(Wired) Some people can’t live without e-mail — and, apparently, some people can’t die without it. Fortunately for those in the latter group, there’s mylastemail.com, a new service that promises to deliver your final, heartfelt e-mail messages to your friends and relatives once you have passed on to that big cubicle in the sky.
Launched Monday by Tampa, Florida-based LifeTouch, the service lets customers store up to five messages on the company’s server until they die. At that time, a customer’s friend, relative or colleague mails a release certificate to LifeTouch, which then initiates the delivery of the messages.
According to LifeTouch co-founder Karen Peach, the service is not intended to replace the process of drafting a legal will, but rather to provide a sense of comfort to those who write — and those who eventually receive — the e-mail messages.
“While there are lawyers and services that will help you get the practical aspects (of your death) planned, mylastemail.com is meant to help you with the compassionate aspect,” said Peach. “It’s a way to ensure that you get the chance to say your final goodbyes.”
Monday’s launch does not mark the first time a company has offered such a service. Indeed, entrepreneurs conceived two similar services during the dot-com mania of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The first service, FinalThoughts.com, attempted to provide customers with a one-stop shop for so-called end-of-life planning. At one point, executives talked about taking the company public.
The second service, TimelessMail.com, used Social Security death records to initiate the delivery of its customers’ messages. The service cost customers as much as $24 per year.
Neither service survived.
The LifeTouch founders are hoping for a different outcome this time around by setting both their prices and their expectations low. A subscription to mylastemail.com costs just $10 for three years and — as of yet — there are no grand plans to launch an IPO or to become a portal for the not-yet-dead.
Still, LifeTouch faces a number of other obstacles with the service. For instance, one of the company’s target groups — the terminally ill — also happens to be the group whose members are most often encouraged to reconcile their feelings with their loved ones before they die.
“In a situation where someone is nearing the end of his or her life, you want to maximize the communication up front,” said Les Morgan, president of Growth House, a San Francisco-based organization that supports people and agencies dealing with death and dying issues.
“Saying ‘I love you’ or ‘I forgive you’ before the death helps everybody,” said Morgan. “If you’re thinking of sending an e-mail after the fact, you may want to ask yourself what it is that you want to say and why you can’t say it before you leave.”
Despite such questions, the LifeTouch co-founders remain optimistic about the success of their service.
“We think there’s a good number of ‘silver surfers’ over 50 years old out there who would like to do this for their grandchildren, but mylastemail.com could really be for anyone over 18,” said Peach. “And even if we get just a few hundred people, that’s just fine by us.”