Technology and a Funeral

Sadly, my father died last Sunday evening. Like all of us who’ve suffered a devastating and sudden loss, I had to change my calendar and rush to my mother’s and sister’s sides. In reviewing my awful and painful week, I have to comment that technology made this sad occasion just a tad bit easier.

First and foremost, as soon as my mother delivered the news to me (by calling my cell phone) this past Sunday, my teenage son went into high gear and began, via his Mac Book Air, researching travel and bereavement policies of various air carriers. In the past, this would’ve meant sitting on the phone waiting for the next available representative to answer the phone. My son found a flight and car rental for me and even coordinated flights and booked my sister to meet me at busy Atlanta airport so we could fly to Florida together.

On the flight down, I wondered about some Jewish customs related to funerals, so I pulled out my iPad to log onto the airline’s wi-fi and instantly get my answers.

Later that day, mom, my sister and I began talking about who needs to be notified about the arrangements we were about to make, which groups of friends would send platters on which days, and the like. My sister elected to create a Facebook post about dad, the funeral arrangements, and a link to the funeral home. This was immensely helpful in letting just about everyone know of my father’s death and our arrangements. Even the funeral home’s website had a link to Dad’s service date/time and our preference for donations to ALZ.ORG versus flowers or more food. Twitter also came in handy to get some details out to followers. Amazingly and gratefully, we spent little time calling people on the phone…most asked simply for a text message with a link to the funeral home’s website. To the contrary, I remember just 26 years ago (1988) when my grandmother died, my father and my mother were on the wired, wall-phone in our kitchen constantly, instead of having time to grieve, breathe, and be with family.

The funeral home even notifies the medical examiner, via web interface, how many certificates of death we needed, processes our payments electronically, and the funeral director texted the cemetery representative that we were enroute to meet with them ahead of the funeral. All made easier with technology.

Of course GPS technology got just about everyone to the funeral, interment services, and back to mom’s house for a nosh without issue. And, so many wonderful friends and professional colleagues, who couldn’t join us in person, were able to reach out via tweets, Facebook posts, email, text message and the like. My dad was loved and your electronic words reminded us of that.

Fast forward to my return trip home today. I met a lovely woman behind the desk in the Delta SKYCLUB at PBI. She saw my (traditional/non-tech) Jewish mourner’s ribbon (worn to let others know that one is in mourning…and perhaps to offer the mourner a little bit of comfort and compassion) and offered her condolences. Then she said that her son lived in Jerusalem and that he would recite Kaddish (the traditional Jewish prayer for the departed) for my father at the Western Wall this coming week. I was (and still am) absolutely touched…and will write a letter (electronically of course) to Delta about this warm, kind and compassionate Delta representative. But, back to technology. I wrote my father’s Hebrew name on a small piece of paper and handed it to this lovely person, so she could take a photo of it and text it to her son in Israel. I surmise that he had it in his possession even before I started this blog.

Technology aside, I am still feeling a great sense of loss and I know that each day will get easier and easier. And, I will never forget the wonderful act of kindness of the Delta representative (a complete stranger) and all of my family and friends. However, it really continues to make me grateful that technology is touching our lives in positive ways that we could never have imagined…from cradle…to tomb.

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