Saying Goodbye With Live Streaming

December 22, 2020


On the day

It was Friday 4 December 2020. I opened an upstairs window, the breeze was stronger than normal and already its warm breath was close to its predicted 33 degrees. I immediately pushed down on the metal window frame and turned on the AC.   

Today was a day I didn’t want to face let alone petty annoyances to unsettle me, I was already edgy seeking any form of emotional and physical comfort to face what was before me.  

I felt sick in the stomach. None of us wanted to say goodbye, face that horrible gut-wrenching reality.  The one where you want to walk away, pretend it doesn’t exist anything to avoid that sad, empty sense of loss. But you can’t and won’t. 

An early diagnosis

One of four siblings I am the second eldest, and today was the day to farewell my older brother of two years. On retirement at 60, my brother and his wife moved to Sydney for a change of lifestyle. At the time we didn’t know there was an ulterior motive, to work closely with the Michael J Fox Foundation. Unknown to the rest of the family, in his late fifties,  my beautiful brother had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). 

Not wishing to cause concern and determined to stave off this insidious disease for as long as he could, my strong stoic brother finally announced his condition. I had already noticed minor symptoms but said nothing. I was also aware of maternal aunts and an uncle who had been afflicted with PD and since died.    

Saying goodbye live-streaming

So here I was facing the first loss of a sibling who lives in NSW, where the Covid-19 laws for funerals were limited and I live in Queensland. 

My sister-in-law with her children and partners would be attending in person, a total of four.  

The remaining close family members are based everywhere, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania, New Zealand, and the Philippines, unable to attend. We were advised the funeral would be live-streamed. 

It is all very different now in the Covid world. Unlike the times we farewelled other family members at a funeral parlor or with graveside services. We could hug, touch each other for comfort. This time we would be sitting at our computers or iPads, watching.  

A daunting concept, live streaming was our only option and I tried not to ponder on any negatives. A friend told me her remote funeral experience had been a pleasant surprise and she was happy with the outcome. I became hopeful and the reason I wanted to share my experience with others. 

The live-stream was via a platform known as OneRoom, akin to a Zoom meeting but with fewer functions. Each remote participant was given a link and login details to be activated before the funeral commenced. We were given a full view of the proceedings with a choice of two camera angles and access to the OH presentation.  

We were unable to interact with any of the attendees nor could they see us on screen. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, yet grateful at the same time.  

Personal prepping 

It would have been simple to sit in front of my computer’s Webcam in my PJ’s but I wanted to be showered, dressed, makeup on, and wearing pretty earrings, to respectfully farewell my brother. I soon discovered my other siblings had similarly prepared themselves. 

I was ready at least an hour early, felt at a loss on what to do, and was filling in time with menial tasks unable to focus on anything important. I checked my iPhone and iPad were charged and printed a hard copy of the login details. With my contingency plan in place, I messaged my son and daughter who were ready and waiting. 

By this time there were 15 minutes left and for the umpteenth time, I read the guidelines.

Phone messaging help

Still nauseous I text messaged my children, “you both there?” my son replied “yes”….then the silent tears trickled down my cheeks. 

I didn’t want to cry as at this stage I wasn’t sure if it was a two-way viewing. I ran to the bathroom with only a few minutes to spare. My heart was out of control, my dry mouth, and I hadn’t heard back again from my daughter. Where is she?

Just as I return to my desk my daughter’s text flashes up … she knows me “okay mum just breathe, we are all together” here come the tears again. 

I re-read the guidelines they don’t say how soon to click on the link. Should I click minutes before or right on time? My silent panic escalates, it’s getting too close. So I keep typing this story to keep my mind focused yet my gut had ideas of its own.

 Only a few minutes left I say to my children “I feel sick in the stomach now”, my son replies “I’m already sick (he has gastro) LOL”.

Daughter “ haha and I have the worst headache and feeling sick so we are all feeling it. Lets login in one minute”

Daughter “let’s try now…I’m in” I take a deep breath.

Son “yes I’m in too”

Me “I’m in xx” and allow my shoulders to drop

We are all logged in watching the Go-Live timer countdown  

Daughter “I  don’t like the countdown it’s making me sad, thank God for technology though”

Me “me too” in tears

Son “hope my internet is ok enough” he has limited and slow download from his location

Daughter “my screen is blank” and my heartbeat returns to overdrive 

Son “Refresh, then you get in” (he is an IT guy)

Me “check bottom of right of screen and switch camera”

Son “it hasn’t started yet… waiting”

Son “we are live”

Daughter “no volume now”

Son “turn up your volume lol” 

I begin to relax after our banter knowing we have access and I can see my sister-in-law and her children standing near my brother’s coffin that was covered with a magnificent Australiana flora…….more crying. 

Daughter “oh the music is sad …but it’s okay now”

Son “wow did he like Queen?” as we listened to ‘We Shall Rock You’

Me “he loved them” as does my son 

Son “Nice!”

Then the service commenced and I switched between cameras for different views. 

Final farewell

At end of service after my brother’s closing song, Billy Joel’s  “Only the good die young” we watched our family members say their final farewells before they walked away, then the live stream closed.

We were able to replay any part of the service and have the opportunity to view it in the future. 

If asked my opinion on live-streaming funerals, my response would be “I felt as if I was in the funeral room with my family members to say goodbye,  and grateful to be able to see my brother’s service live. I will save my family cuddles for another time”. 

On reflection, partaking in live-stream relieves the pressure somewhat, it automatically gives you private time to quietly reflect, cry, laugh, and tend to a broken heart. 

Futuristically in a post-Covid world, I hope live stream funerals will be an option for all.  

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