Saturday, May 2, 2020

Cemetery Streaming

Jerry's casket
My father and mother-in-law purchased a family plot at St. Andrew's Cemetery in Fairfax, Minnesota decades ago. Many of their relatives are buried there as well. It was their wish to have a funeral in Charles City, Iowa and the burial four hours away in Fairfax. We always joked with them that they better not die in the winter as no one would be able to make that drive.

As it turns out, even though dad died during beautiful weather, we couldn't make the drive anyway. With COVID-19 keeping the country on lockdown, we decided to have a virtual graveside service. On Thursday a cousin who was able to attend because she lives in the area used her phone as the conduit for the rest of us to virtually attend through the internet program Zoom. Those of us who were remote were able to see the handful of relatives who were there in person, and listen to the funeral director say a prayer and sing a couple hymns.

I read a phrase recently that referred to the American way of death. All our past experiences included traditions that were followed. Planning the funeral, picking out clothes for the deceased, setting up the viewing, funeral and burial, and preparing for the post-funeral gathering. There was the viewing, then the funeral, a trip to the grave site and then a luncheon of some sort. The pandemic has disrupted all of that, and really robbed us of the opportunity to truly grieve and mourn the loss of an extremely important person in our lives.

But our virtual service brought us some relief. I suppose things finally seemed real. The best part was that those of us who were online together stayed on after the graveside service concluded. People were able to express their sympathy to my mother-in-law, and she in turn was able to interact with family that she hadn't seen for quite awhile. There were tears and reminiscing, laughter at old stories and jokes, and a sharing of the mutual love we all had for Jerry. It was the closure that we all needed. It might not have been the funeral that was well-planned by mom and dad, but we sure made use of the technology available to spread hugs, love and goodbyes. Even if it was all done virtually. RIP, beloved father.

family flowers

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