Visiting the dead on Google Street View

Over at OK Whatever, Jessie Schiewe tells of people who have looked up family addresses on Google Street View and found ghostly images of their dead loved ones in the midst of their everyday lives — mowing the lawn, grabbing the mail, washing the car. From OK Whatever:

…For most people, finding dead relatives in Google Street View can be a great comfort. The father-in-law of a Reddit user called lovelyriver2929 was elated when he discovered his late-wife standing in front of their home in one of the photos taken of their address.

"He goes and looks at it sometimes," she wrote. "He loves it because it was just her doing something completely normal on a completely normal day."

For some people, it's a reminder of what their loved ones looked like before they got sick, when they were still healthy enough to go outside and wash the car or mow the lawn. Sometimes these are even the last known images to be taken of a person.

"My grandpa died in 2017 and no one had any pictures with him from recent years. He only took photos when he was holding babies, and all us grandkids are in our teens and 20s," one Reddit user wrote. "But I did this same thing and found a Google Street View photo of him mowing his front lawn from 2016. It was really good to see him doing something he loved to do and was always doing when he was here."

And then sometimes, the ghosts vanish. Bill Frankel wrote a lovely essay at Modern Loss about finding a Google Street View image of his father working in the yard at his home. The photo was taken before Bill and his siblings moved their dad into a retirement community where he died shortly after. From Modern Loss:

(A story I read online) prompted me to go check on my father in the yard, as I had done so many times before (most recently within the past couple of months).

But this time, he was gone. Google had updated the picture.

That fact was more shocking than finding my father there in the first place, some three years earlier. I'm not an emotional person, but this revelation really overwhelmed me with sadness, especially as I broke the news to my wife and my siblings.

As my oldest sister said, being able to check in on Dad in the yard (even virtually) helped mitigate the guilt we felt for taking him out of his element in the first place. It was as if he spent the past few years "at home."