By Peter Billingham Digital Death Advisor
Who Wants To Live Forever?
The idea of living forever is captivating. It has intrigued humanity for centuries. From the mummified Pharaohs of Egypt to the Terracotta army buried with Qin Shi Huang, to protect the emperor in his afterlife. Humans are mortal, but the desire for immortality fascinates people. Some may go to great lengths to achieve immortality. Someday, you may be able to live forever, but for now, there will come a day when you will die.
Legacy 1 - Life Legacy
When you die, whether you intentionally build them or not, you will leave different legacies behind. Your "life legacy" is created one day at a time. As people remember you, they will recall your achievements. They will recognise the characteristics and personality that marked your days. This legacy is the one that they will talk about at your funeral, and it is the one that we rarely think about enough.
I love what the author Ray Bradbury writes about what you must try to leave behind when you die:
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way, so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there."
It is a question that often comes to my mind. What will people say about me after I have died? What will my "life legacy" be? What will they say about you? What specific actions are you taking today to leave your "life legacy" tomorrow? I have gone to great lengths and great distances to try to leave a "life legacy." I even flew 7182 miles just to cook a burger to create a memory!
Legacy 2 - Physical Legacy
Not only will your life be a legacy, but you will also leave an estate, your "physical legacy." You will leave all your worldly possessions and financial assets to someone.
"I, being of sound mind and body do hereby declare that this document is my last will and testament. I leave my collection of MacDonald's Happy Meal Toys to my sister."
All joking apart if you die without having a will it causes so much trouble for those you leave behind. If you haven't got a will, get one.
So you will leave a "life legacy," a "physical legacy" but most important today, you will leave a "digital legacy."
Legacy 3 - Digital Legacy
It is your online legacy, your internet legacy or your "digital legacy" that is becoming critical to manage today. While it might not take long to decide what to do with your physical assets dealing with your digital assets after death is another issue entirely.
We live in a connected world.
You probably have a mobile device of some kind in your hand that you refer to many times a day. You more than likely have a computer or multiple computers that you use daily. Your life is digital as well as mortal. Moreover, while your human life will end, your digital life will achieve immortality. It will happen without any effort from you. The prospect of freezing your head with Cryonics to live forever takes thought and effort. The reality of digital immortality happens by default.
Dr Edmond Locard, the “Sherlock Holmes” of France, formulated the basic principle of forensic science known as Locard’s exchange principle; “every contact leaves a trace.” Nothing could be truer of this than on the internet. We leave a mark of being a “unique visitor” or “video view” or “follower.” We post pictures on FaceBook and Instagram. We have bank accounts, online shopping accounts, and social media accounts. We have cloud-based storage of our documents and photos. These and many other digital traces have value. They could have significant sentimental value but some of those traces now could have considerable financial value.
What Should You Do About Your Digital Legacy?
I am being asked increasingly to take on the role of a digital death advisor. My role in speaking, consulting and writing about digital legacy is one of the most rewarding areas where I work.
Dealing with your digital assets after death is becoming more forefront in people's minds. Too often these days we read sad stories of circumstances where protecting digital assets after death could have prevented so much heartache for a family. Talking about digital end of life care is now necessary when working in a palliative care or a Hospice. Digital end of life offers many tools and opportunities to help families build those "life legacy" moments with images and words that will help them when their loved one has passed away.
Digital legacy is the most important of your three legacies because it is the one legacy that you can guarantee at this moment will be immortal. Your digital life will live online forever.
During November 2016, I am going to write blogs about different aspects of a digital legacy. Check back to see them and build your knowledge so you can take action on your digital estate. I will collect all the blogs into an EBook which you can download for free at the end of the month. If you would like to be the first to receive this EBook, please confirm your details below.
Building a secure, accessible digital legacy will allow your family to stay connected and remember you in ways not thought possible before. It will provide that elusive opportunity humanity has searched for centuries to become immortal, if for now, only digitally.
Death Goes Digital - #digitallegacy
If you are interested in other content from Death Goes Digital about digital legacy, digital assets after death, being a digital death advisor or the digital legacy services I offer, check out these posts and podcasts.