A Viral Tweet Sent Me Searching for My Dead Mom on Google Street View
The mapping app can provide surprising solace for grieving loved ones
There are dead people on Google Street View.
“My grandpa passed away a few years ago. We didn’t get to say goodbye to him,” Leslie Yajaira (@yajairalyb) recently tweeted. “Yesterday we found out Google Maps finally drove through his farm and as we were curious going through it, where the road ends, there is my grandpa, just sitting there.”
Accompanying the tweet (and the crying-face emoji) was a short video of someone clicking down the roads of Labor de Guadalupe, Mexico, on Google Street View, ending as it focused on a man wearing a small hat, holding a cane, and sitting in a white plastic chair in front of a low building.
The tweet has received more than 400,000 likes and has been retweeted more than 60,000 times. The reason for its popularity is clear by the hundreds of comments other users left below it. Yajaira was hardly the first person to discover a lost loved one on Google Street View. Dozens of people replied with screenshots of their own.
“Going on 4 years this May since my amazing dad passed away, here he is working on the car outside doing what he did best aside (from) being a father,” Richard Moore Jr. replied, adding a screenshot of a man bent over the open hood of a car parked in a driveway. “Just a [sic] absolutely amazing man & this makes me smile every time.”
Photographs, even the fleeting images of social media or an online mapping tool, confirm that something happened the way we remember it happening or someone was the way we remember them being. Always fixing the car or washing the truck. Forever running errands or gardening. Endlessly sitting on the porch or chilling in the front yard. Photos, in other words, confirm what has been lost or even help us find it.
But sometimes they can’t.
Nearly two years after my mom, Judy, died of brain cancer, my sister gave me a USB stick. All our family photo albums landed in her basement after my mom’s house was cleared out. She had all the pictures scanned, saved on a central hard drive, then replicated again to be distributed.