The Common Mortal: Hiring a Videographer for a Funeral? Good Grief!

Ok. I’m a little creeped out, I have to admit it.

My grandfather just passed away. It’s a huge loss, to me - he was an important part of my life. :frowning: I’ve just flown into my childhood town for the funeral, where all the rest of my family resides, for the funeral. My father’s been having an interesting time wrangling family, grandmother and taking care of arrangements.

My grandmother has somewhat… lost her fragile little mind. One of the things she has INSISTED on is getting a dvd made of the bloody FUNERAL.

… I’m not sure I want to be watching a video of my grampa’s funeral. Like, ever. I’m sure I’m going to be delivering a great eulogy, but… I just… um… no?

Am I totally off the deep end here? This is just not something I’ve ever encountered before. Culturally, it’s not common here.

Am I alone in feeling kind of icky about it?

I suspect she’s not wanting to see his body or the coffin, but to review what his various friends and family members have to say about him. I was 16 when my father died, and I’m 47 now and only have a few vague memories of the event. But my dad was an amazing man with a long history of service to his country and fellow man (mini-hijack - magician, policeman, puppeteer, Ronald McDonald, radio personality - these were some of the things he did simultaneously) and I’d like to have a record of what his friends and the people he worked with had to say. I was too distraught at the time to listen.

As important as he was to your life, he was doubtlessly important to other people. People who may not be able to attend. And, and this is the important bit - you don’t have to watch the DVD. Not now, not ever. Any professional involved in this business is going to take the same general approach as any other funeral professional - quiet, somber and discreet.

Cultural traditions evolve. At the turn of the last century, most funerals took place in the home. Trying to do so now would give most Americans the heebie-jeebies. At the same time it was a tradition to shoot a photographic portrait of the dead, and it might be the only photograph ever taken of that person (see the film “The Others”).

As much of a loss as you are feeling, she’s lost her husband. If this is something she needs for closure, I’d go along with it.

My mom and dad were avid motorcyclists, and when mom died cyclist friends came from all over the country for her funeral. I hear the ride to the cemetery was quite a sight, with a large procession of motorcycles following the line of cars following the hearse. I wouldn’t know from personal experience though, since I was up near the front in a limo with my dad and brother and grandma and didn’t see a thing (I never even thought to turn around and look out the back window while going around a curve, argh). Oh man do I wish someone had videotaped it. It’s different from your situation, but I do understand why your grandmother wants the service recorded. So, you don’t ever want to see the DVD. That’s fine, but maybe your grandchildren will. Someone will, for sure.

I have to say, I do hope you’ve kept your qualms to yourself and not added to your grandmother’s burden by protesting within her earshot.

I can’t imagine wanting to review the DVD, myself, if I were in your shoes, Elenfair.

But as long as I’m not required to watch the silly thing, I wouldn’t buck someone who did want it made.

In addition to the points that gaffa brought up, there’s a part of me that’s thinking: everyone and their uncle records births these days. What records are we leaving of the other end of life? I can easily see it becoming a valued document for your descendants, direct or collateral, and even more valued for historians.

So, just remember: When you’re giving that eulogy, not only are you speaking to your family,and trying to both remember and mourn your grandfather, but you’re also speaking to history. Don’t worry, there’s no pressure here.

I sang at a funeral once where a video was made of the mass. At first it seemed a bit weird because I had never seen anything like that before. But intrinsically I can’t see any difference between that and filming a wedding. There may have been family members who could not make it to the funeral and who would have appreciated being able to watch the video later.

When my ex’s father died, her brother in law was taking happy snaps of the funeral as though he was at a wedding. “That’s okay…”, I thought.

Then, due to concerns about the recycling of coffins i the funeral industry, they asked for witnesses to go out back into the actual furnace room of the crematorium. I was one of these witnesses, and the brother-in-law was another. Don’t know if you’ve been in one of these places, but it’s not serene and peaceful like the chapel on the other side of the wall - it’s more like the engineroom of a ship. It’s industrial and not at all reverent. Concrete floor, bored workers wearing denim overalls, switches and dials everywhere, and furnace doors in the other wall. We watched the coffin be loaded in, the button pressed, and the coffin start to catch fire as a white hot jet of flame came down. The furnace door was only closed a few moments later after it was clear the coffin was - literally - toast.

Brother-in-law snapped away non-stop at the entire process. I can see future generations wanting to see the funeral itself, but the actual cremation???

I was pleased when a friend took on the role of photographer at my mum’s farewell service. It was just an informal thing. I can understand folks taking vids of something like this, though. Not something I’d watch, I don’t think. At least not for decades after the event (I don’t want to see the photos again, and it’s been over 10 years). But – as someone who loves and researches history, I have to say that such recordings are an amazing thing for future generations to look at, especially those intrigued by changing funerary practices and rituals. TheLoadedDog mentioned photos taken in a crematorium – sounds icky for those close at hand or related to the person whose corpse is being rendered down to ash and bone slivers, but again interesting from a social history perspective. At the time I wished I hadn’t found out how a crematorium worked when it was soon after Mum’s death – but these days, I’d be intrigued more than put off.

