Laurie Graham

A death, live-streamed: my husband’s Skype funeral

In the Covid era, saying goodbye online is a surprising comfort


When my husband died last month, I was as prepared as a person can be. Howard had been afflicted for many years by early-onset dementia and that, as we all know, is a one-way street. What I was totally unprepared for was the lockdown factor. Could we even have a funeral? Yes, we could, as long as we adhered to some rules. And would I like the ceremony live-streamed to those unable to attend? Well yes, I suppose I would.

The offer of live-streaming solved my biggest problem. Howard was an American who had lived for many years in Europe. He had family and friends who couldn’t possibly travel to be with us in person. But all they needed was a Skype account and they’d be able to witness and feel part of the whole 20-minute, socially distanced ceremony. Perfect.

In Ireland funerals are arranged swiftly. There had been a bit of a logjam during the pandemic, with a particular chapel reserved for virus-related deaths, but Howard’s was non-Covid so we were offered a slot for the third day after his death. There was much to decide in a short space of time, not least who to invite to the live-stream. I was advised by the crematorium staff that the platform had its limits: no more than 20 people logging on.

My list of invitees was soon whittled down to below 20 because of the number of people who didn’t have/didn’t want/couldn’t figure out Skype. I turned a deaf ear to those who acted helpless. Land sakes, if I can manage Skype, any idiot can.

I could see that my dear departed husband, ever a punctual man, was waiting in the back of the hearse

The crematorium website carried detailed instructions. Perhaps too detailed. We tend to scan ahead or zone out when we’re reading from a screen.

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