A New Year’s Reflection

January 3, 2024
Image: Angelo Colao

New Year’s Eve is a time when many of us set goals for self-improvement. Plans for a better diet, more exercise, even playing more games to exercise our brains. But my vow this year is to remove the dead people from my phone. 

Some names are people I barely recall. Perhaps fellow travelers with whom I shared a great adventure and hoped to keep in touch. Schoolmates from a reunion that ended with insufficient connection to email again. Others may be distant relatives whom I admired and learned through the family grapevine that they had died. Yes, there are many, and you may have some, too. 

Eliminating the contact must mean more than cleaning up a database. It is not as if I expect to find a message in my inbox from a deceased friend that says, “Hi, I had a nice trip, great scenery. Hope to see you again soon.” (Though I will confess to emailing my late husband from time to time; he has not yet replied.)

The hardest is the long-time friends, so loved, so dear that I cannot believe they are gone. But why are they still in my contacts list? “Click, delete” is not that hard. Or is it?

It is another kind of letting go. To my knowledge, there is no graveside ritual for a final electronic goodbye, though there may be an app even for that. So, I will leave some of the contacts there, place a respectful “deceased” in lowercase in the address line, knowing full well that should I run across the name again, my memory will be one of sadness, but also of sweet delight.

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James Shramm
January 13, 2024 11:13 am

Your essay got some tears rolling. I still have Uncle John, Howard, and my mom. I guess it’s time to clean up.

caroline H Larson
January 4, 2024 11:04 am

I have a similar problem with Facebook. I get notices of birthdays for friends who have passed. I don’t want to dump them because sometimes people post lovely memories and I often enjoy being reminded of a dear one but at least once I forgot the person had died and I sent a jovial Happy Birthday. Seems like Facebook could give me a clue. Marking my own address book is a great idea. Thanks.

James Bergin
January 3, 2024 8:52 pm

Thank you, Meredith. I have experienced this several times, and I appreciate your bringing it to light.

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