The mer­its of live stream­ing

The Compass - - OPINION -

No mat­ter who you talk to th­ese days, they are likely to have a fam­ily mem­ber or close friend some­where on the main­land. Chances are they keep in touch given the con­ve­nience of the so­cial me­dia. Tech­nol­ogy has lit­er­ally elim­i­nated dis­tance as a bar­rier to so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

For as long as I can re­mem­ber, mem­bers of my fam­ily have lived out west. Letters, phone calls and oc­ca­sional vis­its have been the means whereby we’ve been able to main­tain a sem­blance of for­mer fam­ily re­la­tion­ships and at least stay in­formed on sub­stan­tive fam­ily mat­ters.

Ini­tially when fam­ily was young and ev­ery­body’s day was taken fully with mak­ing a liv­ing and try­ing to meet the chal­lenges of rais­ing a fam­ily and get­ting a home, there was def­i­nitely less con­cen­tra­tion on and even less in­volve­ment in the lives of fam­ily that had moved away.

Alas, the pas­sage of time changes ev­ery­thing. Chil­dren grow, get ed­u­cated, move out of the fam­ily home and get on with their ca­reers. Adults come of age where life chang­ing events are not only pos­si­ble but are also very likely to oc­cur.

It’s an era when we have time to think, to re­mem­ber and to re­call events from back in ear­lier times. It seems that na­ture will prompt a reawak­en­ing of old friend­ships, and the need for get­ting closer to ab­sen­tee fam­ily mem­bers scat­tered across the coun­try. It’s been my ex­pe­ri­ence to have re­al­ized that tran­si­tion in my later years and I have to ad­mit that it leaves a very real and very press­ing urge to fol­low through.

I take the time to pen this ob­ser­va­tion be­cause my sib­lings have spent a whole life­time in both Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia. They’ve raised their families there and have done their ut­most to main­tain ties with fam­ily here in New­found­land. How­ever try as you will there is so much that can­not be shared between families and all be­cause of dis­tances.

There are the events that get cel­e­brated dur­ing early years like spe­cial birth­days, school grad­u­a­tions, achieve­ment recog­ni­tions, yes, and even en­gage­ments later on that will not be shared with fam­ily back home. Par­ents and grand­par­ents are always a lit­tle sad­dened by know­ing about but not be­ing part of th­ese sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones in chil­dren’s lives.

Un­for­tu­nately death is an in­evitable event that we have no con­trol over. In March 2014 af­ter a brief ill­ness, my sis­ter in Kelowna, B.C., passed away. She had lived to be 90 years of age and we were very thank­ful to have had her for all those years. As one might ex­pect, the fam­ily back home wished to have been able to at­tend her burial ser­vice and in­urn­ment but be­cause of age and health rea­sons that was not pos­si­ble. We each mourned her pass­ing in our own pri­vate thoughts and out­ward behaviour. Morale re­mained very low and not a lot was be­ing said or done. We just wished all would be over soon.

There was a sur­prise await­ing us. Ac­tu­ally it was in the last hour pre­ced­ing the fu­neral ser­vice that word came through from Spring­field Fu­neral Home in Kelowna in­form­ing us that the fu­neral ser­vice would be live streamed and it would be avail­able to all her fam­ily and friends here in New­found­land. We went into ac­tion im­me­di­ately and spread the word of the good news; we were go­ing to be part of her fi­nal cer­e­mony af­ter all.

The re­cep­tion was be­yond fab­u­lous. The res­o­lu­tion was per­fect and au­dio left noth­ing to be de­sired. They even went so far as to tell the guests at her ser­vice that they could all stand, face the cam­era and wave a hand to ac­knowl­edge her fam­ily and friends watch­ing back home. I just can’t find the words to say how pleased we were and the sat­is­fac­tion we got from that ges­ture of Spring­field Fu­neral Homes pro­vid­ing such a ser­vice.

It is be­cause there are so many families here in New­found­land and Labrador with fam­ily spread all across Canada (and else­where in the world for that mat­ter). Events like this are hap­pen­ing to families all over, there is no good rea­son why they should not have the op­tion to par­tic­i­pate is such a cer­e­mony as our fam­ily did. We re­ally did feel that we were a part of her burial ser­vice.

Live stream­ing could be a stan­dard in ser­vice avail­able to all families when a sim­i­lar cir­cum­stance oc­curs and fu­neral homes should be en­cour­aged to pro­vide same. Live stream­ing can fill an ur­gent and strong emo­tional need.

— Ge­orge Pen­ney writes from Black­head.

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