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E-mail services can send final message


March 9, 2002

Andre Mikhael's message to his buddies living in other places would be: “It was an honor to have you as friends. These are some things I didn't say under the circumstances ...”

It's an electronic message that Mr. Mikhael, 32, of Worcester would send when he's no longer among the living, he said in an interview on the street this week.

The aim of such messages is to let friends and relatives — or anyone who is not geographically close — know that you have passed away.

Several companies, with names such as TimelessMail.com, FinalThoughts.com and plan4ever.com, offer such message services on the Internet to let designated people know that you've departed this life -- or “bit the dust,” as Mr. Mikhail puts it.

Some of the services also help people prepare their wills and deal with other legal matters.

Such services are needed in today's society, according to several Central Massachusetts funeral directors.

Michael F. Marchand, of Alfred Roy & Sons Funeral Home, said he believes many people don't think of the Internet and technology when it comes to death.

He noted that most funeral homes now post obituaries on their Web sites and are able to receive e-mail messages from friends or relatives who cannot make the funeral and who want to pass along their condolences.

It is not out of the realm of possibility, he added, that funeral homes may offer message services for the deceased or the family.

“It sounds like a good idea,” Mr. Marchand said. “But right after someone passes away, families are not thinking about receiving or sending e-mails. A family doesn't think about this until after it happened.”

People are giving thought to their mortality and what their final words or messages will be.

According to FinalThoughts, 10,000 people already have signed up for the service.

Kevin L. Mercadante, of Mercadante Funeral Home, acknowledged that the Internet has made it easier for people to stay in touch. But he said he wonders whether post-death message services aren't a bit lacking in passion.

“We are in the information-conscious, less-time-to-read world,” he said. “I'm not fully sure if it's the right thing or not. I don't know if it's really warm or receptive to notify people of death. I'm not sure on what level it could work.”

Maryann Palmer, 23, of Worcester, agreed with that assessment when interviewed on the street this week.

“I would leave a sentimental message,” she said, but added, “I don't think I like the idea. The people close to you will know.”

Mr. Mikhael said he thinks it could be fun.

“I can leave a message that people wouldn't tend to leave when they are alive,” he said. “You can leave a message that says, 'I didn't like you,' or, 'You could've been the one ...' Those are messages from the next level.”

Subscribers who want to have the last word are willing to pay for it. Subscribers to TimelessMail.com, for instance, have their e-mail messages stored for a cost of $12 to $30 annually.

The younger generation, Ms. Palmer said, probably won't give much thought to such services, but she suspects it's popular among the baby boomers.

Robert Walker, founder of TimelessMail.com, said the idea for the service came after his father and a close friend passed away unexpectedly.

Todd Michael Krim, who formed FinalThoughts in 1999, said he got the idea for his company during an uncomfortable, turbulent plane ride.

By Chris Echegaray Telegram & Gazette Staff. Copyright © 2002 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.


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