Shanna Riley February 28th, 2008
One of the most enjoyable parts of this hobby, for me, is helping others. You never know when a grave you photograph or a memorial you put online might help a grieving loved one visit a grave they might otherwise never have been able to see.
The Find A Grave website's Success Stories page gives you a glimpse of how FAG, and its contributors, have helped people the world over. Genealogists have found the site to be a wonderful resource, while some - because of the site - are simply able to visit a grave (albeit virtually) they may never have had a chance to do because of distance. Others were able to find the grave of an old friend whose final resting place had previously been unknown. Some others - like myself - find the ability to virtually "visit" and "leave flowers" for their deceased loved ones a huge help in the grieving process.
A wonderful method of helping with costs of running the website and to honor the dead, is the Sponsorship program. By sponsoring a memorial, for the cost of $5.00, you remove all ads from that memorial's page. The sponsored memorial will also show with a red heart in search listings, indicating it has been sponsored. Sponsored memorials are considered a bit more touching and special, and FAGers will often sponsors memorials of fellow gravers as a token of respect or a gift of consoling the bereaved. Still others will sponsor all family memorials, or those of individuals who touched them during their lifetimes. Whenever a memorial - or person - has touched me in some way, I often sponsor them. It's a token of respect, and it helps the burgeoning cost of running such a huge website; I contribute when I can as a "thank you" to Jim Tipton and the other admins, who run this wonderful website in their own free time and out of their own pockets.
I have sponsored fifty-eight memorials in my year as an FAG member; my family, of course, but others were simply people who touched me, for whatever reason. Some others, still, I sponsored as an act of kindness to the owner of the memorial.
Fritzi Lee Adleren, for example, I never knew. Her smiling face and tragic, young death - combined with the words of the man who loved and lost her - moved me to tears. I couldn't help but think of my sister, and her losing Lance - her boyfriend of ten years - to an automobile accident. I felt moved, and I sponsored her without a second thought.
I never knew Ima Creech, but her saucy, wise-looking countenance struck me one day as I came across her memorial. I felt, for whatever reason, drawn to the woman and before I'd finished reading her bio, had sponsored her memorial. Sometimes it just happens like that. In the end, I'm helping the website, the deceased, and the family of the deceased.
Another non-related sponsorship was that of the three, beautiful Coble children, Kyle, Emma, and Katie, whose absolutely tragic death upset me so, at the time, that I literally cried for days. On the 4th of May, in 2007, on I-5 in Mission Viejo, California, a semi-truck piled into the back of the family's mini-van; Lori Coble, the children's mother, was driving and her mother, Cynthia Maestri, was in the front passenger seat. All three children died that day; their mother and grandmother survived only to live with the horror of such an enormous loss. The Coble's were in my thoughts and prayers for months afterwards, and sponsoring the memorials of the three, little angels made me feel as if I were doing something - however small. In some very small way, I was honoring their short lives. I would have done anything in my power to ease the suffering of Lori and Chris Coble - but what can you do in the face of such a tragedy? It was small, but it was still something.
To deviate from my post for a second, I have to share with you that I recently read that Lori Coble is pregnant. While that, in itself, is wonderful news - the full story will make you believe in the power of love and miracles. She and Chris decided to try and start a new family, and opted to be inseminated. Amazingly, three of the ten implanted eggs took - and Lori is pregnant with triplets, and, yes, the fetuses are a boy and two girls. Doctors say there was only a ten percent chance that three of ten eggs would take; how amazing is that? You can read the amazing, touching story here.
Another, and one of the main ways, that Find A Grave allows contributors to actively help others is through the Photo Request program. Say you know a relative or old friend is buried in a particular cemetery - miles and states away from where you currently reside. You would love to see their headstone, and have a place to virtually "visit" and pay your respects. You would, then, post a Photo Request for that particular cemetery. A helpful, local contributor would accept the request and go out to photograph the grave. Once the request is fulfilled, you have a picture you might never have been able to get by your own means. This is also very helpful when doing genealogical research and wanting photos of ancestors in graveyards far away from home.
I have done five photo requests in my time, and each was special to me. They were all at Greenoaks Memorial Park in Baton Rouge. Some were easy to find, and others took over an hour of searching - yet each was rewarding and worth the extra time. Every photo request I have filled, I have been blessed to receive a thank you email or message from the original requester - which means so much to me. It is quite something to see your hobby helping others in action.
Hobbies are wonderful things, but when they also allow you to reach out and help others, they become something even more special.