This past weekend I read a commentary by Rob Walker in the New York Times ("my digital cemetery") about all of the digital contacts he has acquired over the years. His list of over 2700 contacts stretches over two decades including those recorded on his first palm pilot. His contact list runs the gamut from work to personal to home repairs. He has not edited his contact list over the years and he is not in communication with all of these 2700 people. Some contacts have moved on, there is no longer any more need for a connection to this contact, the person has died, residences and geographic locations have changed or numbers have simply changed. He did focus on his commentary about keeping the contact information for friends who have passed away.
His commentary got me thinking about my own experiences. I have some old address books that includes information on people that I have not had contact with in years. I even carry around a slim address book in my purse that lists telephone numbers and addresses for people that I have lost communication with, whose ties to me no longer exist for a variety of reasons. I have not updated this address book by erasing these written names and their coordinates. This book dates back to before I had a phone or a computer with an address app. When necessary, I add names to the written address book as required. And at home, I still have a traditional address book with alphabetical tabs that includes old and new home addresses and phone numbers that I use when sending out greeting cards during the course of the year.
There are also names with contact information of friends and family who have passed away in my written and my electronic address books. I see these names with their cell numbers and email addresses as I scan my books for other contacts. I simply can't erase their contact information. At the start of this calendar year, two friends of mine passed away within a short time span to each other. I have all of their contact information on my various electronic tools. I know their cell numbers and email addresses are not connected anymore but it doesn't matter. Having their contact logistics creates a feeling for me that they are still part of my everyday life. I recently had to change my cell phone and I was worried about losing the text messages with the dates and time of day from my girlfriend who passed away in January. With assistance from the IT support person, we transferred this data to my new phone.
I thought I may be a bit quirky wanting to keep all of the contact information from friends who have passed away but in Rob Walker's commentary he also talks about this very issue. He gives examples of other people who have kept their contacts lists intact with logistics of people who have passed away. We all want to keep traces of people who we have loved and admired in our lives. Now if I can only figure out a way to send text messages and emails to heaven cyberspace.