Pat Marmo, owner of Daniel J. Schaefer Funeral Home, walks through a viewing room set up to respect social distancing, Thursday, April 2, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Funeral home directors believe the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on the use of technology during funeral services, and said many clients now expect a high quality video product.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/John Minchillo

Funeral home industry expected to embrace video technology post pandemic

When Ernie Morgan’s mother died last summer, he was upset that he couldn’t have a larger funeral attended by all her friends and family.

His hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont., didn’t have quality video recording services available for the funeral, and he said the pandemic restrictions meant that the only people who will properly remember the moment were the 10 who were allowed to attend in person.

One year later, lockdown measures have eased in Ontario to a point where he could hold a larger memorial service, but he feels it’s too painful to revisit it after all this time.

“It would be like ripping a Band Aid off a wound that’s already healing,” said Morgan who also operates Morse & Son Funeral Home in Niagara Falls.

Morgan and other funeral home directors believe the pandemic will spur widespread adoption of technology in the industry, and said many clients now expect a high quality video product to go alongside the event.

Morse & Son Funeral Home has offered a simple livestream service using a stationary camera for years, but he’s now looking to bring on a part-time staffer responsible for producing a high quality livestream and video at the chapel and cemetery.

“We can record anything, anywhere if they’re willing to pay,” Morgan said.

“We’re not asking them to pay during COVID, but post-pandemic, we expect that client families that want that service will be willing to pay for it.”

Morgan said the investment into camera equipment like tripods and memory cards has been worth it.

“It really is a life event, people love that it’s recorded,” Morgan said.

“They get more out of it the second time they watch it.”

In Calgary, the McInnes and Holloway Funeral Home said the advancements in online event technology will also have a lasting impact on people overseas who can’t travel for a funeral, even after the pandemic.

“We have wonderful stories where people overseas were able to participate — not just virtually attend but give a tribute or a eulogy and participate because of the push forward for livestreaming and virtual participation,” said Jeff Hagel, operations manager at McInnes and Holloway Funeral Home.

“It wasn’t as prevalent prior.”

He said the technology was also appreciated by people who are not comfortable speaking publicly and may have otherwise declined the offer to say a few words at a service. The ability to to pre-record their speech and have it played at the ceremony made the experience much easier, he said.

Both funeral homes said the changes in technology meant that most of their clients didn’t postpone funerals due to the pandemic.

Hagel and Morgan said there still are a handful of people who are looking to schedule larger memorials now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing, but many are taking their time to ensure they don’t have to postpone again.

“They’re looking to book in August as opposed to July because they’re still hesitant and some family have already tried to reschedule a couple times already,” said Hagel.