being able to obtain the various necessary documents that would allow them to exit their country of origin, many individuals are unable to come to Canada to be a part of these very important moments and rituals. So when Dale Moses and Michael Macalpine approached us with their idea to broadcast these special moments in time via a software program called DistantLink; we were definitely interested in the concept. We were told that our families could have multiple members of their families and friends located anywhere in the world be present via the Internet for the times of visitation and funeral ceremony. We were further informed that all these individuals would be able to see one another, talk to one another just as if they were all together in the same room. If indeed this would work, then we wanted to make this product available to the families of Scarborough. Dale and Michael provided us with a demonstration and as they say, “the rest is history”.
Dale stated, “If you can run “Facebook” you can run this program and the equipment connected to it”, and it was true. Unlike a somewhat similar but less stable viewing technique known as Skype, this program was different in that it would allow us bring online upwards of 100 or more individuals from different locations around the world at any one time for prolonged periods of time. It offered the ability for those participating to view, speak, listen, text and if necessary use an Internet telephone to communicate anywhere there was Internet capabilities around the globe. To be honest the most challenging part of the whole program has been working with Bell to get our internet installed.
To date we have brought together and connected family and friends from Australia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Korea, England, France, Germany, Japan, Ireland and South Africa. I think I will always remember the moment when a woman came online 45 minutes prior to the broadcast time, as we were still setting up the equipment. We paused what we were doing and asked her who she was, and where she was at the moment. She responded back that she was in Ireland, but could not get her passport and other required documents together in time to come to the visitation or funeral. I then asked her what her relationship was to the person that we were broadcasting, and she informed me that it was her mother. At that point we all stopped what we were doing and I asked our DistantLink team to zoom in on the deceased person in the casket so the daughter and mother could have some time together before the other relatives arrived. It was indeed a very touching moment, and it made me realize the incredible opportunity that existed through this new DistantLink technology. This particular family had some very special moments as they reconnected with one another as they had not seen each other for some time. Another moment that was extremely touching was during an evening funeral service for a young 10 year old girl. The death had been very sudden but the DistantLink team still talk about the young mother as she stood and told the story of her daughter’s death to those watching by the Internet and the emotional impact it had upon everyone in attendance, either in person or via DistantLink. A lot of tears were shed both her and overseas online by everyone in attendance. If there is any manner whereby we can continue to promote the value of family and friends coming together during the loss of someone of significance to the family / community unit; we want to be a part of providing this type of service. We believe that DistantLink can help us accomplish this goal.
But I would be remiss if I did not forewarn you about some unexpected moments. For example the first time we used the system, the DistantLink team came to us and were apologetic. We asked what their concern was and they informed us that during the evening visitation they glanced over towards the deceased in the casket and he was all alone. Everyone in the room was gathered around the viewing screen sharing stories with one another about prior times with the deceased. They were laughing and crying as they shared life history with one another. My immediate thought was, “Oh my, what have we done?” But I was assured in myself when I remembered that the purpose of a funeral is to bring family and friends together......and this was exactly what we were doing with DistantLink. Laughter, tears and stories shared together through the power of new electronics.
And yet there are still several areas that we have not yet explored. One being able to have a relative living abroad, give an online eulogy on our chapel big screen during the funeral service. Just think. When we turn the camera towards the congregation, they will be able to watch and see as if they were actually standing at the front of our chapel observing the reaction of those to whom they are speaking. Another experience will be to use this same technology to offer live webinars to the local community. We will be able to interact with those joining us online and be able to teach them about the various aspects of what to expect from the Ogden Funeral Home and the kind of assistance we can provide upon the death of a family member. We can hold brief educational moments that will allow us to communicate and interact with those online explaining such topics as where some of the costs for a funeral come from and also what is legally required at the time of a person’s death. We will be able to use DistantLink as a tool, used as a means of education, providing information to new immigrants as to what to expect when they experience the death of a family member for the first time here in Canada. We believe that through this new technology we will be able to help take away some of the fear new immigrants encounter when coming through our doors for the first time.
There are many funeral homes today who are still not embracing the new wave of technology that is taking place, not only in our world as we know it, but in the world of funeral services. We at Ogden’s want our services to remain relevant to those we serve. We want to keep current with technology being used by individuals of this current generation and as such we need to consider such services as DistantLink whereby we embrace new web based services that will allow us to bring families together who otherwise could not attend or participate in their family members visitation or funeral service. This is new exciting technology being brought to us by DistantLink and it is taking our profession into a new realm of service. Indeed like our Star Trek friends, taking us where we have never gone before."
David Garvie, General Manager, Ogden Funeral Homes Limited, Ontario, Canada