Opinion Columns & Blogs

Remembering Uncle Dave on the cheap

I’ve had a lot of friends and relatives pass away in the last few years. It goes with the territory when you’re pushing 70. And although the traditional means of sending a message of love and condolences is visiting the bereaved at the funeral home, church or some other venue, we now have the online guest book.

To be honest, I’m having some problems with the online guest book because, well, it’s about my Uncle Dave, who passed away a few months ago and will be sorely missed by a few of us. Uncle Dave’s online guest book is due to expire in a couple of months and sadly, there are just not enough of us to keep the thing going.

You see, the online guest book is different from the one you sign at the home, church or some other venue, which is free. The online guest book, to stay online, requires money. In this case they will take a credit card or cash. Yes, you can send dollars to light a candle or send flowers. Who blows the candle out or does the watering is left to conjecture. But, for about $80 the candle and watering can go on forever or in “funeralese,” “in perpetuity.” This is comforting to say the least, but who decides what “perpetuity” is may be left up to the information technology guy or whoever lives the longest at the funeral home. But I digress.

I got to thinking about Uncle Dave and his guest book and thought, how can we put a price on Uncle Dave? After all, Uncle Dave expired a couple of months ago. Now, with the online guest book, he’s going to expire again unless somebody comes up with $80. I know, it sounds crazy but, he will.

I had a friend pass away down in Statesboro a few years ago. His son died a year later and his wife followed them within a few months. I suppose the whole family could have been “restored” as some online guest books put it, for less than $240, but nope. They’re gone — twice. And they were loved at least as much as James Arness, who had his book restored, yes, in perpetuity, and for what appears to be a discounted rate. Seems unfair to me that folks can see Ol’ Matthew Dillon anytime on TV and my friends go wanting for lack of love, or money, or so it would seem.

“Restore the guest book,” the funeral home says. Restore it because it is, after all, a testimony to someone who needs to be remembered. It is therefore priceless, but not to worry. In this age of putting a price on everything from tripping over a puddle in the Wal-Mart restroom to tripping over a curb on our way into the Wal-Mart, we can and will put a price on it. We decide and the funeral home business understands, in an ephemeral sense, if you will, just how loved a person might be, based on the online guest book and rates paid.

I can just picture my Uncle Dave, perched on a cloud with his laptop somewhere above the Smoky Mountains, (and may God be with those folks) viewing his “due to expire soon” guest book. There were three entries and his dogs saying “hello.” He was better than that, had a few more friends than that, but for the life of me I can’t come out of my pocket with the $80.

I suppose it’s just another guilt trip for someone who has lived long enough to have a few. The good news is that a perusal of various online guest book prices found that for $2.95 or thereabouts, you can have that thing open for one day. So I suppose, in memory of and respect for Uncle Dave, I should take out an ad saying, “Hey, Uncle Dave’s online guest book is going to be open on Friday, send us and the dogs a note!” Well, they don’t call it “the funeral home business” for nothing.

The truth is, I loved my Uncle Dave, but I’m having some problems with the online guest book and I could use that $80 to rescue a dog somewhere. He would like that. Maybe we should have a “restoration” day where everybody saves up cash or credit and finds someone to restore. Sort of like “paying it backward.” Might be a great way to get rid of some guilt.

Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.