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When a Digital Memorial Saves the Day


You know when work is going crazy and you get a call that makes you pause? Yeah, I had one of those a couple of weeks ago. My grandpa, a beloved member of our family, had passed away just as some states (including his) were issuing moratoriums on physical funerals. Honestly, I wondered if I could even begin to feel the gravity of losing such an important piece of my life during the COVID season. Even if I could muster up the emotional energy, we couldn’t meet together anyway… or could we? 

After about a day of thinking about the need to honor my grandpa and move forward, I realized there could be a solution. I had been coaching churches to use Zoom for small groups and it was time to listen to my own suggestions.  Why couldn’t we honor my grandpa online? So I went after it. After offering to set up a digital memorial through Zoom, my family thought about it and then came back two days later ready to try it. I had never heard of anyone using this method for this kind of moment in life. It felt like an adventure! Would we cry? Is it possible to feel the weight of the moment online? Is grandma going to figure out how to jump onto a video chat? What happens if the family argues? At the end of the day, our family thought it would be worth it to find out sooner than later. Here are some things I learned along the way.

Timing Matters. 

The greatest value of choosing to go digital was the ability to begin the grieving process on time. It was tempting to hold out for a traditional funeral. But it only hurts the ability to have any closure. What did we have to lose? Going digital didn’t mean we couldn’t meet in person later. Choosing this method meant we could celebrate his life and gain a degree of closure just 5 days after his passing. 

Emotions do translate online.

Ok, so I told you my week was on overdrive. I wondered if I would be numb and it would be just another Zoom meeting (because we’re all getting fried right)? Well, it couldn’t have been any better. In fact, I would say the conversation was more focused online. This focus allowed us to laugh, cry, share and even get into the Scripture. The final few verses of 1 Corinthians 15 was incredibly meaningful. To hear my grandma finish the words, “where O death is your sting?” before I could read it is something I will never forget. It was a gospel-centered moment.

Technology is doable for most any family member.

When I first suggested this method, I immediately wondered if it was doomed for technology. Out of roughly 15 logged into Zoom, only one required a family member to drive over and spend the time together to make it work. Technology was no barrier for typical funeral or memorial elements. We experienced live music, recorded songs, a slide show and plenty of interpersonal communication. A real highlight was when a family member picked up a guitar on a whim and played an older worship song. Everyone smiled and listened. It was special.

It’s a good excuse to do what we all should have been doing all along.

About one minute into the memorial it struck me… one entire side of the family was on screen together at the same time! Like many of you, modern life has seen our family scatter all over the country. Getting together just doesn’t happen as much as it should. I paused and soaked it all in. Many family members did the same. I could see them pause and just look at everyone. It was a profound moment. Maybe we should have been doing something like this all along as a family? I think so. It didn’t cost anything and wasn’t dependent on travel. I loved it. It wasn’t quite a hug with my grandma, but it was special in its own way. We will always remember it as one of those special and unscripted life moments. No doubt, it saved the day!

PODCAST 061: Kids, Students, and Church Online
The Other Side

About Author

Dave Carroll
Dave Carroll

Dave Carroll serves in the areas of worship leadership and student ministry discipleship with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. His experience includes effective local church leadership in the areas of family ministry, student ministry, small groups, Sunday school, college ministry, worship leadership, portable church, executive ministry teams, church planting and senior pastor leadership. He has experience in church sizes of 0-1300 in average attendance and 0-100+ in local church age of existence. Dave came to saving faith in Jesus and was baptized in his elementary school years. He responded to God’s call to vocational ministry as a freshman at Florida State University. He attended Palm Beach Atlantic University and received a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Dave’s heart is wired to help churches see their vision, hopes and dreams realized. This is true both for the forward thinking church working on the next innovative idea and the long-time church desiring to take a small step forward toward effectiveness. Convinced most ministries are a few key decisions away from seeing the Lord use them in ways they never thought possible, he looks forward to serving worship and student ministers. Before moving to Texas to join the SBTC, they most recently served in Montana as church planters. The Lord blessed as the church grew to 500+ in six years. During that same span, 600+ people came to saving faith in Jesus and 280+ were baptized. Dave has been married to Amy for 20 years and they have four boys ranging from elementary to high school.

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