ROBERT Mark Boydell joined Facebook in March 2017. He's slender; in his late-teens or early-20s with dark hair, high cheekbones and a rock-and-roll hipster aesthetic.
In one photo, he is stepping out of a closet, face painted and cigarette hanging between his fingers, bundled into a dark jacket and film camera haze - the kind of 20-something you would imagine hanging around outside a coffee shop or underground record store.
When Robert joined Facebook, its founder would have seemed only a few years older than him, staring down the barrel of the biggest data privacy scandal in living memory and grappling with the unavoidable sense that the digital landscape that had nurtured his ego and made him his fortune was turning on him; the world was losing patience with the Silicon Valley college kids moving fast and breaking things. But the young man in the photos didn't know that.
Robert Mark Boydell was born in 1956. He died of a drug overdose in his mother's Sydney home almost 25 years ago.
We have grappled with our own mortality for centuries, the psychologist says.
"We've been putting memorials up since Cleopatra and the Romans. But memorialisation in a virtual space; that's our new frontier."
Michael Bazaley keeps his consultation room on the second floor of a former bank building on Bolton Street.
A moment earlier, a visitor had been chatting with a friend on the reception staff. There was a sense they had not seen each other for a while; he wanted to know if they had kept the same phone numbers - had they saved the contacts to the phone or the cloud?
"Thecloud," the woman had said.
Bazaley leans into the corners of the brown leather chesterfield under the window, where a stark-white phrenology bust quietly surveys the room.
"What is permanence?" he asks, "Must our memory be in perpetuity forever?
"We've tried to do that since the Pharaohs. That's why they entombed themselves; so that they could live on in some other life. We've found permanence in the medium.
"The medium says you never really die. You're always here."
Jack Murphy's phone is plugged into the charger next to his mother's bed. Every morning, Siobhan checks her son's social media. He might have a few new followers on Instagram, or a message from one of his fans or friends. More than anything, she hopes that there will be a photo of him.
"Snapchat will replay photos on this day a year ago, or two years ago," she says. "It's a part of his life that I had never really seen."
Jack Murphy died of sudden cardiac death in June 2018. He was 14; a promising young scooter star with a growing following online. He had been posting videos of himself in training, practicing new tricks and encouraging his friends and followers.
"We knew he knew a lot of people. We couldn't go anywhere but somebody would know him," Siobhan says. "We just didn't know how big it was.
"He was a really outdoors boy. After school he would be on his scooter or out on the quads or at the beach.
"He used to say to me 'don't post that on Instagram, Mum, unless it's between 7pm and 8pm'.
"That's prime-time, apparently."
In the year since his death, Siobhan has been posting videos and photos of Jack on his social media profiles, sharing Snapchat memories with his friends.
The hashtag RideForMurphyhas more than 10,000 posts on Instagram alone.
"Whenever I post something, it's always between 7pm and 8pm."
Siobhan doesn't think about the day when there will be no more new memories resurfacing through the phone by the side of her bed each night. There will always be photos of Jack, she says, but it is hard to confront the reality that she will never get to see her son grow older. In so many photos and videos online, and countless more that Siobhan has not uploaded, Jack will never be older than 14.
In the days after his death, Siobhan's phone received hundreds of Facebook messages from family, friends, and strangers who had followed Jack's skating career. His Instagram page was flooded, registering more followers every day. His videos were being viewed thousands of times.
"He was like a magnet to people," Siobhan says, "Everyone just loved him and wanted a bit of him."
Scooters were left upturned outside Sacred Heart Cathedral at Newcastle West during the funeral. Mourners spilled out over the grounds. Thousands more around the world watched a broadcast of the service Siobhan had shared on social media.
"I think it made them feel like they were there," she says. "It was a comfort for me knowing that they could feel a part of it, and I suppose it was a comfort for them as well."
A little more than a year after his death, Jack Murphy has become a symbol of his sport, of the rare condition that caused his death, of a young life taken before its time. His Instagram profile, where Siobhan shares photos of Jack, announcements for upcoming memorial events and scooter equipment bearing his hashtag, has more than 8000 followers.
"There is the famous Jack, and then there is the Jack who was at home," she says. "For me, my son Jack. That's different."
Ruth Boydell does not often visit her brother's Facebook page.
"I feel it's a bit static," she says. "I don't want to put the energy into keeping this thing about my brother. But at the time, I guess I was looking for that ability to connect."
Facebook is the world's most popular social networking site. It employs 38,000 people. More than 1.5 billion users log-on every day and at least 1.4 billion will die before the year 2100. Hundreds of millions of profiles belonging to the deceased will be added to the site over the next 50 years; depending on its growth, the dead could outnumber the living before the end of the century.
