I am honored to have been featured on the blog of AFTR, a company that provides ways for the bereaved to virtually visit the gravesites of their dead loved ones. You can read their blog post featuring my story here.
I really appreciate what this company is doing, and I love the story of how it was created.
It was started by two siblings who were grieving the loss of their father. In response to Beth’s wishes to be able to visit her father’s grave more easily, her brother Joe created the AFTR camera, which was installed in the cemetery where their father was buried. They then realized that other people could benefit from this technology, and decided to share it with the world.
Connected to the internet and accessible through an app, AFTR offers a range of services to their users. They can virtually visit the gravesite, controlling the movement and angles of the camera. The app also connects to the cemetery directly, so users can request maintenance and cleaning services, or for fresh flowers to be laid at the site. They can write in the provided journal or talk to their loved one through the camera. They can listen to music while it simultaneously plays at the gravesite, as if they are listening to music together.
I think this whole idea is just beautiful. When I connected with Beth on Zoom a few months ago, her story moved me deeply. Talking to her made me realize how much I wished that I had dedicated gravesites where I could visit and remember my mother and younger brother, Andrew. While I felt sad that I didn’t even have the option to use their services, learning about them helped me understand why I was making my sculptures.
Hearing about Beth’s distress when she could not easily access her father’s grave while living in a different state, I recognized that I was equally distraught at not being able to access the de facto gravesite of my brother, where his ashes had been scattered in the front yard of our former home. I realized that my ‘Ghost Tike’ project was my own version of AFTR; it was my way of staying connected to my brother, by making an alternative gravesite for him.
It also helped me understand why I had been adamant about taking my mother’s ashes, putting them in a beautifully hand-carved wooden urn, and displaying them prominently in my home. I refused to scatter them because I needed her near me. I needed to be able to visit her and talk to her. I didn’t want to forget her or act like she never existed, the way it felt we had after Andrew died. I wanted her to still be a part of my life.
Learning about AFTR and connecting with their founders has helped me realize just how important it is to me to still feel connected to my brother and mother.
To get 10% off an AFTR camera, you can use my coupon code caitostewart-10 or click here.