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Musician David Bowie. Novelist Anita Brookner.  Two famous names that put a face on a trend that’s becoming more common: death without ritual.   

What would have been unthinkable just a generation ago has now become permissible: As the population ages and baby boomers contemplate end-of-life issues, an increasing number of people are saying “no” to traditional funeral practices. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), more than half of American (50.2 percent) chose cremation in 2016, and of those cremations almost a third (32 percent) did not involve a service.1 Funeral attendance is likewise on the decline, according to an NFDA survey,2 but not because they don’t have value.

In articulating the purpose and importance of funerals to individuals, families and communities, the Reverend Dr. Marilyn Sewell echoes the sentiments of the overwhelming majority of experts involved in hospice and end-of-life care. She writes:

The ritual of the funeral or the memorial service has several purposes. First of all, it helps mourners [to] recognize the loss as real [. . . ] to acknowledge that someone has died, and to acknowledge the death not just in fact, but in feeling. We come together to grieve in the presence of a caring community, and for the time of the service we have permission to give ourselves to the experience of loss [. . . ] If it is done well, the service will bring at least a partial sense of closure to the void that one feels at these times..”2

So why, when funerals serve so many valuable purposes, are they on decline?.  Some might argue that the answer is more complex than lack of interest. In fact, in our mobile and aging society, many people want to attend funerals and memorials but can’t, due to distance, illness, challenges with mobility, lack of transport, or work and life demands.  As a culture, we need to reconcile the generally accepted truth that funerals have great value for the living with the reality that many people who care are simply unable to attend.

This is where the newly developed ability to attend a funeral remotely via TribuCast™ comes in. TribuCast helps meet the needs of modern families and mourners by integrating cutting edge live streaming technology with privacy and personalization tools to offer people remote access to this most important, ancient ritual. TribuCast offers friends and family a remote attendance option, and our experience shows that people who take it deeply appreciate it. 

Case in point: TribuCast was recently used to make the funeral of a member of a senior living community accessible to the residents of that community who were unable to travel to the service. One hundred percent of the deceased’s homebound fellow residents, as well as the entire on-duty staff, attended the funeral in the community’s common area via TribuCast.  Their attendance helped bring additional comfort and closure to the family, who felt incredibly grateful that so many of their mother’s friends cared enough to attend the funeral remotely. The elderly friends of the deceased likewise benefited.  Instead of experiencing a diminishing sense of autonomy and exclusion from the wider community, they felt empowered to participate remotely and mourn their friend – just as they would have if they could still drive or walk to the church as they once had.

This is just one example of the power of a TribuCast™.

As the Reverend Sewell writes: “The purpose of all ritual is transformation: We come to the [funeral] service in one state, we leave in another.” TribuCast enables this transformation to take place for those who can’t be there in person.  In times of loss, it can be a lifesaver.

  1. National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). “NFDA Cremation and Burial Report Shows Rate of Cremation at All-Time High: Increase in Cremation Impacts the Way Families Honor the Impact of Loved Ones.” Press Release. 18 July 2017. http://www.nfda.org/news/media-center/nfda-news-releases/id/2511/nfda-cremation-and-burial-report-shows-rate-of-cremation-at-all-time-high. Accessed 12 March 2019.
  2. National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) “NFDA Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study helps funeral directors give people what they want.” Memorial Business Journal 5.28, 10 July 2014. https://www.deathcarelaw.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/274/2014/07/20140710MBJ.pdf Accessed 12 March 2019.
  3. Sewell, Rev. Dr.  Marilyn. “Why You Should Have a Funeral Service.” Huffington Post. 6 December 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/marilyn-sewell/virginia-doesnt-want-a-me_b_903570.html Accessed 12 March 2019.
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