Recently, my aunt, Polly Wells, died after a series of strokes. When I was growing up we lived about two hours away from her and her husband Sebert, who died last summer, so we visited about once a year, and usually saw them at family reunions. I have only positive memories of our visits — they were the first people I knew of that owned a full-size pool table, and we always visited with my cousins Mike and Eric who were (and still are) excellent bowlers. But as I got older and moved away from Ohio, I hadn’t seen either her or Sebert much in the past 15 years or so. Her death wasn’t a complete surprise as most of my extended family is now well past 70, and many are in their 80’s.
They lived in a small town. Mt. Gilead, Ohio, is about as midwestern small-town as you can get, but as the county seat it was a bit bigger than most. I stopped paying attention to it years ago, and in my techie world, assumed that the world passed it by.
Was I ever wrong.
The funeral home, Gompf Funeral Service, has an extremely well done web site, with links to all of the information you could possibly need should you need to visit, send flowers, or otherwise use their services. They publish death notices via an RSS feed (!) from BlogSpot, and have a web form for sending condolences. Now that we live over 2000 miles away, these are certainly convenient, but I almost find it disturbing to think that this can replace my inability to attend the funeral and the service. Granted, 20 years ago, the best I could do would have been to go to a local FTD florist and hope that they could find the FTD agent in Cardington, Ohio, to arrange for flowers to be sent on our behalf, but even with that, I can now do that from my laptop as well.
I think I’m torn about this because for my extended family, this just isn’t The Way Things Are Done. I’m always straddling two worlds, and this disconnect between the way I’ve always interacted with my family and the internet age just heightens the differences for me.