by Lisa Fogarty
Leonard Rosen sounds like a proud papa when he describes the traveling nature of his youngest son, Matthew. He fully supported his decision to move out west from Boston and took solace in the fact that technology could keep them connected. When Matthew's grandfather recently passed away, the young man was enjoying himself at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert -- completely unconnected from the universe for about two days. By the time he heard the heartbreaking voicemail message from dad about his grandpa's death, there was no way Matthew could make the funeral on time. So the family did the next -- best? -- thing and arranged for him to attend the funeral via FaceTime on his iPhone.
Matthew's brother took care to ask the very accommodating rabbi if it would be okay for him to tune in through FaceTime. He also kept Matthew connected via his own iPhone to the events of the day. Dressed in a suit, Matthew watched from San Francisco as the rabbi delivered a eulogy and the family chanted and shoveled dirt onto the coffin. According to dad, having Matthew there completed the family, and the fact that he was present via a technological device made no difference.
When I first read this story I couldn't shake the feeling that it was just plain wrong to attend the funeral of a loved one via FaceTime. Why burden other members of your family, who are also grieving, by making them have to think about whether they're holding their phones steady enough for you to get a clear picture? But then I felt ashamed of those thoughts. This family clearly loves one another deeply. They don't feel like it's a burden to keep Matthew involved, despite the fact that it was his choice to be far away.
If my grandmother passes in Italy while I'm in New York and I can't hop an eight-hour flight to make the funeral, I would take comfort in knowing there might be some way for me to say good-bye to her -- and I don't suspect my family would care that closure came with the help of an iPhone.
With that said, I think a few ground rules need to be established if we're going to allow FaceTime at funerals:
1. Unless you are in the middle of a desert in Nevada or conducting business from a Tokyo hotel, you should not use FaceTime to attend a funeral. In other words, if you're at home, in pajamas, eating cereal from your couch and could have attended the event, but thought FaceTime would be easier -- no, no, no. Just no.
2. You should be mindful about who you ask to hold the other iPhone. Asking your brother or a cousin might make sense. Asking the daughter or son or mother or father of the departed makes you someone who will never be invited to another family holiday for as long as you live.
What do you think about using FaceTime to attend a funeral?