Online memorials: Help us help other parents
This was in my email inbox yesterday: “I don’t know who you are, but was pleasantly surprised to find the beautiful pictures of my daughter’s grave site. If possible there is an obit in the [newspaper] under her name that if you could add I’d be greatly appreciated. Also, a little about my daughter, she was stillborn and has the most wonderful 7 year old twin brother, who celebrates his sister everyday. Clara also has a little sister now who was conceived a year to the date that we found out we lost Clara. Thank you so much for the great picture and memorial.”
I have photographed nearly 10,000 tombstones for FindAGrave as a volunteer. Sometimes I see a little cemetery in the woods and I’ll photograph all of the graves. Sometimes I respond to a request for a specific grave (I’ll travel up to 50 miles, if I feel moved by the request). But regardless why I am in a cemetery — whether to photograph one stone or 300 — if I see a stone that obviously is a child’s marker, I photograph it and create a memorial or add the picture to an existing memorial.
I especially like very old cemeteries. I imagine the mother and father who laid their child in the ground and I can imagine the mother’s wonder if anyone will ever remember that the child was ever born — especially a stillborn child. How difficult it must have been before, when parents lost so many children on the road to the west, or isolated on a farm. And I whisper, as I snap the photo, that I will remember, and will help future generations to remember.
There are 190 million tombstones posted on Findagrave. It was 20 million when I, and other volunteers like me, started adding to the totals.
My son’s grave is listed on FindAGrave, of course, and I sponsor that memorial with a token donation. Strangers occasionally add image bouquets and I appreciate that. As a member (it’s free to join), I can create family graveyards, collecting all of the images of family graves and storing them all in one place. Sometimes I spend a lot of time there, linking ancestors or family members, and making notes, leaving photographs. Other times, I might stay away for a month or even a few.
My thoughts are with you today, and my wishes for a healing New Year and loving memories with your family and friends. When you think about the habit of making a resolution for 2021, this is something kind you can do, unasked, for another parent in another place, another time. But you know, we're all in this together. All you need is a phone camera or camera and a computer.