I received a notification that I had a new message on MyChart. This message was a routine request from the office of a doctor with whom I am meeting later this month, requesting me to review and verify personal account information. While doing so I realized that Lee remains listed there as my emergency contact, notwithstanding that it has been more than three years since her death. The site’s interface offered two options: maintain the status quo or permanently delete Lee, which I could not bring myself to do. Similarly, Lee remains one of my active telephone contacts, as do my deceased father, my deceased sister, my deceased favorite aunt, and one of my oldest and dearest friends, A.P., who died about a year before Lee died.
My recent personal experience with MyChart illuminates a common dilemma for anybody who has ever lost a loved one. Our computers require us to make such binary choices multiple times each day. Technology has a place, of course, but when it comes to a deceased loved one it requires a giant emotional leap to push that delete button. For us survivors, death is irrevocable and final. We do not like to admit this hard truth. The relative handful of occasions when modern technology forced me to delete Lee (or before Lee, my father), the decision either was unavoidable or necessary. It is as a result, for example, that today I am the sole owner of real estate that Lee and I had owned jointly during her life.
When it comes to dealing with my own dead, I ordinarily prefer to take a live-and-let-live approach, so to speak. Take my father, who has been dead more than seven years. Does it do me any harm that he remains one of my telephone contacts? The truth is that when I run across his name, I find it comforting. So far, I have not dialed his number or sent him a text, as I’ve read some people do to mark special occasions they shared with their deceased loved ones. However, I understand why this sort of thing can happen.
I sincerely wish it were merely as simple as dialing up dad’s telephone number to have a conversation with him. My dad was a great guy, who, as I see it, did his level best for his family his entire adult life. I recall him as an earnest fellow, who was a supportive father and husband. I recall he had a wicked sense of humor and often was laugh-out-loud funny. In his life, people liked my father. He remains fondly recalled.
And it is not just my dad, of course. Indeed, I sincerely wish I could talk with them all. I assume this is a secret wish that most of us share.