In the lead-up to his death from cancer last year, R U OK Day founder Gavin Larkin had the touching idea of delivering his own eulogy via a video he recorded.

To his family and friends, his message of love and encouragement was probably of small consolation, but in a sense his video, as well as his charity, give him a semblance of immortality.

Any time his loved ones want to experience his humanity or ponder his wisdom, they just have to visit his tribute website where they can see, hear and perhaps even feel his presence.

I'd never be so crude as to suggest Larkin has "cheated death" just because you can watch him on YouTube but he, like many other lesser-known Australians, now live on in the digital world.

Eternal life has been a fascination of mankind since our earliest moments, thus the almost universal theme of immortality that pervades mythology, religion and literature.

However, even though we live longer than ever, physical perpetuity is still as distant a reality as world peace.

Since the death of my stepfather Sean in 2011, just months after Larkin passed, I've nonetheless been struck by how much of our loved ones remain with us, thanks to technology.

My biological father Gus died in 1999 and I'm pretty sure he never even owned an answering machine, let alone a mobile phone. My physical memories of him are limited to photographs and a handful of short stories he wrote as a young man.

My stepfather Sean, though no technophile, was by default immersed in a level of connectivity many of us could barely have anticipated a decade ago. When you call our family home, he still greets us with his droll "you know the drill" suggestion for leaving a message.

To commemorate the first anniversary of his death, my mother decided to go overseas and stay at a Paris hotel where they'd shared some decadent nights.

While planning her itinerary, she jumped on to Google Maps to refresh her memory as to the hotel's exact location and there on "Street View" was my step-dad, standing on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette (yep, he died of cancer too).

Immortality? Probably not, but again, a semblance.

The writer Augusten Burroughs makes the observation in his new book This is How, that a "good death" is any one that ends in a bed.

Many people who've farewelled loved ones in such a way might disagree but the opportunity to say "goodbye" is denied countless people who die suddenly, in accidents or through trauma, war or natural disasters.

A woman I know was refused this chance when her son killed himself some years ago but she continued to pay his mobile phone bill for over a year afterwards, just so she could hear his cheeky voicemail message.

Tribute pages to the departed on Facebook, though cloying and histrionic in many cases, are no less worthy attempts by people to hold on to some part of those they cherish.

I know I still get a jolt of sadness, then surges of reminiscence when I see my dead cousin Will Blake's profile pop up on my list of social media friends.

Immortality? Again, not quite - but the funeral cliche of our loved ones "living on in our hearts" has certainly been augmented by their continued presence in our digital lives.

And they also can't unfriend us.

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