Real Life

My cyberspace cemetery

At any time of day, from any part of the world, visitors to Sue Skeet’s very special cemetery are welcome to pay respects to their lost loved ones. They can share memories, light a candle and even make a donation to a charity.

In fact, the only thing missing from Sue’s virtual cemetery is the grave itself. That hasn’t stopped visitors to her site, www.amemorytree.co.nz, from creating more than 80,000 pages of remembrance and leaving thousands of messages since the website launched in January this year.

It was a tragic loss of her own – the murder of her friend, Christchurch accountant Trevor Clague (43), in 2006 – that led to Sue starting the site. “When Trevor died, my friends and I didn’t know what to say or do because we didn’t know his family,” she says. “The only opportunity to share our stories was at the funeral and I came away from there feeling incomplete.”

Sue decided to give up her marketing job, re-mortgage her Christchurch home and turn her garage into an office, where she now carefully documents all funeral notices and offers an online forum for friends and family to pay their respects.

This mum is all too familiar with the pain of loss. over the years, Sue has lost a friend to a heart defect, another in a car crash and yet another to suicide. Her ex-husband also took his own life.

Then, when Sue decided to adopt another baby from the same mother who gave birth to her daughter Georgie (10), she excitedly prepared the nursery only for the little girl to die of kidney problems just two hours after she was born.

“I often think, ‘Just how much loss can one person go through in 20 years?’ It’s easy to get sad and feel alone,” she says, “but it goes deeper than that – personal experiences can make or break you.” Rather than be broken by her losses, Sue focuses on channelling her pain into building the website. She believes it provides an important service – a virtual space for others to grieve.

“I feel like I’m offering something really positive,” she says. “Life changes us but our memories of those who have passed away remain the same. And it’s good to share them.”

See amemorytree.co.nz

Vicky Tyler

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