Zoom memorials highlight the ironic cruelty of trying to mourn together during the pandemic
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Earlier this month, I attended my first Zoom wedding. A week after that, I attended a Zoom baby shower.

Tomorrow, I'll attend a Zoom gathering to mourn the loss of a family friend. His name was Peter. He died of COVID-19 last week.

This gathering isn't technically a funeral or memorial service, but rather a virtual devotional taking place on Zoom at the same time as Peter's physical burial. A few close friends and family will gather at the gravesite—masked and distanced—while the rest of us share readings and prayers over Zoom to honor his interment.

It's weird. There's no other way to say it. With the wedding and baby shower, we all sort of laughed our way through the weirdness. We acknowledged the bummer of not being able to get together, but at this point we're all accustomed to having to meet virtually. Zoom celebrations are better than no celebrations at all.

But mourning this way feels...different. We can't laugh away the awkwardness of it when the Zoom meeting itself is a reminder of the tragic cause of our friend's death.


Celebratory gatherings are fun, but not necessary. Gathering when someone dies feels necessary in a way, and the inability to do that adds an extra layer of loss to the grief we're already experiencing. Normally, our whole community would gather together to honor Peter's life tomorrow. We'd put on appropriate funeral attire, stand side by side at his grave, hold hands or hug one another as we mark the momentousness of his passing. We'd all bring food and break bread together as we share stories of his life. We'd pass around tissues, crying and laughing and sharing in the oh-so-human experience of bringing together the lives he had touched.

But we can't do any of that. If we did, we'd run the risk of having to do it all over again for another friend or loved one taken too soon by this stupid virus. So we do what we can do and deal with the strange questions—What does one wear to a Zoom mourning? How long it will be before we can actually gather for a real memorial service? Will it feel like it's too late then? Will we want to do that in the midst of celebrating a return to non-distanced life?

This pandemic has taken so much, and each thing stings in its own way. The death toll itself is overwhelming, especially here in the U.S. where we have already lost more than 330,000 lives. A hundred 9/11s and counting. Five Vietnams in less than a year. It's unreal. In the beginning, we were told that all of us would likely end up knowing someone who died of COVID-19, and some people have now lost multiple family members. More will follow as we head into the deadliest month of the pandemic. That's not doom and gloom forecasting—that's the reality of the current moment.

But the loss of in-person mourning as millions are losing loved ones before they expected to is a tragedy in and of itself. There's a cruel irony in it, that we can't gather in person to mourn if we want to stop the thing that's making it so we can't gather in person to mourn. When we need the comfort of coming together the most, we can't, as indulging in that comfort could lead to even more suffering. Of all of the sacrifices we've had to make, the loss of communal mourning is one of the hardest.

And so we open our computers and enter our virtual meeting rooms and try to comfort one another through our grief amid the inevitable unmute reminders. It's weird. It all feels wrong. But it's necessary. We need to mourn our losses together. We also need to be able to mourn the fact that we're not able to do that the way we want to.

There is gratitude to be found in all of this, of course. It's pretty incredible that we live in a time when we have the technology to at least see one another's faces and hear people's voices as we share our losses at a distance. If this pandemic had hit in my childhood, we'd have had no community ability to mourn at all. A Zoom gathering to mourn is better than no gathering at all—but it's still all of the weird, wrong, sad things at once.

And what's extra painful about it is that it didn't have to be this way. Next time we have a pandemic, let's all agree to just follow New Zealand's lead, shall we? Hundreds of thousands of Zoom funerals really ought to be enough to get us all on the same page.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.