Last month, blogger Eva Markvoort turned on her video camera and told her blog readers: "My life is ending."
The 25-year-old had been chronicling her life with a terminal illness, cystic fibrosis, for nearly four years on her live journal, 65 Red Roses. Isolated in her hospital room, she started blogging in 2006.
Her writing painted a very real, harrowing picture of life with the disease, chronicling painful symptoms and procedures, the hopeful ups ... and devastating downs. When she passed away last month, her family live-streamed her memorial service on her blog, per her wishes.
Markvoort isn't the only blogger to have shared her last days on a public forum. During the final five months of her life, 39-year-old Michelle Mayer, battling scleroderma, a rare autoimmune illness, blogged about being a mother and dealing with the topic of death on Portrait of a Dying Mom. 18-year-old Miles Levin, along with his mom and dad, kept a blog while in treatment for a rare type of terminal cancer, from 2006 until he passed away in 2007. In 2002, NPR aired "My So-Called Lungs," the audio diary of 21-year-old Laura Rothenberg, another young author with CF who died the following year.
Of course, this generation isn't the first to write about death.
The topic has certainly been explored before, in novels and biographies -- including a new genre by the boomer generation that might be called the Memorial Memoir. In "The Last Lecture," former Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who passed away in 2008, chronicles his diagnosis of terminal cancer, as well as the life teachings he'd most like to pass on.
In "The Council of Dads," Bruce Feiler writes about assembling a group of close male friends and asking them to raise his daughters, should his cancer prove incurable.
In other words, to fear death is a natural human phenomenon, but never before have we been able to confront and discuss it in such a large-scale conversation happening in real time, not after the fact. And it's Gen Y, content to air our dirty laundry -- and fears about our life expectancy -- that's leading it. When Markvoort's mother expressed discomfort with her daughter's blog, she recalls her saying, "We connect differently than your generation."
This No Thought Left Unpublished method of connecting is sometimes mocked, as we narrate every breakup and breakdown -- and almost anyone who blogs about her life on a regular basis has learned to adopt a healthy sense of humor about it.
But for every Julia Allison "lifecasting" gratuitously about shoes, there are friends being made and communities being formed, where this kind of personal blogging is about something bigger: a "we're all in this together" mentality. For those who know they're going to die, who have to wait for it alone in a hospital bed between visiting hours, the ability to connect to the outside world, beyond the hospital walls, as well as their inside world -- the network of fellow patients battling similar terminal illnesses -- feels both natural and necessary.
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