On e-wills and last testaments

When I was 25 I worked aboard a 64ft ketch in Australia as its cook, deckhand and hostess with the mostest.

We sailed the Whitsunday isles, dived the Great Barrier reef, swam with tiger sharks at dawn by accident and told the tale, paddled through phospherescence as if it were the Milky Way, stroked a playful puppy of a Maori Wrasse and whenever we parked in the Nara Inlet, woke to the wail of kookaburras.

In between our journeys we had two days off.

The first we spent shopping and restocking the liquor cabinet and perishables, doing the laundry, changing the sheets, desalting the windows and polishing brass 'til we could see our reflections.

On the second day, Will and I would head off for a bit of adventure and a beer in the evening. It was the most perfect job I've ever had.

One day, William suggested heading to Cedar Point Falls for a picnic. It was a lovely relaxing day until we decided that we'd go up and look at the waterfall from the top of the hill.

It had been raining.

The rocks were wet and slippery.

Chatting, I turned towards Will and lost my footing.


Head first, backwards.

75 feet.

There are many emotions that go through a person when you're free-falling: mainly a simple and calm inevitability, some surprise and excitement (I don't know why) and regret.

I briefly thought about my parents, that William had never asked me to sign anything and probably didn't know my last name, Mum wouldn't know I was gone, how long would it take before someone tracked down my passport locked within one of the hostal safes?

I thought about my lover, who was in New Zealand at the time, and in the cracking of my hips against the cliff, heard an echo of our meaningless fights.

Snippets of conversation, flashing laughter and my friends, the people I love.

There was also a simple sadness and clear acknowledgement that I had not lived my destiny, a brief wish I'd done things differently.

I hit the water.

I knew I wouldn't live through the coming crash.

Falling 3 more feet smacked my head on the rocks and died.

- . -

Although, obviously there is much more to the rest of this story... and it has the expected freaky magic miracle stuff or I wouldn't be sitting in front of the computer 15 years later, typing it out for you... that's not really the point.

The real reason for sharing it with you is because this week I've been reading Özge Karaoglu's blog postings on the creation of digital identities and e-portfolios (the idea of gathering everything you've done and are doing in one space) and somehow, her lovely writing has managed to get me all deep thinking and thought-piece moding.

Many of us today are spread way across the net - we have profiles on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, in Ning groups, photographs uploaded to Flickr, videos on youtube. We visit each other's blogs and skype with strangers.

The reach and impact of our lives is no longer limited to our village space, to our friends and families, our students or our colleagues but now to people we have never met physically yet with whom we have daily or weekly contact.

I've written before about my developing professional relationships and my new friendships and how I feel about these.

I've read numerous other blog postings and know that many of us are becoming attached to each other through these "personal learning networks" and are in fact, beginning to actively seek out ways to deepen the relationship by talking on the phone and meeting up in real and second life.

How will we feel when, inevitably, one of us goes?

What if there's a car accident, a plane crash, a sudden heart attack?

How will we know? Will that person have left us with a way to say goodbye?

Shouldn't they? Shouldn't we?

Why isn't there a simple website where we can plug in our various online profiles and through a chain of secret commands, which we'd leave with a loved one, send off a notification of the fact, a personal note of goodbye to particular folks or provide a way for the rest of us to pay respects.


Probably. I hope you don't mind that I brought it up - Sunday afternoon and all that - even though I don't really have a solution to this and know that others internationally have thought about it as well - nothing is really being done.

I hope that by sharing my story, it tells a little of why this "important-but-missing" aspect of the web 2.0 life bothers me and why it should be addressed.


10 Responses to “On e-wills and last testaments”

  • Shelly Terrell says:
    August 30, 2009

    This post touched me deeply. I worked w/a group of artistic types in my 20s to provide education for homeless & promote poor artists. One of the best times of my life, but one of our members did past away. She was only 30 & her funeral was the most widely attended event I have experienced. We mourned for weeks at various vigils.

    I sometimes wonder about my online community. I feel like I've met several close friends and planning holidays to spend with them, including a wedding event. Like you mentioned we grew close through Skype, Second Life, and reading each other's blogs. Thank you for bringing such a strong community together. Such an event would make me pause life for a bit, but I think the support of others would help us get through. I'm glad you experienced a miracle. Sorry if this comment is a little off, I'm truly touched by this beyond what my words can express.

  • Eric says:
    August 30, 2009

    In a creative, caring style, you've raised a poignant existential question about our lives, our relationships - physical and virtual - and issued a call to reflection and action.

    Before checking out the links, let me just say that I'm quite grateful that you survived that fall 15 years ago. You've made my world a little brighter, shared some teaching and tech tips, and exuded a rare vitality and honesty. THank you.

    "Gratitude is the memory of the heart."
    French proverb

  • The TEFL Tradesman says:
    August 30, 2009

    I dunno. It's a bit like those old school pals from way back when. We leave school, lose touch with each other, and don't really mind much about it.

