Distant rituals are counter-cultural to Irish tradition and leave a scar

Just this week I sat at my desk, turned on the laptop, turned off the cell phone, and attended a funeral online. Subsequently, I signed an online condolence book. That’s the only way most of us can pay homage to death, that great leveler.

The days of brushing my black coat, checking the location on Google Maps, and sneaking around a crowded church are over. As for the post-sociability where you would meet old friends and relatives, maybe have something to eat and drink together, this is only a distant memory. Webcam funerals are just one of many disruptions imposed by the pandemic, but they have to be one of the most disturbing – they are shaking up the funeral etiquette which is a cultural imperative for the Irish.

But just as FaceTime farewells have become commonplace for families unable to visit dying loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes, online funerals are the new normal. Everyone accepts the need to adopt these funeral practices to prevent the transfer of viruses. Funerals have the potential to be super-propagating events with our urge to kiss, kiss and touch the bereaved.

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