While many Americans are increasingly finding ways to be more intimately involved in the memorializing and burial of their loved ones, funeral directors say some mourners are using technology as a tool to keep their distance.
People are spending extra for services previously unavailable: PowerPoint slide shows, computerized graphics and video tributes. Since January, Bradshaw Funeral & Cremation Services has offered Webcast funerals from its state-of-the-art facility in White Bear Lake, Minn.
"We had one family where the man was a 3M executive who had traveled all over," said owner Jim Bradshaw. "We taped that day through the visitation through the lunch and the mass, probably four or five hours on our Web site. It got over 300 hits from many countries."
But some funeral directors worry that Webcasting and the increased popularity of cremation allow mourners to postpone memorial services to convenient times or tune in from afar, with little disruption to their lives.
"I see stark contrasts between more involvement, more ownership of the funeral process but also a distancing where it's almost like they want the death to be removed from them - taken away," said Mike Dougherty, owner of Thomson-Dougherty Funeral Home in Minneapolis.