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Occasionally when I’m watching television I’ll see Google commercials for Chrome and Google+. I know that all companies have a lot of marketing hype, and it’s easy to get pulled into their advertising.

All the marketing glitz aside, I’ve found my own personal story to tell about how Google has helped my cousin, her husband, and the rest of my family cope with the loss of my dear great aunt. Barnie Hall passed away in January at the age of 97. As I was growing up, she was one of the people in my life who held things together for our family. I remember the wonderful Christmas eves spent at her house and the raucous fun that she would have with my grandmother making fruit cakes (with just a little bit of wine!). After their family moved away in search of paradise – first to Hawaii, then to Naples (FL), and finally to the Florida Keys, I had the great fun of visiting them in those tropical locations. We took our daughter to meet Aunt Barnie when she was 3 months old. I have a great photo of Aunt Barnie holding Meg (in a tiny blue swimsuit) at their first meeting. Every year since then, we have visited them in the Keys and I have a photos of Meg growing up with Aunt Barnie.

So how does Google fit into this story? In December I introduced my cousin to GMail because she was having so much trouble with her e-mail client program. We enjoyed sending photos to each other and it made communicating much easier for her. We received the terrible phone call about Aunt Barnie’s death on January 15.

I was able to get down to visit my cousin during the first week after Aunt Barnie’s death. I feel so fortunate that I was able to be with them as they began coping with the loss. I installed Chrome on their laptop, and we had a few wonderful Google+ hangouts with my husband and Meg. It was so good that they could join us as we cried together and told stories. I hated to leave, but since then I have enjoyed seeing the green chat light when my cousin is online, and we’ve had a few nice chats that way. I’ve also posted photos and videos of Barnie to Picasa and YouTube to share. I used the people feature in Picasa to find all of our photos of Barnie and was able to create a beautiful slideshow of wonderful times spent in the keys with her – walking on No Name bridge, playing putt putt, and having picnics at Bahia Honda or Fort Zachary Taylor parks. Good times and often very funny times!

My cousin has also found her voice with Google Docs. She is going back through all of the stories that they wrote over the years and putting them in Google Docs. Every day I get one or two stories written in her voice or Aunt Barnie’s voice. All of the memories come flooding back, and I can hear Aunt Barnie speaking the words. The writing is therapeutic, and the stories are now recorded for our entire family to read and enjoy. The stories are wonderful, and I’ve already volunteered a title for my cousin’s future book!

Grief continues, but staying connected has made a difference for all of us. If you haven’t been writing down your stories, I encourage you to start sharing stories with those you love. It can make a huge difference in their lives.

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