Funerals, especially of older family members, are also often the last time you see certain people: your grandfather’s cousin that you’ve known your whole life and you love, but that you won’t actually get together with, your grandfather’s old war buddy or college roommate, the doctor that treated him for the last 30 years. Funerals aren’t just about a single dead person, they are about the death of a lot of connections. I can see wanting to record the experience just because this particular set of people–the people that valued and loved your grandfather–won’t ever be assembled again.

Just remember that the Chuckles the Clown episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show is the best 30 mins of television.

While there was no videographer at my grandmother’s funeral, I don’t think having one would have been really bizarre. Especially if the emphasis was on Eulogies–not actually a part of Grandma’s funeral–and collecting memories from a variety of folk, and just generally recording people who attended the luncheon afterwards. I’ll probably never see 90% of them again.

So, really, I guess I’m voting, not my taste, but not terribly weird sounding either.

As long as the camera is discreetly tucked away and not crawling up the laps of the mourners like it’s the Oscars, no personal problem. It apparently is the way of my father’s Manitoba people to pretend to be Robert Capa at burials-they photograph the deceased in the coffin (and get audibly miffed if a closed casket ceremony) and like the family to pose around the coffin, looking mournfully upon face of the deceased if possible. I about leaped over my ma’s freshly dug grave when some 2nd cousin I’d never met before tried to get me to perform the above. Seen a grieving 200# gal in heels do a hurdle in fresh dirt? Not as cool as it sounds.

But then again, if it was something the widow/er really wanted me to do, I guess I could suck it up. Just some warning please!

I think it’s a good idea. She can listen to the eulogies again later on, when she’s able to pay better attention; if it were me, I wouldn’t be able to remember most of them. I can’t remember the little talk the guy gave at our wedding at all. And all the other reasons too.

At the time my father time, although it was expected after a long battle with lung cancer, I was mostly too numb to remember the visitation and funeral. I remember one woman my father mentored from drunk project manager about to lose her job to sober, successful architect. She spoke movingly about my father and how he saved her life. I just wish I could remember what she said. Other friends and family members said wonderful things. I don’t remember any of it. The Mass was very good, as I recall. I picked out the readings, as well as his grave site under a big spreading tree in a cemetary with graves going back almost 200 years. And it’s all a fog.

It used to be common to make death masks of people after they died. A way to remember them. I think this is our modern way of coping with the finality of death. Once the coffin is closed, you’ll never see that person again.


Of course I haven’t said anything.

Grandpa was cremated three days ago.

It’s just an odd, ODD situation. This whole circus is strange, to be honest. Now that I’m here and hearing what’s been going on, it’s just kind of getting weirder and weirder. Eek, says I. I’ve just been a little weirded out by things.

I did some work for a company that at the time, 2 years ago, was starting to develop a product for funerals. According to the marketing people attending the project meetings, their research showed this product had a huge market potential.

The product? A camera booth to be placed in funeral homes where those attending would step in and record a video message. At the end of the service the video messages would be bundled into a DVD and given out as mementos. My contract with that company finished before that project was completed so I don’t know if it’s rolled out yet. I remember thinking that any work done on the project would be a waste because who whould want something like that, perhaps I underestimated the funeral souvenier market.

I would find it rather odd. But you can’t really go by me, I don’t even want a funeral for myself. My ideas of what would be ‘normal’ are very unlikely to help you.

My dad was a well-respected journalist, and when he died, his company audio-recorded the funeral and gave us CDs of it. I’ve listened to them a few times to hear the tributes that others gave, and they’re important to me.

My sister just died at the age of 27, for no apparent reason. She was in the Navy, and the Navy insisted on making a DVD and snapping pictures at the memorial service they held for her at the base. This was and still is extremely upsetting for our family. We only consented because her best friend was deployed at the time and that was the only way she would be able to see the memorial service. But we really didn’t want it done.

My sister deserves to be treated with a certain amount of respect. The idea of someone videotaping the service so it can be watched and re-watched as a piece of entertainment is disgusting to me. Those of us who loved my sister have the service and those eulogies in our memories. If we want to review the text of those eulogies, we have printed copies from the speakers. But to record the agony and pain of our family so that it can be watched over and over again as entertainment–I’m without words to describe how angry that makes me. I feel it’s disrespectful.

Not to mention, none of us enjoyed having the Navy photographer ambush us outside the chapel to blind us with his flash bulb to capture the misery on our faces as we left. Some things are just best left to memory alone, and should not be commemorated with photos and videos. The people who really care about what happened that day will remember it just fine without turning it into a slick media package.

I wouldn’t say anything to your grandmother, since it’s really up to her. But no, you are not the only one to feel it is more respectful to leave some things up to memory alone.

Well, and there is also the idea that if you don’t get to see everyone very often, that this is also a way to have video of them as well. I can see taking a video of the funeral, so that when you aren’t so distraught, you can hear other people’s memories of your loved one, and be able to smile and think of them. Some people take pictures of the funeral, including the open casket. (Wasn’t that a Victorian practice too? Because so many died young, and might not have had any other kind of portrait taken of them?) I can see video also, because it would record not only what people said, but their body language.

My condolences on the loss of your grandfather, Elenfair. :frowning:

Oh, I should have mentioned – the recording was done very discreetly; nobody who didn’t know it was being recorded would have been able to tell. If there had been someone roving through the congregation with a microphone, or sticking a camera in someone’s face, we never would have permitted it.