'Part of the service' from far away: Virtual funeral viewings in southwestern Ontario

Can't make it to that family member's funeral? You can still witness it virtually if your loved one is being put to rest by Dennings Limited funeral homes.

'It's hard on people when they aren't able to be present' says funeral home management

Dennings Limited operates seven funeral homes in southwestern Ontario — and livestreams funeral masses on Facebook if a family wants. (Google Maps)

Can't make it to that family member's funeral? You can still witness it virtually if your loved one is being put to rest by Dennings Limited funeral homes.

They live stream funerals on Facebook if a family wants. 

Josh Denning, manager of media services for Dennings, said it's a growing demand. 

"We've been live streaming for three or four years now," said Denning. "It's fairly unique within the industry. We waited until technology caught up with demand so we could deliver a quality product, but the interest has grown because the ability to live stream, there's more of an awareness of it now."

Denning said at just about every funeral, there's someone who would benefit from being able to watch a live stream. The funeral home charges about $200 for live stream set up, facilitation and a DVD after the fact. 

There are two options for families — a public live stream on the Dennings Limited Facebook page, or a private Facebook page for specific family members. 

"We like using Facebook because it's very accessible," said Denning. "We feel that for those folks who wish it, it has the ability to bring it to the greatest number of individuals."

Beth Wilbur-Smith had her husband's funeral live streamed in 2016 after he died from a brain tumour. 

"It was a very emotional journey, him having cancer. He was in his 50s, so it wasn't expected," said Wilbur-Smith. "His parents are older and lived out on the east coast."

The parents came and visited Wilbur-Smith's husband when he was still alive, but knew they wouldn't be able to come back again for the funeral.

"We were able to set up in real time basically a second funeral site," for family out east, said Wilbur-Smith. "It really felt like we were able to complete a ceremony by having them participate."

Wilbur-Smith said her in-laws were "over the moon."

"They were just thrilled they could still be part of the service," said Wilbur-Smith, adding that the whole family was on board with live streaming the funeral. According to Wilbur-Smith, the equipment was very discrete. 

"They just did the things that they needed to do."

CBC Windsor received permission from the family of Carol Troth to share the livestream of her funeral. Comments on the video send their love and apologies for not being able to attend in person:

Wilbur-Smith said the death of her husband came much more quickly than she expected, and they had had very few conversations about how to handle his funeral. She thought she was asking for something out of the realm of possibilty when she suggested video streaming."

"He just said 'Yep, let me figure out some things,' and made it happen," said Wilbur-Smith.

Denning said for the most part the option to live stream is added after a death, rather in the pre-planning stage. 

"There's a really incredible value. It's hard on people when they aren't able to be present, so it's helpful to grieving families."

The funeral home, which operates seven homes in southwestern Ontario, does up to 40 live streamed funerals a year. The videos can live online afterward, which Wilbur-Smith said the family has used to watch and remember her husband over and over again.


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