Robert Boydell died the same day he was given custody of his children. He was 37.
Ruth had run away to sea when she was 17 before eventually becoming a maritime teacher. She remembers staring into the patterned carpet of her Newcastle home the morning her mother called to tell her Robert had died.
"I remember how weird it felt. It was unreal," she says. "It kind of unfolded in an unreal way.
"I suspect he thought he would go out and celebrate. By the time they called the ambulance, he had died."
Ruth was a year younger than Robert. They had grown up together, shared the same friends, and similar experiences.
"We had done a lot of drugs together as kids," she says. "He was sort of in that world, as I was. But when I went off sailing, I got my passion. My world opened up, but Rob was staying in that world."
Years later, in a season of school reunions, Ruth created Robert's Facebook page. It was comforting to see her friends and family sharing memories of her brother.
"That was what I was hoping for," she says. "I feel like it's a thing I've put out there and it was useful at the time. I don't quite know what to do now.
"Some of my other friends who have died, their Facebook pages are still up. I find it a bit distressing when people send happy birthdays.
"Do you know they are not alive? People can miss that."
DEATH and dying is not a young man's game.
In a small room where the walls are lined with urns, and a table is scattered with bronzed plaques all in same holding name, Garry Bellenger offers to make a cup of coffee. He's a quiet, kindly-spoken man, about 54.
"You won't find a lot of young people doing this job," he says. In his 40s, Bellenger was a man of his career. Bringing home the paycheque each week was what mattered, but the grind was taking its toll. He was feeling unmotivated, unhappy, dragging is feet to work each morning. "I had a mid-life crisis. I was sick of my job, and I wanted to do something that means something to people."
He left a career managing corporate accounts and came to work as a family services manager at Newcastle Memorial Park.
"People come to this industry because they have settled in life, their kids are generally off their hands, they're prepared to take pay cuts, and it's something that they want to get up and do every day" he says.
"The salaries aren't enormous, so it might not attract someone who's in their mid-20s or 30s going for home loans. You will find it is mostly mature people, 45 and older.
"I'm not saying a young person couldn't do it, but they almost need to be an old soul."
The Park's chapel was built more than 80 years ago. It was the first crematorium outside of Sydney, opened for business in what was then a remote, mostly Anglo-Saxon part of regional New South Wales where life ended in burial.
"To set up a crematorium out the back of nowhere," Bellenger says. "These guys must have had a foresight I can't believe."
At a controls desk near the back of the chapel, Dale Turner tests the equipment. Two small screens built into the desk control the camera above the door by a few taps of a stylus. Turner shifts from views of the lectern, the seating arrangement and the space at the end of the hall where the casket would stand during the eulogy.
Bellenger remembers when the camera was installed - all sleek, inconspicuous white plastic and metal, mounted above the chapel doors. He had wondered who would use it, and whether this was the next big step.
"A lot of families are pretty cluey, and they know there are recording devices in there," he says. "Families will ask to come in and test the AV equipment, and we encourage that because you do not want to get a file corrupted at the time."
The video is streamed live to an invite-only cloud service provided by the New Zealand-based funeral streaming company OneRoom.
"The market found us," OneRoom chief executive David Lutterman says. "It was such a good idea and such a good market to be in that we ended up just focussing exclusively on that. The only thing we do now is stream and record funeral services."
The business had been registered in 2008 to service the New Zealand corporate sector, webcasting annual general meetings on demand, but in 2012 it was approached by a private crematorium.
OneRoom hosts more than 1000 password-protected funeral broadcasts each month. New Zealand had become a validation market, Lutterman says. Within a few years, the company had expanded into Australia and the United States. It doubled its output between 2017 and 2018 and is on track to grow at the same rate in 2019.
Siobhan doesn't recall how she found the videographer who would broadcast Jack's funeral. The days after he died are a haze.
She remembers the indecision. Her family had to decide if they would take his body home to Ireland for burial, or whether he would be buried in Newcastle - who could attend the funeral, who was able to travel.
"All our families are in Ireland and we have a lot of friends in the UK," she says. "We have friends in America who all wanted to come and we were saying it's too expensive.
"I said let's stream it."
A little more than a year later, Siobhan has watched the service once.
"It was like reliving the funeral," she says. "I haven't watched it for a long time, and I don't think I will for a long time, but it's still nice to have it."
When Newcastle Memorial Park opened, it didn't have a phone line. The grounds were almost entirely disconnected from the world outside. In 2017, the first live-streamed funeral was broadcast to an imprisoned inmate who could not be released to attend in person.
"The fact that the internet has become as reliable as it is - and obviously in these locations, we have good connections so you know you're getting a reasonable-quality picture," Lutterman says. "It becomes immersive enough that you get a sense of experiencing the event, and it's that sort of emotional reaction that we get from people.
