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During the pandemic lockdown, various technologies came to the rescue. One couldn’t survive without their phone or laptop. streaming services reigned supreme and amazon provided every product possible. So Christopher Fetchik — and partner Michael (Mikey) Colón — created a way that technology could serve in a way few had thought of.
They created a live streaming company that specializes in funeral services — Legacy Celebrated. It provides a connection for those inside funeral homes, as well as in the churches, and even at the graveside. With an experienced team of videographers and technicians, Fetchik and Colón help families close the gap during that most vulnerable and emotional time — when dealing with a loved one’s death. The service eliminates the distance between so many families during Covid-19 and can extend it throughout the globe.
Legacy Celebrated came together by a chance meeting at a time where bringing people together was a necessity. Fetchik was a certified fitness professional making a self-directed workout video. With the onset of Covid, that production quickly shifted to live-streaming workouts for fitness enthusiasts forced to stay away from the gyms. That led to the creation of the Living Room Workout.
While Fetchik focused on virtual workouts, Colón had already been creating video content for social media commercials and websites, an add-on to an already successful career in photography. This continued despite the onset of the pandemic.
Eventually, as restrictions were minimized and fitness centers were allowed to open for personal training and small group outdoor classes, Fetchik began creating outdoor videos at the Montclair YMCA in New Jersey. That was the same YMCA that had contracted Colón to create promo videos to market the re-activation of its facilities.
One video Colón was creating was for the outdoor classes in which Fetchik was the subject. As the fitness pro explained, “It was actually kind of funny having someone film me filming myself. At the end of class and filming, we started talking. We clicked pretty quickly over technical jargon, each with a world of knowledge to open to the other. Shortly after that connection, a business plan would unfold after Mikey attended a funeral.”
What started out as simply paying respects to someone, Fetchik was repeatedly asked about how to set up a live stream on a social media platform. After going back and forth a few times, he offered to do the stream. Immediately after the service ended, the funeral home approached Colón about rates and services.
“Some of our services have seen participants in the thousands from all over the world,” added Fetchick. “To our surprise, with Covid restrictions being lifted, we’re still growing. Part of what we’re finding is that people have utilized the video for more than just a live streaming service.
“During the grieving, there is so much missed. I can attest to the overwhelming emotions that I’ve endured has left an entire funeral process in a blur. So many wonderful stories are brought up at the funeral, but I missed them all. The video has given so many people an opportunity to recompose themselves and watch the service when it’s right for them.
“For some, having the video has been a lasting connection for them to hold onto. For whatever the reason has been to each individual, it’s been acknowledged frequently that the value has been a huge part of the grieving process.
“We put our business heads together and within a few short days we had a name, logo, price list, a plan, website, and a solid direction. A couple days later, we handled our first service. It was a heartbreaking moment for both of us in seeing someone so young. I had to contemplate if this was something I really wanted to do. But the decision to continue was answered in that same moment. Seeing a small group of people so appreciative of having us bring the larger mass of virtual attendees together with them spoke in volumes. I knew at that moment I had a purpose.
“As word of the quality of our service began to spread, we got busy and built a team. As non-denominational, we’ve seen all kinds of funeral services. Despite having different cultural traditions, we’ve noticed the similarities of grieving, family and friends connecting more closely, a mix of tears and laughter as they recite stories of the deceased.”
It’s a process that everyone goes through to find closure. While Covid prevented that, live-streaming not only brought it back, but created a new approach to the grieving process, which is yet another transformation in the funeral process.
He added, “With modern technology we get to shape the funeral service a little more by not only bringing everyone from around the world together, but also by creating that keepsake that has become an added utility in their grieving process.
“In the end, regardless of the culture, we all follow the traditional flow of expressions that vary from person to person, which suits their individual needs in order to grieve and find closure. As the videographer and live-streaming provider, we can capture that moment in all its authenticity so you can connect with your friends and family more closely.”
Q: How did you come up with the name?
CK: The name Legacy Celebrated was a little bit of a rush, as we needed something fast. In our initial conversation about selecting a name, we were so focused on trying to find something that connected us to the word funeral. Name after name, everything we’ve come up with was already taken. We started to reach a little bit and the word Legacy stood out as something monumental. As we continued our discussion, our thoughts were to separate from words that would induce sorrow and instead promote the idea of the celebration of life.
As soon as that phrase came out, it took a matter of seconds to decide on Legacy Celebrated. I’m excited about the name because it truly supports our beliefs in what people leave behind when they pass, and when they lived an amazing life with their families, their lives are deserving of the celebration.
Q: What was the strangest funeral you’ve handled?
CK: We haven’t come across anything too outlandish. During the winter, we’ve had our share of standing in two feet of snow just to be able to get the camera in the right spot. While we always make sure the casket is on display, we had one request to have a camera facing in the casket.
Maybe the strangest scenario we had was a moment before [Salsa’s Legendary] Johnny Pacheco funeral service. It was a church service in which we weren’t able to get in as early as we would have liked based on the level of detail, so we had to wait outside for a little while. With it being such a public event, we wanted to be inside before the crowds got too big and definitely before the news crews started showing up. While waiting outside, we watched a random guy starting arguments with people about how he had money and knew all the famous people that Pacheco knew. And that was fine until he started approaching us. It was just a weird moment. But, it was NYC weird and he also was attending the service. He was well behaved once inside.
