Welcome to the brave new world of the YouTube funeral, where grieving friends and relatives no longer have to travel cross country to bid goodbye to the dearly departed.
Now you can do it online.
From the New York Times:
It is no surprise that the deaths of celebrities, like Michael Jackson, or honored political figures, like the United States diplomat Richard Holbrooke, are promoted as international Web events. So, too, was the memorial service for the six people killed Jan. 8 in Tucson, which had thousands of viewers on the Web.
But now the once-private funerals and memorials of less-noted citizens are also going online.
Several software companies have created easy-to-use programs to help funeral homes cater to bereaved families. FuneralOne a one-stop shop for online memorials that is based in St. Clair, Mich., has seen the number of funeral homes offering Webcasts increase to 1,053 in 2010, from 126 in 2008 (it also sells digital tribute DVDs).
During that same period, Event by Wire, a competitor in Half Moon Bay, Calif., watched the number of funeral homes live-streaming services jump to 300 from 80. And this month, the Service Corporation International in Houston, which owns 2,000 funeral homes and cemeteries, including the venerable Frank E. Campbell funeral chapel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said it was conducting a pilot Webcasting program at 16 of its funeral homes.
Traveling to funerals was once an important family rite, but with greater secularity and a mobile population increasingly disconnected from original hometowns, watching a funeral online can seem better than not going to a funeral at all. Social media, too, have redrawn the communal barriers of what is acceptable when relating to parents, siblings, friends and acquaintances.
“We are in a YouTube society now,” said H. Joseph Joachim IV, founder of FuneralOne. “People are living more than ever online, and this reflects that.”
Some of the Web-streamed funerals reflect the large followings gathered by individuals. On Jan. 11, more than 7,000 people watched the Santa Ana, Calif., funeral of Debbie Friedman, an iconic singer whose music combined Jewish text with folk rhythm. It was seen on Ustream, a Web video service, with more than 20,000 viewing it on-demand in the days that followed.
“We intended to watch a few minutes, but ended up watching almost the whole thing,” said Noa Kushner, a rabbi in San Anselmo, Calif., and a fan of Ms. Friedman’s music, who watched the service with a friend at his office. “I was so moved.”