When Ernie Morgan’s mother died last summer, he was upset that he didn’t have a major funeral with all of her friends and family.
His hometown of Niagara Falls, Ontario didn’t have quality video recording services for the funeral, and he said the pandemic restrictions meant the only people who would properly remember the moment were the 10 who were allowed to attend in person.
A year later, Ontario lockdowns have eased enough to allow him to hold a larger memorial service, but he finds it too painful to visit again after all this time.
“It would be like tearing a plaster off a wound that is already healing,” said Morgan, who also runs the Morse & Son Funeral Home in Niagara Falls.
Morgan and other funeral home directors believe the pandemic will fuel widespread adoption of technology in the industry, saying that many customers are now expecting a high quality video product to accompany the event.
Morse & Son Funeral Home has been offering a simple livestream service with a stationary camera for years, but he is now looking for a part-time employee to be responsible for producing a high quality livestream and video in the chapel and cemetery.
“We can take anything, anywhere, if you are willing to pay,” said Morgan.
“We’re not asking them to pay during COVID, but after the pandemic, we expect customer families who want this service to be willing to pay for it.”
Morgan said the investment in camera equipment like tripods and memory cards was well worth it.
“It really is a life event, people love that it is recorded,” said Morgan.
“You’ll get more of it the second time you look at it.”
Video advancements will help people overseas participate
In Calgary, the McInnes and Holloway Funeral Home said advances in online event technology will also have a lasting impact on people overseas who cannot travel to a funeral even after the pandemic.
“We have wonderful stories that people abroad have been able to take part in – not just virtually, but also deliver a tribute or eulogy and participate because live streaming and virtual participation have been promoted,” said Jeff Hagel, Operations Manager at McInnes and Holloway Funeral Home.
“It wasn’t that common before.”
He said the technology is also valued by people who are uncomfortable speaking publicly and who might otherwise have turned down an offer to say a few words at a church service. The ability to pre-record their speech and play it back at the ceremony made the experience a lot easier, he said.
Both funeral directors said the technological changes had meant that most of their customers hadn’t postponed funerals due to the pandemic.
Hagel and Morgan said there are still a handful of people wanting to plan larger memorial sites now that COVID-19 restrictions are being eased, but many are taking their time to make sure they don’t have to be postponed again.
“They want to book in August instead of July because they are still hesitant and some families have already tried a few times to reschedule their appointments,” said Hagel.