Go there too >>
World of Warcraft Online Funeral Held

And there >>
Viewing
the Body

And there >>
Funerals on the Internet (and then you can buy a
DVD)

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