What strange times we live in

Yesterday, I attended my first virtual funeral. It felt strange but also strangely beautiful.

The deceased was a woman I knew who belonged to my faith congregation. I didn’t know her extremely well, but I knew that she was one of the founders of our congregation and I knew how much she loved our community. She was an integral part of it. Every single time I saw her, she greeted me with a wide smile and that smile was her hallmark. She was a warm, outgoing, caring woman; you could not help but respond to her warmth and friendliness. She was in her late 70’s, I would guess, married with three adult children and four grandchildren. Her brother and sister in law also survive her. And….her husband. A lovely man who already seems so bereft without his beautiful wife of more than fifty years.

During this pandemic, funerals are limited to 10 people, usually including the clergy, one cemetery worker and a funeral director. That leaves only 7 places for family members.

I ‘attended’ the funeral by logging onto the link provided by the funeral home. I could see the hearse drive up and saw the pallbearers make the sad procession to the grave carrying the casket. I watched as the family members—just a few of them—gathered at the grave. The rabbi began the prayers and offered a eulogy. At the end of the service, after the internment and final mourners’ prayer, the family made its way back to their cars.

There were 38 other computers or smartphones or tablets ‘at’ the service with me. It was remarkable. I felt so connected and so close to the mourners and I was pleased that I, too, could accompany the deceased to the cemetery even though I did not do so in person. In fact, I WAS there as were all who attended whether in person or virtually.

During these strange times when we have to stay at home and avoid all gatherings of more than five people and do not even have the opportunity of visiting loved ones who may be in hospital, it was a privilege to be able to attend this funeral, thanks to modern technology and the foresight of the funeral home in making the funeral accessible to extended or distant family and friends.

I have found video calls and even telephone calls to be so much more intimate during these past three months, moreso than ever before. We ARE able to reach out and connect with others; we are able to be with friends, we are able to comfort the mourners.

By: Michaele-Sue Goldblatt, MSW, RSW

June 14 ,2020

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