We do have some random moments that stand out. I’ll preempt this by saying that services range from extreme sorrow, normal for someone who was lost way too young or from something sudden, to an all out celebration of life. The norm is that a funeral, at least from what we’ve seen, is a somber event with a few random bouts of humor to help ease the sorrows. Some even lean a little more festive with a few bouts of sorrow to say "hey, this is still a funeral."
But one in particular stood out with regards to the celebration of life. It was an outdoor service during the winter. I found it strange that before we started, it was acknowledged that we shouldn’t think too poorly about how everyone was going to speak. Almost like they had to legitimize that they did love the deceased.
I simply say, “Everyone grieves in their own way. It’s no one’s right to judge that, even us.” I understood that moments later when the funeral service was transformed into a comedy stage. It was literally one comedian after the next and they were genuinely funny. But they also really got it.
We work hard to capture the families to make that connection over an internet connection. We know we’ve done everything right by the end of the service when we, as people who’ve never met the deceased, feel like we knew their whole lives. And that comedy routine was that person. We’ve met so many amazing people. But, we never met them in their living years. Yet, it’s always an honor to be a part of their celebrations of life.
Q: Have you had any funny experiences in how people used the service?
CK: During Covid, we've done a few virtual tributes. The idea is that it’s sort of like a funeral service, but takes place long after, sometimes as an annual tradition. They're a cross between a memorial service and a corporate event. It's done 100% remotely and includes videos, slideshows, lots of fun stories, and usually lighthearted and comical. One in particular was of someone who became an actor in his retirement years and was in a commercial and on David Letterman. A little side note on that one… During the service, you could hear someone fall down. He was fortunately, okay. But I removed that from the final cut. After I send the recorded service, I was actually asked to put it back in. Since he was okay, the family had decided that the deceased would have found this funny and it made sense to keep it in.
Q: Any differences between certain religions or cultures?
CK: This could easily be a story in itself if we were to dive into the cultural backgrounds.And this could seriously be an endless saga. But, for a large part, they are all mostly the same these days.
The services themselves all start off with private family time. We actually leave the room as soon as they come in. Whether we’re set up or not, this will never be live-streamed or recorded. We believe that a private moment should forever remain that way.
Many services consist of the immediate family waiting in a separate room until just before the start of the service. The funeral director will let people know they are about to start and ask everyone to rise. At that moment, the family will walk in, and then the service will begin.
There will always be an opening dialogue by the officiant, followed by one or several people delivering a eulogy. With the live-streaming, we have the ability to have someone virtually deliver a eulogy remotely. They can be seen and heard in real time. Aside from the eulogy, some religions and cultures will have special readings; like a prayer in a catholic service, or a chant in an Indian service.
Many services consist of a video slideshow or old home videos. Usually they are either before or after the service. But we’ve seen plenty where videos have been created to use as part of the service.
When it comes to graveside services, the Jewish ceremonies have a unique element at the end in which they all take turns shoveling dirt into the grave until the casket is fully covered. Ceremonially, each person does two. The first one is upside down to signify reluctance. The second is done right side up to indicate acceptance.
In other ceremonies we’ve seen a dance, live music and chants. While there are plenty of traditional elements, the modern day funeral has opened up the idea that regardless of the denomination, families are welcome to celebrate life in any way they feel comfortable with. This was not the case generations ago.
Q: Where is this going?
CK: In moving forward, we have a few different areas to explore. Once we’ve successfully live streamed funerals consistently, we can live-stream just about any event. We’ve done graduations, corporate events, street fairs, car shows, etc. Honestly, most of those are much easier than funerals simply because we have more communications prior to the event.
When you’re live, you have one shot to connect with your subject. It’s much harder at a funeral where you’ve had minimal to no contact ahead of time. And without the connection, you’re just pointing a camera. So in that regard, we always have an open door to exploring new avenues. But I don’t think the funerals will be going away. It would seem that what we’ve done with videography and live streaming has created a new way to have a funeral. In ancient times, funerals were performed with rituals to satisfy beliefs.
They later evolved into traditional values where the deceased was on display in their home or the home of someone close. In modern days, the deceased was taken to a funeral home where they specialized in the care and preservation of the deceased during the funeral process. And now in a more technological time, we can evolve the funeral service to include people who cannot be physically present in a more meaningful way. We also create the opportunity for those who are mourning to extend their funeral to a time more suited for them.
For some people, they go through the entire funeral in such a blur that they don’t even realize who was present or what was said. This gives them a chance to see all that when they’re ready. For others, having the video at their side is simply a keepsake that lets them hold onto a piece of their dearly departed until they’re finally ready to let go. We all have our own way of grieving and in our own time. This gives them another option that works for so many.
Another direction that we’ve committed to, and already underway, are family documentaries. People live fascinating lives, often inspiring. They themselves don’t always realize how inspiring they are, and how much they can offer their families as a result, until we start the process. We believe creating these family documentaries will be a great add-on to what we already do. We will have the operations running by the start of the 4th quarter this year, and just in time for the holiday season.
Q: How do people find you?
We're easily found on the web at www.legacycelebrated.com. However, almost all of our work comes from referrals. A small amount of it is coming from people we meet at random, but that usually translates into corporate or other types of work.
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