Everything was set. The hall was rented. The flowers were on their way. The guests had arrived from out of town. And Kate Kerpen had perfected her recitation of the haftorah. She was ready for her bat mitzvah and entrance into Jewish adulthood.
Two days before its scheduled date of March 14, as New York’s coronavirus situation started to deteriorate, the bat mitzvah had to be postponed. But the entrance to adulthood – well, that part remained, for Kate and the rest of her family.
One week later, Kate’s grandmother Rayni Joan passed away. A few days after that, her grandfather Peter was admitted to the ER and was diagnosed with COVID-19 (he is currently in recovery).
In the course of about a week, following what was supposed to be a joyous coming-of-age for their daughter, Dave and Carrie Kerpen were suddenly faced with the question of how to memorialize Dave’s mother while in quarantine.
The couple, who together founded and lead Likeable Media, a well-known social media agency in New York, quickly decided on a virtual funeral and shiva. Carrie, who overseas hundreds of marketing campaigns each week, launched a site within 24 hours and sent out an announcement.
“It was very important to me to be able to honor my mom and to connect with my family in any way that I could. And as a technologist, I knew that we could use social media and online video to do just that,” said Dave.
They got the technology assembled, in order to accommodate 300 guests at the funeral and 400 more at the shiva. With a memorial tribute website, a Zoom meeting live streamed on YouTube, and a Whereby lounge room open for shiva, the Kerpens were able to honor Rayni virtually.
Carrie and Dave helped family and friends download Zoom and showed them how to use the software so everyone could successfully connect live. They even set up a guestbook in which loved ones could share stories and memories, and a link for contributing to a specific charity that Rayni cherished. Dave, his brothers, as well as some other relatives eulogized Rayni at the memorial service.
“Not being able to hug my brothers was very difficult. I am still grieving. A few days later, I realized that there are going to be lots of people dying around the world and families under quarantine that won’t be able to properly grieve and honor their loved ones,” said Dave.
So the serial entrepreneur decided to join forces with one of his business partners, Samuel Nesbitt, and launch Remembering.live, an online memorial services company. The service offers all of the digital planning and execution that helped the Kerpens honor and remember Dave’s mother.
Between setting up a memorial website, to enabling live streaming video of a funeral service, to configuring a shiva or wake room, a guestbook of memories and a charitable contribution link – Remembering.live is doing the holy work of helping mourners properly grieve, during quarantine.
The platform has already serviced families in New York, the UK and New Zealand, since its launch last week.
“Growing up I never thought I would be a funeral director. I thought I could never do that, it seemed so depressing. But I actually think by doing this business it’s not only helping a lot of grieving families but it’s helping me grieve in a way. It’s helping me process everything and continue to remember my mom and honor her. And for that I’m really grateful for the opportunity,” added a reflective Dave Kerpen.