The New Zealand Herald
Shelley Howells: Welcome to the death of a thousand clicks
Maybe it’s this flu, or those dratted GST returns, or the imminent return of Six Feet Under to the telly, but I’ve had death on the brain – and online – this week.
I came across the Forever Network, a US web space where people can deposit life stories – via video, photos and print – so that after they die, their friends and family can enjoy an online reminder of their life and times.
It’s fascinating to browse some of the stories – check out hot tamale Lucia Pamela Angelo (1904-2002). Her Real Player tribute video includes clips and photos from her varied career in radio and television, as well as a bizarre soundtrack of some of her musical offerings to the world.
Some stories come from the still living, like the fabulously creative Bob Shively (1929-?), who tells tales of his life (so far) as a drawer-and-closet-liner to the stars, complete with Dolly Parton vocal backing and eye-boggling snaps of some of his favourite Halloween costume designs.
Though nobody knows what happens after death, there are many who will tell us anyway, especially the near-death-experience crowd. They’re the folk who have close encounters of the dying kind and return to report on bright lights (clearly, they’re not saving their 10 per cent in the afterlife) and feelings of joy.
The net’s one-stop shop of NDE is Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife, which looks at the topic from every angle, including the points of view of everyone from sceptics to Buddhists.
Then there are the many bizarre death stories on urban legend sites – like the archived collection, where macabre topics include spontaneous human combustion and vending machine deaths.
Heart disease and cancer are such common ways to go. For “a select assortment of unusual endings”, browse Ain’t No Way to Go, a vast collection of odd deaths – animal and human – from “Enraged motorist tosses pooch into moving traffic” to “Two sisters, visiting each other, meet on the road – head-on”.
Few death-related sites are as oddly optimistic as Afterlife Telegrams, an online service that, for a US$5 a word donation to charity, gets terminally ill volunteers to memorise messages to pass on to deceased loved ones when the volunteer eventually arrives in the afterlife.
Have a look, too, at the Top Ten most popular funeral hits last year in Britain. It’ll be no surprise to hear that Bette Midler’s sobfest Wind Beneath my Wings is number one.
And while you’re planning your funeral music, it may pay to swot up on some memorable last words. Inspiration is available at Last Words which lists the final utterances of well-known figures, real and fictional, as well as famous epitaphs, wills and obituaries. I’ll be aiming for something along the lines of Spanish politician Ramon Narvaez’ “I do not have to forgive my enemies. I have had them all shot.”
If celebrity deaths are your thing, sign up to the celebrity death bleeper service. They search the web every 10 minutes and email you the news while the celebrity body is still warm. Or gamble on the next celebrity death at the “home of the celebrity dead pool” where whoever guesses the next celebrity deaths wins cash.
Last, if all that death-surfing doesn’t inspire a new lease on life, take a few moments to input your data into a couple of calculators that’ll let you know how long you’ve got left.
According to the Spark’s test, I’m going to go by way of cancer, or alien abduction, in December 2028. The Death Clock is even more precise. At last check, I had a mere 1,674, 818, 233 seconds to live. Yikes. Better get to the supermarket.