Among its many benefits, something quite wonderful about the internet is the opportunity it gives us to reconnect with people we’ve lost, either directly or indirectly.
From those early days of the likes of Friends Reunited, to today’s popular social networking sites, and of course Google, the internet has long provided us with a means not only of reconnecting, but of finding answers to the burning questions we may have about a friend, relative or acquaintance, or even someone we just know the name of, particularly when that person has passed away and is no longer on hand to answer for themselves.
In fact, with so much history and so many personal stories now online, the internet can provide great comfort to those seeking to fill in gaps in knowledge about a loved one’s life and build a better picture of them.
Increasingly too, these internet searches are bringing people to online remembrance books as people Google their relatives and discover either a book dedicated to that person, or a book they had contributed to.
Not only can these books provide longed for answers and delightful revelations, but they can also serve to connect people to others who knew and loved them, as well as to previously unknown details about their lives, as this example, a comment left in a RAF Benevolent Fund book for a soldier who died in Gallipoli, shows:
“I can’t believe how much my grandad did in his life. I just Googled his name and found this website. I just hope he is looking down on me with pride. What an amazing man he was, proud to call him my grandad.”
And reconnecting with lost loved ones in this way in some cases leads them to discovering even more invaluable information such as, in this particular case, where someone is buried:
“I have just stumbled across this page whilst trying to search for my mother’s brother Emlyn Wayne Francis who we lost touch with for over 20 years. It filled me with pride upon seeing this and I couldn’t wait to share it. I hope to visit his grave one day and thanks to this page I now know where he is resting.”
Most often though, the books provide much comfort at a difficult time, particularly when people had lost touch or been apart for a long period of time, as we see here:
“It is a real comfort for me to input my father’s name on Google and to source this tribute to him. I live in Australia so, apart from one brother and an aunt, my links to the UK have been somewhat diminished since his death. John’s death was quite sudden and very sad for me as I hadn’t seen him for five years.”
However, the emotions such discoveries can engender are also having benefits for charities.
Finding this new closeness with someone they cared about can lead people to want to do something good themselves, to follow in their loved one’s footsteps and support the same cause, to donate to a charity that they have found out once cared for them in some way, or to give to one in memory of a loved one who has died of the particular condition that charity focuses on.
This might be a one-off in-memoriam donation, or it can prompt people to go further and become a regular giver, or even to leave a legacy themselves.
This appeared in a book of remembrance for the Guide Dogs Association:
“Auntie Lily was a supporter and left a legacy to the Guide Dogs. I have known her for 57 years and was unaware of this until she passed away. It was unbelievable how the subject never cropped up in conversation. Being made aware that she supported Guide Dogs has made me more of an avid supporter as well. Knowing that Auntie Lily had left a legacy encouraged me to leave a legacy also.”
There are many reasons why people take to Google in a quest for information but it’s wonderful to think that not only is the internet helping people by answering their questions and providing comfort at times of need, but also having another very positive, if unintended, consequence of bringing new support to charities.