A New Way to Remember

Technology too often fails us when we need it most — especially when it comes to commemorating the most important people and milestones in our lives. That’s why we created LifePosts.

Mary seemed destined to have a dismal funeral. Her health had been awful, she looked far older than her 60 years. When she died alone in her Brooklyn, NY, apartment, her distant family had the means only for the simplest of cremations. Oblivion seemed assured.

But on the day of her funeral, the mourners came. There was a young woman Mary took in when she had to flee domestic abuse. A young man reeling from drug addiction echoed the story, as did another and another. This woman, it turned out, was not a ‘nobody’ but rather a sort of super-Grandma for a stream of suffering neighborhood strangers. So I asked the funeral director (who is my wife, Amy), “Can I read her obituary?”

“There is none.”

I wasn’t surprised. In Brooklyn alone, 15,000 people died last year, but only about 750 received a colorless death notice or, very occasionlly, a staff-written obituary. The rest vanished without a proper accounting.

It isn’t supposed to be this way. The Internet has made it possible to record and share everything! Alas, while we snap and tweet countless “moments,” they scroll past rapidly, wedged between personal tirades and videos of boxing kangaroos. Facebook’s recent addition of the “Sad” emoji doesn’t help much. Deep condolences are not well conveyed through a yellow cartoon character shedding a little emoji tear.

A paradox has arisen: the more we capture, the less we treasure. “The cloud” has become the new attic, its contents inaccessible and ultimately forgotten.

In this golden age of digital storytelling, it should be possible to capture the essence of someone’s life better than ever, and preserve them for future generations.

That’s part of why we — myself, Lauren Zalaznick, Ju-Don Roberts, Ned Berke and others — created LifePosts, a new way to commemorate the most important people and milestones in your life — not only deaths but also a broad range of celebrations. These can be the most obvious — weddings, births, graduations, major birthdays — as well less traditional personal achievements like anniversaries of sobriety; attaining citizenship; or retirement, military enlistment, adoption, the hard-won birthing of a new business, even the creation of a personal biography.

For a detailed walk-through of what our new platform actually does, click here. The gist is, LifePosts offers easy and unique storytelling methods, including …a question-and-answer tool called LifeQs.

And a dynamic LifeTimeline…..

These simple tools help organize photos, videos, documents, audio anecdotes and other memories to build a fitting tribute in a new way. More importantly, LifePosts makes collaboration with friends and family much easier. You can then preserve and share your LifePost with the people in your life who matter most.

These practical benefits are, we think, quite compelling — but we hope the LifePosts process of collaboration and sharing will help you, your friends, and your loved ones on an even deeper level. That may sound overly grandiose so let me explain:

A more vibrant, deeper tribute for those being honored

Most everyone has gone to the funeral of someone we thought we knew well, yet we walked out having learned something new. Work friends hear stories about her personal side while family members hear anecdotes from an old school chum or army buddy. Hearing the toasts at a wedding can similarly provide us new (and often hilarious) perspectives. By crowd-sourcing memory-making, LifePosts makes it far easier to draw in multiple voices and images.

More obviously, unlike the traditional newspaper birth announcement or obituary, a LifePost can feature almost unlimited words, images, video, audio or documents. Also, it no longer falls to a newspaper editor to decide who is worthy of recognition.

For many honorees, a LifePost will be an extraordinary gift, an expression of how well they are known and loved.

A better experience for those making the commemoration

The traditional process of writing an obituary is terrifying, when you think about it. Writing a biography on deadline is hard even for professional writers, but to do it for a loved one, while you are grieving and exhausted, is challenging.

With LifePosts, you can take your time. Do it piece by piece. One story today, a photo next week, a video from a friend the week after. Take a year to pull it together. Unlike a newspaper article, if you change your mind, you can refine it.

Think of it as a gradually-unfolding story not just an announcement. A baby “announcement” can use the birth as the starting point for a journal of your child’s first year — or first 10. A graduation LifePost can start six months before the big day and end six months after.

The “friend-sourcing” of stories not only makes for a richer tribute, it also relieves the burden on those crafting the commemoration. Beyond that, for those grieving, the process of creating a memorial biography can bring comfort — both in the pleasure of reliving cherished memories, and the relief of knowing that the stories can be passed on from generation to generation. And, neuroscience now tells us, the process of collecting the material strengthens the memories, just as collaborating unites our sense of belonging and shared experience.

For those celebrating, it can bring a sense of perspective. Life’s fleeting moments are like the dots in a pointillist painting — making a unified whole that you can only discern when you step back. LifePosts can help you “take stock” and draw greater meaning.

Strengthening community and human dignity

A community, we believe, benefits when all of its members are treated, as individuals, with dignity. Why does the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier move us? It is the namelessness — that he or she sacrificed without being thanked, without being accorded the appropriate level of respect. Whether it’s your aunt who never got a write-up in the local paper, or nameless victims of a mass genocide, no one should disappear without some description of their time on this planet.

To embrace and celebrate the unique value of each person’s life will improve our sense of history, on a personal and communal level. Your LifePosts can help ensure that people in one or two generations — or 20 — will have a vivid, nuanced understanding of who we are and how we lived.

Finally, we also hope that LifePosts can help promote mutual understanding in the here and now. Surveys and our own life experience tell us we increasingly huddle with our own chosen clans — whether in our social networks or on our cable networks — and tend to see everyone else as faint sketches at best, grotesque cartoon characters at worst. Perhaps witnessing strangers at familiar milestones — triggering universal emotions — will help us all see others in a new way. That person who seems strange or villainous from far away might seem more relatable when viewed in the context of a memorial, a wedding or an anniversary, through the prism of joy or grief.

We know it’s a bit ambitious to think a digital platform can help with all of these things at once. But we thought it would be useful to share with you our motivations, in addition to our “features.” Our mission is to ensure that every person’s life story can be beautifully told, vividly celebrated and preserved. It’s what we want for our own families and friends, and for yours.

About the author

Steven Waldman is founder of LifePosts.com. Earlier, he was co-founder of Beliefnet.com, Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and author of “Founding Faith: How Our Founding Fathers Forged a Radical New Approach to Religious Liberty”

Other supporters of LifePosts

Other supporters/helpers/investors for LifePosts include: dick costolo, Lauren Zalaznick, Larry Hackett, Jonathan Alter, Julius Genachowski, Deborah Caldwell, Susan Margolin, Jon Miller, American Public Media, Ava Seave, Andrew Yang, Gary Ginsberg, Lisa Melmed, Ethan Devine, Paul Nogloes, Sujay Jhaveri, Ray Costa, Elizabeth Sams, Elizabeth Andrion, Bob Verrico, Monica Desai, Bruce McCever, Monica Halpert.