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2004-12-30 - 9:30 a.m.

My mother in-law’s funeral was one month ago today. One month ago yesterday her obituary appeared in the local paper, and online with a link to a guestbook people could sign. This guestbook stays up for a month but at the end of the month you can pay $89 and have it remain up “permanently”. According to the site, “Permanent sponsorship will allow family and friends to view and sign the Guest Book on holidays, anniversaries -- any day of the year -- for years to come.”

My husband was torn about what to do. Should he pay to keep it up or should he let it go? Ultimately, after consulting with his dad and sister he let it go. I too was of the opinion that he should do so.

It was his decision and I would have respected whatever he wanted to do but I have to admit I find this concept and marketing ploy a little macabre. J and his family won’t need a site to go and visit online every Christmas and birthday to write in that they miss her, and I can’t picture many people going back time after time “for years to come” to write something new that they haven’t written already, so there wouldn’t be anything new for J and his family to read when they checked the site. I can’t imagine - unless the person whose guestbook it is had a huge online following that would return over and over - that most would have a lot of people visit after the first few weeks so this fee is really a ploy to extract money from the recently bereaved at a time they are very vulnerable.

Even the name of the website, "legacy.com" adds to this impression. It’s hard enough to let something associated with a loved one go but how much harder is it to let their “legacy” disappear? These guestbooks aren’t a person’s legacy; the friends and memories they left behind that reside in the hearts and minds of their loved ones are maybe, but not thirty versions of “my thoughts and prayers are with you” (not that those sentiments aren’t wonderful to have, because the support they express has been VERY much appreciated). The funny stories that make you laugh through your tears, the touching stories that make your heart ache, or even just the little memories that you hold onto don’t make it into that guestbook. Memories like this:

When we were all in the car not long before my mother in-law’s stroke, J and I were in the back seat and his parents were in the front. We were pulling up to a stop and J leaned over to give me a quick peck and his dad saw us in the rearview mirror and said gleefully “Hey, you kids control yourself. No making out back there.” We responded, “Well no making out in the front then either.”

His dad grabbed for his mom (who was quite a proper lady) and puckered up. I think he managed to deliver a kiss to her cheek despite her scandalized protest but she was laughing and you could tell that she was pleased.

They were together for over 41 years and you could still see the affection and love between them.

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