Celebrating the life of a loved one can now be shared with family members who are out of town or who are too frail to attend the visitation or funeral.
Locally, Engle-Shook Funeral Home has introduced its funeral Web cast, where password specific invitations can be given to family and friends not able to travel.
Eric and Jennifer Shook, co-owners of the funeral home, had discussed a way to allow people from out of town to participate, and explored the Web casting idea.
Once the decision was made to try it, cameras were set up in each of the chapels, as well as one outside to serve as a weather cam.
"People can go on our Web site and and it shows the weather out on North Washington Street," Jennifer said. "It's for people coming from out of town, or who are just curious."
The other cameras are placed discreetly above the speakers toward the ceiling, so as not to bring attention away from the service or visitation.
Engle-Shook Funeral Home is one of a handful of funeral homes in the state to do the live feed, viewing the services in real time.
"Some do other recording using cameras, but not the live feed," she said. "You can get on our Web site and view it as it's happening, and there is a password that we give to the families, to give out to the other family members or friends. They can see the live feed, it's not prerecorded and put in there."
It also has allowed family members of those being cremated to view their loved one for either identification purposes or to view them one last time before the cremation takes place.
The cameras have been installed for three months, and have been up and running efficiently for two months.
"Families have loved it, they ask to see how it works, how it's set up at the feed and how it gets to our Web site," Jennifer said. She recalled an instance where an uncle was also able to see his nieces and nephews, waving to him over the Web cam.
The service is complimentary and the family is provided a DVD recording of the visitation and service.
"Questions families will ask is to see where the cameras are located, because they are concerned with privacy issues," Jennifer said. "They are excited to have it available for them and that it is password protected. They can't go on the Web site and all of a sudden see someone else's service on there. A lot of people want their privacy, and can choose not to use it. We can tape the service without using Web casting."
The advantage of having a recording, she said, is viewing the service afterward can offer closure for many people.
"Emotions take over the day of the service, and they don't realize what comments friends and family made, what the pastor said," Jennifer said. "It allows them to sit in the privacy of their own home and watch the service."
The response to the Web cast has been so positive the Shooks hope to expand it to their other funeral home sites in Bettsville and Green Springs.
Eric said the Web cast can be custom tailored, with music selected by the family, and where the camera will be focused, for example, whether it's on the casket or the back of the chapel and the people there.
"The main response we have received is that it's a great thing," he said. "A lot of their family are not able to come, and it's a way to bring all of the family together, so they can still feel a part of it. We've seen people waving, new babies held up to be shown to grandpa watching from Texas."
Now, Eric said, other funeral homes are hearing of their success with the Web cast, and are asking for advice on installation.
"Word's getting out, it's a popular thing," Eric said. "There are not many funeral homes in Ohio, or the United States, doing this right now."
Those with questions regarding the Web casting service or to view the weather cam, can go to www.engleshookfuneralhome.com.