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SGV Tribune

Attending a virtual funeral is part of adjusting to the new normal

Spending time with distant family online helps with the feelings of isolation.

Although sophisticated technologies, whose primary uses were once only for business, have often been a challenge for me, I have turned a corner. Without them, I would not have been able to attend my cousin Essie’s funeral in Florida.

Not being very high-tech — make that just plain old low-tech, I was nervous about how to navigate the process. Cousin Ben, host of the event, had sent a link and instructions. The only one I was able to follow was “call me if you have a problem.”

He calmly negotiated about 30 people through the process.

Relatives and friends from across the country popped up on my screen, each with a  name and state below their photo. Where my face should have been, there  was a blank square that said iPhone. Daughter Sara rescued me and pretty soon I had a face, a name and a state, just in time for the official start of the service.

“On the day they gave a class on how to lead an online memorial service , I must have been absent,” the Rabbi said to his video conference mourners. It was his first virtual funeral, a job he took very seriously.

Acknowledging the additional pain posed by grieving during the pandemic — the absence of hugs and human touch — he built an intimate framework of Essie’s life. It drew me to her and made me sad that I had only had the opportunity to visit with her a few times. I did not know most of the mourners but their faces confirmed the Rabbi’s words. My cousin was a warm vivacious woman, full of love and excited by life.

“You should have seen her racing around the cruise ship in her wheel chair on her 80th birthday,” one of her grandchildren laughed.

I was thinking about that, and all the stories I would have missed without the online memorial, as I tucked into bed. I may have been sheltering in place but I was not alone.

I could feel change taking place in itty bitty bites. I wouldn’t say I’m used to this new world, but I’m getting there. Not just learning which buttons to push on my phone or computer, but making the psychological shift. Feeling grateful for a virtual hug even not knowing when a real one will be available.