Funeral home allows families to grieve online

By Erin Boucher

An Ottawa-based funeral home is bringing the dead and living together via the Internet.

Tubman Funeral Homes is using a Web site called to broadcast funeral, memorial and graveside services.

The company began using this service after its general manger, Rob Lavern, learned an important lesson from a 14-year-old boy.

Lavern says he was conducting a graveside ceremony when this boy pulled a cell phone from his pocket, dialed a number and then pointed the phone towards the service.

“I was so ticked off at this little boy,” recalls Lavern, adding he later found out the boy’s mother was in San Francisco and could not come to her mother’s funeral.

“This young boy with a cell phone taught me there was a need.”

Tubman Funeral Homes broadcast their first online services on Oct. 31 and conducted another one in November.

Funeral homes in Centretown say they might offer this service in the future.

The service is offered to allow family and friends to “virtually” attend the services if they cannot physically make it to the funeral.

“We all need some degree of closure and provides that to people who can’t make it to the funeral,” says Rob Burchill, president of Infinite Designs, the Ontario-based software company that created the site in 2000.

Burchill adds the site was created to serve our highly mobile society.

“In the past you lived and died in the same place. Today there is no guarantee that you die in the same city,” explains Burchill.

Lavern also says the website serves another important purpose.

“A funeral is such an emotional event that people often don’t actually remember what was said or sung.

This gives people an opportunity to go back and revisit,” says Lavern.

While Tubman Funeral Homes has had several requests for this service, John Lafromboise, director of client services for Kelly Funeral Homes, has not had any.

“Today it is something very new, tomorrow it may be very normal,” he says.

While offering this service to their clients is not in Kelly Funeral Homes short-term business plan,

But Laframboise says it will likely be included in the long-term.

“The service has great potential and it might be beneficial,” he says.

Hulse, Playfair and McGarry Funeral Homes, on McLeod Street, say they haven’t yet had any requests for the service, but are monitoring the fledgling technology.

Staff at the funeral home suggest many people aren’t emotionally ready to hold a funeral service in the vast realm of cyber space.

Some feel it is a very private time, a service, and some of that is lost over the Internet.

“There is no substitute for the human comfort,” says Patrick McGarry, general manager of Hulse, Playfair and McGarry Funeral Homes.

Infinite Design provides funeral homes with the necessary technology to film, edit and broadcast the funerals.

The cost for this service is $395. Clients are offered a password to prevent strangers from hacking into website and watching the funeral service.