Attending a Memorial Service Remotely

by Linda Banks


"Phone Home" Image by Alessandro Valli *

Going to a memorial service?

There’s an app for that.

The idea of watching a funeral on an iPhone might be distasteful to some. But for many it’s their only way to connect with family during a private service and mourn the death of a loved one. On other occasions, the event is made public.

Writer S.E. Smith writes in The Daily Dot:

Numerous funeral homes offer live streaming events for friends and family who cannot attend the ceremony. Recently, Michael Brown’s funeral was live streamed in a defiant act, allowing the entire nation to view the slain teen’s funeral—and not everyone was comfortable with that. (Though, notably, it was his family who opened the event to the public and it is their wishes, one presumes, that are more important to consider when discussing the appropriateness of the decision.)

There is a growing request for live webcasts of services. People can watch and hear the memorial from anywhere. Only a few things are required such as a digital camera, or computer and high-speed Internet connection. Since a webcast utilizes the functions of a digital camera, the event can be saved and viewed at a later time. Software such as SKYPE enables the possibility of interacting with others during a service.

It’s heartbreaking to learn that a loved one has died, especially when you are far away. And it’s even harder when you can’t travel to the memorial service to be with your family. Poor health, financial circumstances or work prevent many from attending a memorial service in person. Thanks to the powerful tool of the Internet, we can attend the memorial service remotely and mourn together with our loved ones.

You can also take part in wakes, graveside services, or an ashes scattering ceremony remotely.

Benefits of attending a memorial service remotely

  • You can be present to support and comfort your family even if you cannot attend physically.
  • You can pay your respects and say good-bye.
  • With a song, poem or eulogy you can participate actively.
  • It can afford you peace of mind and begin the healing process.

Remote memorial services can be private and seen only by those who receive a link and password. The services are usually made available on-demand for those who were unable to watch it live. If the family wishes, a DVD can be made of the service.

Birthdays, anniversaries and bar mitzvahs are celebrated on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Social media lets us share in each other’s milestones. It’s only natural that we use technology to take part in the important rituals surrounding death.

Public broadcasts of memorial services

Watching a funeral on television is not new. Funerals of world leaders, celebrities and sports stars are broadcast on TV and streamed live on the Internet. In 1963 John F. Kennedy’s funeral, the first to be broadcast on television, was watched in over 93% of all homes with television sets. Watching his funeral together helped our nation heal. In 1997, an estimated 2.5 billion people from around the world watched the television broadcast of Princess Diana’s funeral.

The earliest record of webcasting was by Apple computer. Apple live-streamed a music festival in July 1995. Companies such as and have offered technology for remote funerals since the early 2000’s.

In lieu of attending in person

If you cannot attend a memorial service in person, it is appropriate to send flowers or a memorial gift. Cremation memorial candles or sympathy lamps are thoughtful gifts for families to light in honor of a lost loved one.

A sympathy gift expresses your condolences and shows that you care, even if you can’t be there in person. You may choose to place a photo or memento in a memory box and send as a memorial gift.

The use of technology to broadcast a memorial service to remote locations provides a way to connect families and friends. At no other time in history have families been so widespread and separated geographically. It’s comforting to know this option exists and that we can take advantage of the opportunity it affords us.


Linda Banks provided extended end-of-life care for her beloved Aunt who was like her mother. When her brother suddenly died, she was instrumental in orchestrating all of the details of his final wishes to be cremated. Linda has been an active blogger for ten years, including blogging about Willie Nelson and his family. Willie told her recently that he reads her blog every day.

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