The stark reality!
With COVID-19 being our new and unwanted best friend, it’s never been more important to think outside the box! When weddings are having to be rescheduled and funeral ceremonies limited to time and number of mourners, what can a celebrant do?! Luckily for my wedding couples, they are managing to reschedule. Sadly for those mourning a loved one, times are very different now!
In light of these new restrictions and COVID-19, the first thing a celebrant should do is allay all doubts and fears families, and couples, may have! Offering a solution that works well for me is paramount! Then, and only then, should this be given!
I have chosen Zoom as my new go-to friend and whilst I don’t know everything there is to know – yet – I can act as a confident host! Whilst a Zoom account is free, for an added extra, one can sign up for a much better deal. A free account offers 40 minute long meetings – too little for a dedicated celebrant! This way scheduling the celebration of life ceremony can be set for hours rather than just the one!
Working with the professionals
It’s crucial that we are able to count on our colleagues. With a funeral this is perhaps even more important and having an excellent working relationship is everything! Funeral companies are busier than ever right now, but they still want the best for their families. Coordinating and synchronising watches is possible, so be open to their busy schedule and work around them. Limiting distress for the families is our aim.
It’s impossible right now to do what we’ve always done! A funeral or celebration of life service traditionally gathering many in one place and followed by a wake is over. Celebrants are leading the way in how old traditions can be done differently! Suggesting an online ceremony needs tact yet decisive action – it can be possible to say goodbye to your loved one!
Gather your family and other mourners in one place before the funeral. Encourage your family to create a WhatsApp group as this then becomes easy for them to manage everyone and the grieving process can begin. Sharing photos and videos as well as memories and funny stories about the deceased will serve everyone well. Add your celebrant to this group so she can inform everyone as to how the online ceremony will work. You may have to download apps and check connections and your celebrant will be happy to help. Bringing those on other continents to attend the ceremony needs careful consideration of time zones – remember to check!
Music can be played but be careful of using an external system as the sound may distort! The beauty of Zoom is that it allows you to record the ceremony! You would have previously asked for permission from the family to do this. They in turn need to inform their loved ones tuning in that the ceremony is being recorded! Keeping the cameras on allows everyone to connect to each other. Perhaps a word of warning though, try to be still during the ceremony to truly connect with self, your loved ones and the moment!
The ceremony time has arrived and all gather in the online Zoom room. Your celebrant is dressed appropriately, just as she would were you at the Crematorium. Perhaps you’ve picked flowers from your garden and placed photographs of your loved one in front of you. Some may decide to have a candle lit and soft music playing in the background. Once check in is complete, all microphones will be turned off for the duration of the ceremony and managed by your celebrant. Where someone is invited to speak, don’t worry, your celebrant can activate their mic at the appropriate moment.
Behind the celebrant is an altar, or a remembrance table. She would have decorated a high table with a simple cloth, some flowers, a candle and other appropriate material such as the deceased’s name on card. Whilst you listen to her words about your loved ones, you can take in the calming background where the light from the candle can still your mind.
Once the ceremony starts, you’ll need no disturbance so mobiles should be switched off unless of course you’re using your’s to connect. At the time of the committal, previously confirmed by the Crematorium, you will know that on the other side of town or even the world, you will say your final goodbye.
Your celebrant will include you, inasmuch as the family agree, and there will be time to share stories and memories together after the ceremony. Whilst your celebrant’s work will have come to an end, she will thank you for allowing her the privilege of getting to know your loved one just a little. She will leave but be able to make someone else the host of the Zoom room. This means that you can carry on remembering your loved one a little while longer with family and friends.
The pros outweighed the cons in my first online funeral ceremony. We had more time and no-one got lost trying to find the crematorium. More family were able to attend from around the world who previously would not have managed to get to Spain in the seven days allotted before needing burial or cremation.
The host, ie the celebrant, was able to designate host status to someone else and leave the meeting without it having to finish. Obviously, one cannot programme another meeting on Zoom until the first one is over so no back to back funeral ceremonies anymore! For those family members unable to attend, there is the recording available.
We are in challenging times and our work as celebrants means that we continue to provide comfort. Whilst we have the technology available, we can choose to use it. In this first online celebration of life ceremony the family were thankful and went away comforted: “We all agreed that it had been an incredibly powerful ceremony and had included many of the loved ones who would have otherwise been unable to pay their respects. Thank you so much Glynis. You gave us great beauty and light in dark hours.”