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At the appointed time, hundreds of us log on to the virtual memorial service. We gather to mourn in one another's living rooms, home offices and bedrooms. As the first prayer is read, our faces are blank; we are unsure how to behave, how to grieve in this format.

Some of us sit on imagined pews, upright and pious; others of us rest elbows on tables, heads in hands. A few of us wear black; one entire family is in sport shorts. Once the ceremony is underway, some of us remain church-still, and others come in and out of the screen to let the dog out, or tend to wayward children. One woman eats dinner during the eulogy, looking up between bites of stew. As a loved one reads a poem, her voice catches, falters and she cries aloud onscreen. In unison, we bow our heads, dab our eyes. When we have to look away, we gaze absent-mindedly into each other's homes. A couple sits in front of an enormous landscape painting; brushstrokes of every possible shade of green move across the canvas. My god, we wonder, stupidly, is that a Kandinsky?

Meanwhile, as the grown son of the dead man weeps in muted, sorrowful heaves, none of us can put an arm around him to say, I know, I know.


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