Like most of you, I was never advised to “shelter in place” and the term “social distancing” was not part of my vernacular. But the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed all that, and many of our loved ones, especially our elderly or those with compromised immune systems, are in danger.
How are we going to celebrate their lives if they succumb to the virus in the days, weeks and months to come? How are we going to honor those who will perish from natural causes or, sadly, from tragedy in these times when it is not possible to meet? The populations most likely to die will be the elderly. Therefore, the people who would have attended the funeral or the celebration of life will also be 60 or older. The elderly population with underlying health problems is the most susceptible to this virus. Clearly the last thing we need is to come together and put people at risk. At the same time, surrounding each other is exactly what we need in times of pain. It is crucial to give ourselves, as well as the relatives and friends of the deceased, a time and a place to mourn. Experts say that this virus can be around for months. What is the best place to do this to ensure everyone’s safety? The answer is virtually on your phone, tablet, or computer.
As we have seen in Italy, celebrations can happen by coordination, and suddenly everyone opens their windows and chants at the same time. A virtual funeral can be organized in the same way. As with planning a typical funeral, you’ll want people to know the date your life’s celebration will take place through a standard newspaper obituary, Facebook ad, email, messages from text, phone calls, and even handwritten invitations. .
Family and friends will find an added benefit that a virtual funeral will eliminate the rush to make airline reservations, hotel reservations and spend a lot of money that they probably did not have in their budget. If you have previous commitments at the time of the virtual funeral, almost all platforms allow you to record it and share the link to watch it at another time.
If you think you will soon lose a loved one, why not make the most of your time at home? Why not go through our old photo boxes and go through all those images on our computers and phones. Scanning photos of your loved one, adding pictures of your favorite memories, and downloading your favorite music will not only personalize the event, but can also add much-needed warmth in times of loss.
You can also familiarize yourself with the many platforms you could be using to virtually reunite your loved ones, such as zoom.us, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, Skype, and YouTube Live.
There is a lot to do when planning a funeral and planning a virtual one is no different. The following checklist will give you a head start. If you think you may need to host a virtual funeral, here are some things you can do to get a head start:
YOUR VIRTUAL FUNERAL GUIDE
• Try various platforms with a friend to see which one you prefer. I recommend zoom.us. If you’re unfamiliar with video conferencing, you’ll want to go to their website’s zoom website, click on meetings, and watch the video showing how it works.
• Start collecting emails and phone numbers from friends and family who are likely to want to attend the funeral. Sending the link to the service via text message is also an option.
• Gather the photos together, and if they’re not digital, you’ll want to start scanning or taking photos of the photos and storing them in a folder. When the time comes, you can ask your friends and family to share your photos too.
• Plan to have a Power Point presentation of the photos. You can ask a friend or family member for help with the Power Point presentation if you are not familiar with the program. The zoom.com video conferencing system allows you to publish a PowerPoint presentation, videos, photos or any file on your computer.
• Make a music playlist of your loved one’s favorite songs. Consider having a musician or singer present.
• Plan to put together a memory chart of items that were important to the person (I would like a pickle lollipop and a box or two of See’s candy on my table). The table can be at the bottom of the screen and displayed in a photo that is displayed in the Power Point presentation.
• It is important to allow attendees to tune in to share their memories live during the event or ahead of time. You will want to capture those memories and archive them. Most platforms allow attendees to post memories that they would like to share.
• Think about who you would like to be present in your small group. These would be friends and family who would be giving compliments and maybe a musician or vocalist. Keep in mind that you will want to socially distance yourself, so keep the group very small (at this time the limit is 10 attendees).
• Do you have a quiet room without the interruption of barking dogs or crying children where you could house the toilet? A funeral home can still be the ideal place to meet. Many funeral directors are familiar with the technology that allows people to view service without being there, so check with funeral homes when making arrangements.
• Plan to have a printed service order that you can share before the service and display it behind you at the service.
• The most important thing is to do a pre-service rehearsal, perhaps even the day before, so that people can become familiar with the technology before service. In the drill, you could have a virtual toast online where everyone joins in for a drink of the deceased’s favorite beverage the night before the service to help everyone get their phone, tablet, or computer ready.
• Plan to record the service and share it with everyone so they don’t panic because they missed it. Computers can shut down, the Internet can fail, and batteries can drain, so recording service is a must.
• Pay attention to the sound. Some of your hearing may be hard of hearing, so be sure to test the microphone and make sure everyone speaking is understood.
If you think you may be invited to attend a virtual funeral, here is how you can prepare. If you are not tech savvy, now would be a good time to ask someone you know for help.
• Download the application that the host has chosen well in advance.
• If you have an old-fashioned desktop computer, you will want to have access to a computer, camera, or tablet with a camera and microphone.
• Check your photo albums and your phone to collect your favorite photos of the deceased so you can share them with the host.
• Spread the word about the service to friends of the deceased and offer your help via phone call to get your electronic device working in time for the service.
As with in-person funerals, where a favor or token of remembrance is offered, it would also be nice to send attendees something to keep the memory of the deceased alive. It is always comforting to have something to physically touch in memory of those who are no longer with us. A seedling with a personalized note inviting people to plant the tree to remember the deceased would be a nice touch and great for our environment. A custom plantable butterfly bookmark would also give them something to hold onto and remind yourself that your friend or family member would be a good option too. You can find both products in Next Generation Memorials.
This virus is forever changing the way we socialize, shop, learn, work, and receive healthcare. Will this pandemic change the way we celebrate the lives of the deceased? Absolutely. The bottom line is, prepare now to not be stressed out with the details of putting something together when you are emotionally drained from the loss.