By Dave Alexander | The Muskegon Chronicle
Dale Clock's great-grandfather -the founder of Clock Life Story Funeral Home- might be rolling over in his "proverbial" grave about now.
After all, Tiede Clock, who opened the family business in 1897, likely never could have imagined having people hundreds and thousands of miles away watching a funeral service at it occurs directly from his chapel.
But that's what's happening today under Clock's leadership.
Offering video service of funerals over the Internet helps satisfy family's unique needs.
While many people attend funerals in order to share a thought or hug with the dead person's loved ones, Internet-distributed funeral services help family members that aren't able to personally attend the services feel like they were there.
The add-on service that has been available at Clock for more than a month has been helpful for those who can't be at a particular funeral. Ask the Meyer family. The family of the late Rosalie A. Meyer of Norton Shores learned how useful the technology can be.
Daniel Meyer was on a choir trip to New Zealand when his mother died and couldn't be back for the March 20 funeral service. Donald Meyer said that his son was able to view his Rosalie Meyer's funeral service when he returned to the United States.
A similar situation happened with the Abdelkader family with the death of Sophia in Muskegon earlier in March.
Clock said grandson Justin --a professional hockey player with the Grand Rapids Griffins -- was on a road trip to Houston and San Antonio, Texas when his grandmother's funeral Mass was being celebrated at St. Francis deSales Catholic Church.
He was able to view the service live via the Internet, Clock said.
"Society has family and friends so separated that this technology makes sense," Clock said, pointing to "snow bird" senior citizens spending winters in Florida who can now share in the funeral of a friend in Muskegon.
"Every family I have offered it to have said: Heck, yeah," Clock said of the $75 charge for the Internet video service.
Clock has selected Event By Wire, an Internet broadcaster of all kinds of events from funerals to weddings and business conferences. Event By Wire has provided Clock's with the equipment and training to put up simple YouTube-quality videos on the Internet through the San Ramon, Calif. company's servers.
"These are basic one-camera videos ... they are nothing fancy," Clock said.
Families can choose to "broadcast" or "narrowcast" a funeral service either live or via archived video. A "broadcast" would be publicizing the Event By Wire link to the video for all of the world to watch.
More common would be a "narrowcast" service that would allow the family to send links of the live or archived video to those that they wish. The video link can be password-protected for the family's privacy if they wish.
Videos typically remain on the Event By Wire server for about three months. The family also can have a copy of it burnt to a DVD, Clock said of the technology.
"It is all about the family's choice," Clock said. "It's not for everybody."
Although Clock's funeral parlors have been wired for video for many years, the Internet webcasting equipment from Event By Wire comes in a box the size of a suitcase.
The company has provided the funeral home with a specially configured laptop computer, digital video camera, several wireless microphones and the ability to either connect to the Internet through a wireless system or computer cable.
Clock said the equipment is mobile and can be used in the funeral home chapel or in any church. If not directly linked live to the Internet, Clock employees can "upload" the video immediately after the funeral service.
Although Clock's is Muskegon's oldest funeral home, it has been at the forefront over the years in embracing new technologies. What started as desktop publishing of its own funeral folders in the mid-1980s has led to the Life Story services where full video and booklet presentations of a decedent's life is produced by the time of the visitation and funeral service.
The Internet has allowed people not attending the visitation or the service to learn the full "Life Story" of those who have died. The Clock Web site also allows those wanting to communicate with the family to leave a personal message.
"The 'Life Story' technology has been very favorably received," Clock said.
Clock said he expects 50 percent of his families to take advantage of the Event By Wire service in the future.
"We are doing things as we have before but the technology gives you more accessibility," Clock said. "Funerals are for personal contact with the family. We still need that. People will still come to visitations and funerals. We need human contact at those times."