|My mother died in Wagoner, Oklahoma, on Tuesday. I live in Arizona and will not be traveling to her funeral, because of the fucking pandemic. Please help me be as present as possible, through the wonders of modern technology.
The service for my mom is set for Saturday, Dec. 5, at 10 a.m. So we've got about two weeks, with one major holiday right in the middle, to get things set.
It's is being managed by one of the local funeral homes, and it will take place at my mom's church. My siblings, stepdad, and other family members are planning to attend in person, and I'd guess that members of the church will be there as well.
I would like to view the service live, while it is actually taking place. My aunt in California, who also cannot travel, has been asked to give the eulogy. She's planning to pre-record her speech, but she would also like to watch the service as it happens. (If I'm invited to say anything, I'll also pre-record and send it in advance.) My far-flung in-laws might like to attend virtually, as well, if the option is available.
(Do I want there to be interactivity? Like me being able to talk to people there? Maybe? I'd like the option? I don't know, and I don't know if it's technologically feasible.)
I talked to the funeral home staff and the church's pastor yesterday, and I did not leave those conversations feeling confident that that creating a robust, dependable virtual presence. (The funeral home mentioned previous attempts with Facebook Live, where they encountered an automatic shut-down when any music was played, despite having purchased licensing. The pastor suggested taping the service and posting it to YouTube after. That won't work for me as a primary goal, though I realize that it makes sense as a fallback if tech fails. He also noted a weak network connection at the church.)
I don't have any idea about the access to cameras or the audio set-up on their end. (Please note: They were all very warm-hearted and genuine and generous. I just dread being in a situation where everything fails despite their best efforts, if there's anything I can do to prevent it.)
I would like to throw some money at this problem, so I can stop freaking out about it and concentrate on grieving. However, thanks to COVID furloughs, I do not have a great deal of money to throw – probably about the amount of a couple plane tickets from Tucson to Tulsa and a week's hotel stay. If necessary, though, my aunt will likely be willing to kick in some money. Same for my in-laws. (I would not expect the family in Oklahoma to contribute. This is the third funeral my step-father has had to help plan this year, including his own father's in late September.)
I have access to an enterprise Zoom through my employer, as does my aunt through hers. My own home network has been pretty reliable, and I have back-up devices and a solid cell signal in the event of a computer or network meltdown.
My questions for the hive mind include:
1. What is the best platform for a virtual presence at a funeral service with a significant in-person presence? Is it Zoom? (I've only used Zoom in situations where everyone's sitting at their computers.)
2. Would it make sense to hire a small A/V crew (maybe from Tulsa) to handle everything? Telepresence app, cameras, sound, coordinating kindly with church and funeral home?
3. If yes on a crew, can you recommend one? If not, what questions should I ask potential vendors?
4. What am I missing? What am I forgetting to ask?