Guess what John Brandon of Fox News (October 30, 2009) just reported as the number one tech trend for 2010? The answer is attending an online funeral. Already sites such as Obrib.com and Tributes.com let you leave a memorial for deceased loved ones. But, some funeral homes are offering the funeral itself online, using webcasting services at sites such as Funeralrecording.com and Funeralone.com.
Blair Overton, president of the Overton Family Funeral Homes of Iowa, says funeral directors that are now putting new technology and the internet to use in their funeral homes are empowering consumers to make their own choices and provide them with the resources and tools that enable them to deal with this unique event on their own terms from wherever and whenever. (Funeral Wire, November 22 2002)
Blair commented, "The technology that we have implemented has enabled our firms to go beyond the traditional casket and flower offerings of the past. At the same time, we have not lost touch with those traditions that people hold most dear. We are now more versatile. We can give a family everything from the simplest, most traditional of services to the latest web casting and online memorials...It is their choice -- that is what we are trying to give them. Implementing technology does not mean that you lose that personal touch and caring. It shows just how important giving those families options is to you."
As impersonal and tasteless as this trend may seem at first, it does offer one huge advantage for those whose poor health, lack of finance, distant location, or other difficult circumstance renders them unable to attend the real service. People who can not physically attend can now choose many ways to pay their respects to the deceased.
Maybe low-cost funerals have gone too far.
Jack Crosby of the Star Tribune (May 18 2008) views this as the next step in innovation by baby boomers who brought the nation the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, the women's movement and the gay rights movement. He says the death movement is the next step. Nancy Bush and Kruskopf Coontz, creators of mywonderfullife.com agree. When Nancy's husband John, 53, died of cancer in 2006, they came up with the idea to make it easier for her husband to provide his last wishes with less stress. Their goal is to help people who might otherwise resist the thought of the hereafter to plan their exit strategies.
This free site lets people (who become "members" after signing up) plan their funerals right down to music, readings and photographs. The information is in a password-protected area available only to selected friends and family. The site also tells survivors how to find such key documents as the will and financial information.
At www.online-funeral.com, you can find an integrated system that will include wide range of Internet-based functions that they can provide the family. This includes the following:
1. A stored video of the funeral service at the cemetery that can be played at any time immediately after the funeral home uploads it to the family website.
2. Real-time live Internet viewing of the visitation at the funeral home. The live viewing is made possible by web cameras that are placed in the visitation rooms at the funeral home. The live Internet viewing is only available during the actual hours that the visitation takes place.
3. An Internet photo album that the family can select to purchase memorial CD-ROMs that contain the video of the funeral ceremony, family photos and messages sent to the website by relatives and friends. Online-Funeral produces the CD-ROMS and ships them to the funeral home.
4. Additional functions that include a condolences message center and a text memorial tribute.
The personalized websites are set up for the families by the funeral home and are easily maintained through a user-friendly interface. Online-Funeral has ensured that the underlying code is completely managed by logical information entry pages.
The websites can be password protected so that only relatives and friends that have a unique password can access the services. Each unique password enables access only to a specific family's website. The password protection feature is optional.
One idea seems to me to technological step in the wrong direction. Isabel Wilkerson of the New York Times reported (February 23, 1989), "A Chicago funeral home has set up a drive-through service with cameras and a sound system that lets on-the-go visitors pay their respects, sign the funeral register and view the remains of the loved one round the clock without ever leaving the car."
Carloads of working people pressed for time as well as busloads of senior citizens confined to wheelchairs have paraded through the drive-in at Gatling's Funeral Home on the city's South Side to see the images of embalmed friends and relatives on a television screen covered by a white canopy that is lit up at night.
The owner, Lafayette Gatling, a former construction worker who says he used to feel uncomfortable himself paying his respects in soiled work clothes, added the drive-through service two years ago.''The working person doesn't have time to come in,'' Mr. Gatling said. ''They want to see the body but they don't want to have to wait. I always thought there should be some way they could see the body any time they want.''
A similar funeral home in Pensacola, Florida, has already closed but the Chicago home is believed to be still open for business.
The Florida drive through.