Monday, November 19, 2012

Lance Richardson, R.I.P.

Lance Richardson, 1974 - 2012
This is the closest thing to an obituary I've ever written. If you’re a cemetery photographer on Facebook, you may have known Lance Richardson. On August 8, 2012, we lost one of our own. It’s an odd situation when a Facebook “Friend” dies. Social media is requiring us to recalibrate our mourning strategies. Lance was someone with whom I communicated briefly over the past three years, prior to his death in August 2012. He was a fellow cemetery photographer.

One day at the end of this past summer, quite out of the blue, his wife posted a comment on Lance’s Facebook page saying that Lance had unexpectedly passed away. An immense shock - he was 38. His wife, his widow, knew of his passion for cemetery photography and his social involvement with Friends on Facebook, so she kindly broke the news. Certainly she had other things to deal with, so we are grateful that she took the time to do this.

Postings of sympathies and condolences poured onto Lance’s page, certainly blurring the line between virtual friends and flesh-and-blood friends. Virtual friends can care as much as actual ones. A week or so ago, through a mutual Facebook Friend, I was made aware of the Lance Richardson Monument Fund. Its purpose can best be explained by Dawn Richardson, Lance’s wife:

My name is Dawn Richardson. I am Lance's wife. I lost Lance on August 3. He passed away unexpectedly. He was 38 years old. He was my best friend, my soul mate, my everything. We spent every moment very much in love.   One of the things that Lance and I enjoyed doing was visiting cemeteries. We would photograph all these beautiful monuments. Some of the places we would visit seemed as if time had forgotten. I do not have the money to get the headstone that he deserves. I don't have the money to get him one period at this point.   I would like to raise $4000 to get him something that he would love to have photographed. Any more than this amount will go towards the funeral costs that still have to be paid. That amount is $6750. Thank you so much for helping me make this dream a reality.

I’m sure many of us cemetery photographers and taphophiles have thought about our own eventual demise and therefore, our grave markers. The idea that Lance should have one that he would have loved to photograph himself is one that resonates with all of us. I made a donation; a very worthwhile cause, as I see it. I think deep down many of us hope someone cares this much about us when we ourselves die. All the more reason to help Dawn Richardson meet her goal.

Facebook provides us with a way to touch people’s lives in a very personal way, and Lance touched many people’s lives. Social media is often criticized for being a poor substitute for face-to-face human involvement, insinuating that the interactions are less real, less human. When you think about it, social media is just a new technology. Did the telephone make us all less personal? I don’t think so. How about the Internet in general? No, these technologies brought us closer together.

So Rest in Peace, and thank you Lance Richardson – even in death you continue to bring many of us closer together.