    Even those who were our friends at school drift off into a different life. Do we miss them, really? We might often say "I wonder whatever happened to Fred?", but I doubt if we care too much.

    New cybermates will come along and replace those who 'depart', for reeasons of choice or mortal expediency.

    It'll be interesting to see what happens, and if anybody misses me when ... urgh, argh ... such a pain in my che......

  • monika hardy says:
    August 30, 2009

    holy cow. your writing touches every aspect of my being. how can you do that?

    dearheart - you feed me daily with intellectual savvy. with web etiquette and technique. you are sweet beyond measure. a true example of a servant leader. i really can't keep up.

    and now - you are pushing us all to the edge - with the most important thing in life - relationships. i love it.

    playing games is not allowed. like seth's post today - no more - by heart actions. let's be real. no regrets. nothing vital left undone.

    gosh. what a story karene. what a writer. thank you for sharing. thank you for your compassion.

    ok then - off to do more math. when i'd rather be planning a meet up in africa.


  • Magpie Ima says:
    August 30, 2009

    What at blessing htat you survived that fall and remember it with such clarity.

    I've been through the death of an online friend who I'd never met in real life. I was stunned at the depth of my grief.

  • natashaBBC says:
    August 30, 2009


    your story is touching the very depths of our soul. It made me write an email to somebody dear to my heart, hearing "an echo of a meaningless fight"


  • Bob Stewart says:
    September 01, 2009

    Indeed I have had many of the same thoughts as to how would one say goodbye if one was to die unexpectedly. My step-daughters aunt died tragically in a car v. moose accident in Maine in 2007. She left and no one knew any of her passwords and certainly at 27 she left no goodbyes. I have nine children and my wife has wondered aloud what would happen? to answer this I created VitalLock its new as we just launched this past week and to be sure the messaging and look and feel of the application are in a state of constant improvement. That said it does fulfill the mission at hand allowing anyone to create and store messages containing either facts such as account numbers and passwords or more importantly sacred thoughts and wishes for loved ones left behind as well. In order to do this we had to create a system that would ensure absolute privacy because the nature of these missives or video recordings or vital documents is of such sensitivity that no one would likely trust storing such information without it. Our mission is grand and our journey has just begun as we now have a platform to build compelling applications to ensure that messages get delivered and that epitaphs become something much more than a few lines carved in stone. I built this for myself and have taken the covers off the innovation but alas I am a technologist and would love to hear what the emotive value proposition is in others minds because by listening and embracing will come a beautiful sacred creation to transcend the loss that has happened from generation to generation. Please forgive this stream of consciousness missive. -Bob Stewart

  • Barbara Sakamoto says:
    September 01, 2009

    One my Second Life students disappeared a few months ago. Just vanished. He's a police officer in Italy, and while I hoped he was just too busy to contact me, I worried. And I wondered if I would ever know what happened. (It turned out that he was ok, just too busy to come to class)

    Of course, it happens outside the web, too. We lose touch with school friends, or we move and don't communicate with our former colleagues. But we at least have the illusion that we could march up to a door and ask if that person was ok. Online, there's no illusion, no door to knock on, and sometimes not even a real name.

    It's a little scary.

    Not a complete solution, but I read about Legacy Locker earlier this summer, on "Make Use Of" Blog. Insurance to protect your online identities. You can make sure that someone at least gets all of your emails and group memberships. Hopefully he or she would be compassionate enough to let your cyber friends know what happened.

    Here's the link to that post: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/legacy-locker-life-insurance-for-your-online-identity/

    September 01, 2009

    Hi ya Shelly, Magpie and Barbara

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories - I really worry about going this my self.

    Eric, thanks very much for your kind words - you too have touched my life and am very grateful to know you.

    Sandy, I would miss you - like missing a missing leg.

    I don't even know what to say - something about you and the way you communicate on my blog, on your blog on twitter - really touches me profoundly... we have a really nice connection and I'm really glad we wandered into each others' lives.

    Checked out your site - will try and reach you via Triiibes.

    December 05, 2010

    Today, I remembered this post.

    And I remembered that falling 75ft was just falling 75ft. What doesn't break your bones or crush your spirit makes you rise up and brush away the blood and the bruises. No matter how painful something is, in time, wounds heal.

    But last year and earlier this year I went through a god-awful shock... when I went from doctor to doctor to find out why the left hand side of my body was going numb, I was told that there was indeed a long-term damage from that fall.

    In fact one of my verterbrae had been misplaced and had rubbed, for 15 years, against another and this was now causing a problem to the nerves leading to my pinkie - the doctors predicted, if not taken care of, I would become paralyzed for the rest of my life.

    Luckily someone dear to me talked me through that despair... and then in the first part of this year, when I sort of disappeared from twitter and blogging almost altogether I was in physiotherapy.

    Eventually, expensively, I healed.

    But I learned that some wounds lie dormant for a very long time. And it's so easy to brush a long fall.


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