One key feature of the traditional funeral is the opportunity for family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, to come together in person. Whether it’s a religious or non-religious ceremony, cremation or burial, that sense of being together is central.
So what do we do when coming together is the very thing that’s not possible? During the COVID pandemic severe restrictions were placed on numbers at funerals. And although things have now returned to some sort of normality, families are often scattered and can find it difficult to come together for a funeral.
One answer that some celebrants and funeral directors explored during the pandemic was to use Zoom, Teams, FaceBook, Vimeo and other internet software to conduct “web ceremonies” or “virtual funerals”. To get people together online and to deliver a eulogy, play music, read poetry, say prayers or share stories and memories.
Just a few years ago that might have seemed farfetched but lockdown forced us to rethink how we work and interact. At the start of the pandemic I conducted a funeral in Perth that I streamed using Zoom to include family members in Canada. In March 2021I did more online services than “attended”.
There were lots of technical problems to overcome but it worked surprisingly well. It can even bring some benefits. Of course there’s the opportunity to bring family and friends together from far and wide. But also to work creatively and to allow more participation than is possible in the traditional ceremony. To create an online space that allows for dignity and respect.
Even as lockdown becomes a distant memory, I think the Zoom funeral or memorial is a valuable alternative to meeting in person.
Or I can arrange for you to talk someone in a family I’ve worked with.