"The average number of people that can make it back to a funeral is around 60 or 65. But any given person that passes away can leave a community of survivors of about 200. Being able to record this and share it is great for those people."
IT HAS taken almost 20 years for Ruth Boydell to grieve her brother's death.
In the small two-bedroom apartment that extends from her home at Garden Suburb, Ruth offers a chair opposite the exposed brick hearth. She calls this place her Care-BNB where families can come to stay, be close to John Hunter Hospital, and to be close to her. Ruth has spent the last two and a half years training and working as a death doula in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.
"We do exactly at the end of life what a midwife does at the beginning," she says.
'Doula' comes from the ancient Greek for servant, but it became popular in the 1960s describing women who guided mothers through childbirth.
"There are so many aspects to grief," Ruth says. "It's like being in a washing machine on a rollercoaster.
Western cultural tradition has a tendency to deny the inevitability of death, she says. "If we haven't got somewhere safe to express that loss, we hold on to it until we crack open."
In Mexico, there's the Day of the Dead, she says; All Saints Day and Halloween; in India, there's the open cremation of bodies on the ghat.
"That is knowing you're mortal. It's being reminded over and over again that we are impermanent. We are going to die, and it will be ok.
"In the West, we say 'go on another cruise'."
In 2016, Ruth woke up in the emergency department with no memory of how she had arrived there or why. She and her husband, Dave, had arrived at the airport in Melbourne, travelling home from Tasmania, when Ruth suddenly became unwell. Dave phoned for an ambulance, convinced his wife had suffered a stroke.
"I was living a very stressed and different life," she says. "I asked Dave over and over again, 'who am I? Why are we here?' You know, the questions."
Ruth was diagnosed with an episode of transient global amnesia, a condition of sudden memory loss despite no other serious health concerns. She was released from hospital the next day, overcome by the feeling she had been "called to awaken in a new way".
"I came out of it knowing," she says. "Knowing that I had been somewhere. I felt my mortality, and I liked the feeling. It was pleasant to know that I'm going to die one day, and all will be well.
Psychologically speaking, Michael Bazaley says, the way we think about our lives and mortality has remained the same for centuries.
We grieve in groups; "we're social beings. There is a lot of research about how we don't do very well in isolation.
"We live in a time where there's a lot of influences to get our attention, but I think we are still struggling with the same things: what happens when I die? Where am I going? What am I doing?'
"In this new process of grieving online, there is a chance we could become detached from that group mourning experience."
If Ruth had thought of death as an end point, the sudden loss of her memory had broadened her perspective.
"We are more than our bodies," she says. "And more than our minds."
It has only been in the last three or four years that she has been able to come to terms with her brother's death; "to do a lot of crying, deliberately looking at what happened and feeling Rob's loss."
"It was really hard," she says. "A lot of other stuff went on; anger and frustration and blame. Rob was kind of relegated to just being dead. There was no body, no viewing. I went to see him at the funeral home. I gave him a kiss and he was so cold. It was a shock to do that, but I was glad to see him at the end because it had felt so unreal.
"I think some people will feel grief virtually. They'll feel it powerfully because they want to feel it powerfully. I put up Rob's Facebook page because he had never had that.
"I think that idea of safety is an important aspect of being able to be emotional."
Siobhan Murphy finds a comfort in keeping her son's social media pages open to her, his friends, and his followers. It feels like keeping his legacy alive. For Jack's father, Robert, it is sometimes difficult.
"It depends on what type of person you are, I suppose," she says. "I get a lot of comfort from it. Sometimes, Robert can't."
In the days after Jack's death, Siobhan recalls finding a message he had written to a girl around his age. "This long message of 'you know your self-worth'," she says. "He just wanted to look after everyone.
"I feel like he would want me to do this. I think he would want me to keep going."
The first generation of digital natives are approaching middle age, literate in a unique kind of relationship with the non-physical, creating terabytes of digital estates that will broach a new cultural dilemma around death and dying. In the 21st Century, data is the world's most valuable resource, and the new currency of inheritance.
"I think the nature of the event is changing," Lutterman says. "There are some creative ideas around the disposal of ashes, shooting them into space or pressing them into precious metals."
On average, OneRoom's online funeral viewership is between 10 and 15 people, but it is common to have between 200 and 300 viewers, he says. He recalls one stream with an audience of more than 2000 people.
"There is definitely more instances of technology coming into the sector," he says. "Last year, we reached 80,000 viewers. We're getting more services that are being streamed, and more guests attending each service.
"What this is, it's an emotional asset for the family. It's like a time capsule. Who wouldn't want that?"
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