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Friday, 7 January, 2000, 18:41 GMT
Cyber cemetery goes online

cybercemetery graphic


UK stonemason Peter Bright has given up his tombstone business to carve out a new career as an internet entrepreneur, running a "virtual cemetery" website.

The website, at www.inmemoryof.co.uk, allows users to place obituaries and write full-length memorials to dead relatives and friends. They pay up to 120 for a tribute which will run for two years.

Instead of visiting a headstone to grieve their dearly departed, the bereaved can simply make a couple of clicks with a mouse.



"Death is a very real thing, it is not virtual. A dead person is really dead and those grieving need human comfort which cannot be replaced or substituted by a computer.
Church of England spokeswoman
Mr Bright, from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, hopes the website - of which there are already several on the internet, mainly based in the US - will eventually become as popular as more traditional ways of grieving.

But the news has brought a cautious response from church leaders.

Cautious welcome

A spokeswoman for the Birmingham Diocese of the Church of England was concerned it could trivialise grief.

She said: "Death is a very real thing, it is not virtual.

"A dead person is really dead and those grieving need human comfort which cannot be replaced or substituted by a computer.

"This may end up having a place in the grieving process, but only if it helps people come to terms with loss rather than prolong suffering."

Mr Bright said the site was "tasteful" and provided an important service for relatives.


Part of the modern grieving process?
He told BBC News Online that people were often upset by the restrictions on materials, lettering and wording, which are often imposed by local authorities in traditional graveyards.

He said: "I call them the style police. Why shouldn't someone be able to say 'dear grandad' or something like that?

"Our site will let them express themselves as they wish, within reason".

Fragmented families

He said he viewed the website as "complementary" to traditional procedures of grief.

Mr Bright said: "The terrestrial memorial as we know it will, of course, always have its place. But how many of us live miles from the cemeteries containing the ones we love?

"And we're all so fragmented as families nowadays, it's hard to all meet up in the same place."

As for complaints that such a site should be free, he pointed out that memorials in graveyards often cost hundreds of pounds.

Costs to set up a memorial for two years on the site start at 25 for a text page and run up to about 120 for a page including photographs, video clips and guest books.

Once the site is properly up and running, said Mr Bright, it is expected that the memorials will stay online forever.

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