My funeral will not be televised.
You can come, which would be nice. Or you can skip it, which is fine. But you can’t watch it over the Internet. Enough of life is already done through a screen. For death, you’re gonna have to put in some effort.
I say this in light of recent stories about the surging popularity in Webcasted funerals. It’s the new new thing in saying farewell. A camera, a tripod, a Web connection and presto – those who can’t (or don’t) make the ceremony can watch via the Web, hear the eulogies, maybe even see the deceased if the camera angle is right.
“Our response has been unbelievable,” I was told this past week by a nice man named David Techner, funeral director of the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield. “Nearly every family we’ve served has chosen to have the Webcast.”
That’s nice for them. But not for me. Sorry. If I was worth a visit while I was here, I’m worth one when I’m gone. Just as I don’t consider an e-mail a dinner conversation, I don’t consider clicking on as paying your respects.
You want to say good-bye, please, come say it.
But no texting.
A time for technology?
Of course, such thinking probably makes me a dinosaur – but even dead dinosaurs require a little digging.
And so should a funeral. It’s not that I don’t empathize with people who are unable to travel or are stuck in a foreign country. But as the Webcast option grows, I fear a larger majority of the absentees will be people who could have made it, but the plane was so expensive, could have asked for the day off, but why upset the boss, could have canceled the fun plans they had, but why bother when we can have both: Web funeral in the afternoon, party at night?
Human nature is human nature. The easier we make things, the easier we want them. We already send virtual birthday cards and e-blast family updates. Soon we will want to control the camera movement at these funerals, to pan the family, see who has shown up – you know, in person.
In a recent Free Press report, a Detroit funeral director, Antonio Cole Green, noted the popularity of the Webcasting option.
“People are impressed with how easily you can access the site with just a click of the button …” he said, “and many have remarked that the audio was much better than they expected.”
I’ll be honest. On the list of things I want people saying at my funeral, “The audio was much better than I expected” is hardly No.1.
Besides, many funeral homes post the link to the ceremony, allowing anyone to join in. Don’t you find that odd? There are Web weirdos around the world who love peeping other people’s pain. If you wouldn’t let them in your front door, why let them in a virtual one?
But here is the main thing. Last I looked, departing this world was still a big deal – still worth interrupting your routine. And the people who claim Webcasted funerals “give me a chance to mourn” are missing the point.
A funeral is not about you.
A time for tenderness?
In many ways, it’s not even about the deceased. It’s about the surviving family and friends. The weeping mother. The brokenhearted husband. The stunned children. You go to funerals to comfort these people, to give them a hug, to share tears.
Do you think they will feel better knowing how many “hits” they got?
Funerals are when we most need to feel connected to the human family. What comes after Web-viewing funerals? The e-mailed condolence card? The Web-ordered food platter? Maybe a Facebook site for tombstone suggestions?
It’s not that it’s so wrong. It’s that, like much of the Internet life, it’s too dang easy. You’re not supposed to watch a family cry through a lens. You’re not supposed to mourn through a screen at your kitchen table, in the same dirty clothes you wore to the gym.
Pretty soon, we’ll “attend” weddings from our basement, Skype into our baby showers and witness the birth of our first child by holding the iPad at just the proper angle.
Well, not here. Not at the end. I hope it’s not for a while, but I’m being pre-emptive. I hereby declare my funeral a Web-free event.
After all, if I have to log out, shouldn’t you?
Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or email@example.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR.