Monday, December 15, 2014

Death on the Internet: The Rise of Livestreaming Funerals

funeral guys bow tie streaming your funearl
It’s 11 o'clock on a Tuesday morning. Usually at this hour, I’d be stepping out of my office for an absurdly early lunch, but not today. Today, I find myself leaning into my computer screen in the most isolated corner of The Atlantic's kitchen, hoping that no one stumbles in as I try to watch a stranger’s funeral over the Internet.

When Walker Posey invited me to view the funeral of his grandmother, Alta Marie, via webcast, I was stunned. I had already interviewed Posey, a fourth-generation funeral director, for this article. He shared his experiences and opinions about funeral webcasting with me, but I didn’t expect him to let me watch a funeral, let alone the funeral of one of his family members. I knew I had to say yes to his offer, but I wanted to say no. I felt anxious about being a voyeur, a foreign digital presence in an otherwise private family moment.

I was not alone in my discomfort. When I asked my coworkers if they had ever watched a private funeral service online, the answer was a universal no. That no also came with a lot of weird looks. Most people don’t like to talk about death at all, but the added component of online viewing seems to push this topic firmly into the taboo. And yet, Posey estimates that around a quarter of his customers decide to use webcasting when preparing a funeral service.

Webcasting has been around since the mid-1990s, but the service didn’t infiltrate the funeral industry until the early 2000s. Even then, it was a sluggish incursion, one that only gained momentum in the last six or seven years. “The funeral profession’s like a cruise ship,” said Joe Joachim, CEO of funeralOne, a Detroit-based company that began offering funeral webcasting around 2002. “It takes a while to turn, but it can turn.”
The service’s growing appeal is, by all accounts, a result of the increasing mobility of modern society. Remote participation is often the only option for those who live far away or have other barriers—financial, temporal, health-related—barring them from attending a funeral. Within the industry, it’s seen as a compromise, an additive component that expands the accessibility of a service. “It’s not designed to replace folks attending funerals,” said Posey. “A lot of folks just don’t live where their family grew up and it’s difficult to get back and forth.”

Secularization may also play a part in its growing acceptance, as what qualifies as an acceptable funeral becomes more flexible. “The rules are starting to become more plastic,” said Dr. Wendy Moncur, a researcher in socio-digital interaction at the University of Dundee. “There's more of a personal approach to funerals, rather than a formulaic approach of what was always done in a church.” In other words, as we release ourselves from the constraints of tradition, we find more space not only to better reflect the decedent’s personality, but also for modern tools.

It helps, of course, that webcasting has gotten better and cheaper over the years. The funeral industry is indeed an industry, and as the service became easier-to-use and more affordable over the past decade, it also became more common to see it as an offering in funeral homes. According to The New York Times, some establishments offer the option for free while others charge between $100 and $300. Compared to the other possible costs associated with a funeral (in 2012, the median cost of embalming was $695 and a metal casket was $2,395), webcasting is a bargain.

While the utility of funeral webcasting is clear, what is less apparent is the technology’s impact on the Westerns world’s relationship with death. For individual mourners, is it helpful or harmful to the grieving process? What happens if there’s a technical problem with the webcast—will we grieve even more knowing we missed the service in person and online? Does webcasting bode well for the future of death acceptance? Or does it only promote of our further alienation from that inevitable moment?
According to Carla Sofka, it’s still too early to tell. A professor of social work at Siena College, Sofka has been studying the interface of technology and grief since the mid-1990s. She thinks we simply don’t know enough yet about the possible psychological consequences of funeral webcasting to make those calls. “I think it’s important for people who have experience with [webcasts] to share their stories and to reach out to people like myself, so that we can continue to learn. Are they positive? Are they negative? Are they a mixed bag? Because I think the potential for all of those things to be true is there.”

Caitlin Doughty, a death theorist and mortician, argues that while it’s no surprise that the death industry has an online dimension, we should not indiscriminately accept webcasting as part of the funeral process. “The physical dead body is proof of death, tangible evidence that the person we love is gone, and that we will someday be gone as well,” said Doughty. “To have death and mourning transferred online takes away that tangible proof. What is there to show us that death is real?”

Moncur has a more positive take. She argues that rather than allowing death and its attendant rituals to lie on the periphery of our existences, webcasting and other technologies make death more visible by bringing it quite literally into our homes through our computer screens and mobile devices. “The availability of webcasts for funerals play a part in the ‘de-sequestration’ of death and bereavement,” Moncur told me. “Death is becoming less hidden, more public, in our society because of the Internet and contemporary online responses to grief and loss.”

Image courtesy of Walker Posey

All of these ideas are running through my head as I’m getting ready to watch Alta Marie Posey’s funeral. When the webcast starts, the audio and video are out of sync, but catch up to each other about nine minutes in. I see Alta Marie’s casket in the center of the frame, piled high with flowers. I hear the sounds of a mournful organ. A silver-haired man steps up the podium and eulogizes Alta Marie, explaining how he came to know her through the church and through his mother.
It’s certainly not the same as being at an actual funeral. For mourners watching from a screen, there are no enveloping hugs, no potent shoulder squeezes. Webcasts simply don’t have the same rawness and catharsis of in-person attendance—just as watching the World Series in your living room couldn’t possibly compare to the roaring excitement of being in the stadium.

Posey gets up to speak. He talks about how his grandmother was a great host and how she loved boating, but his speech is interrupted as the webcast abruptly cuts to black after minutes. I tried to reload my browser several times in hopes the video would play again, but to no avail. (Walker later told me it was because he was using a new computer for the webcast and it went to sleep during the service.)

After the camera stopped rolling (or rather, streaming) I sat for a moment. I realized that I felt fine—certainly not about Alta Marie’s death, but about the webcasting. The technology can be finicky and, given the delicate situation, any glitches could be emotionally trying. But it would be hasty to write webcasting off based on one experience that went awry. If imagined merely as a concession, funeral webcasting still feels like a respectful alternative to attending in-person, a way to say goodbye from afar when distance, health, or whatever else conspires to keep you in place. The truth is, everyone grieves in different ways. And funeral webcasting offers one more opportunity for people to process a loss and remember those who have died.

Article originally posted HERE.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Posed For Your Funeral.

They say people grieve differently, and it seems that same sentiment is sure coming true in regards to how people are planning their funerals. Some people choose to cremate, while others have open caskets. Traditionally speaking the standard laying down in a casket with your hands crossed is what first comes to mind, but that idea is changing. Today people are looking for ways to make their funerals more personal, and for some that means, more realistic. Check out these examples of some funerals where the deceased have been literally posed for their funeral. What do you think? Creepy or Cool? The grieving process is a strange and personal journey.

The body of boxer Christopher Rivera is propped up in a fake boxing ring during his wake at the community recreation center within the public housing project where he lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The family of a Puerto Rican boxer, honored his dying wish on Friday by propping up his corpse in the corner of a fake boxing ring to memorialize his career. Like an ashen wax figure, Christopher Rivera’s pale, embalmed body was positioned in the corner of the ring decked out in boxing gloves, a hoodie, shades and sneakers.

Before Miriam Burbank’s daughters buried her, they decided to have one last party in memory of their mom for friends and family.The daughters told local reporters that when the funeral parlor asked what they wanted to do for their mother’s funeral, they decided to remember her as she lived.Which in Burbank’s case meant sunglasses, menthol cigarettes, a case of Busch, a bottle of single malt whiskey, and two disco balls.

Years before Billy Standley died, he planned out every detail of his funeral: He bought up the three plots next to his wife’s grave, had his sons build him a custom casket, and arranged for the funeral director to embalm him in a sitting position. Earlier today, Standley’s dream funeral took place, and he was laid to rest atop his beloved Harley-Davidson.

Standley first came up with the idea 18 years ago and, with the help of his family, worked on it on and off for years. The casket was made out of plexiglass, with wood and steel rods reinforcing its bottom.
“If you stopped by his house, he showed you his casket,” his son Roy Standley told the Dayton Daily News. ”He was proud of it.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lessons Crowdfunded Funerals Can Teach Us

What happens when you combine a lack of transparency in pre-planning, record high funeral costs and a general fear of discussing mortality in the U.S.?

A lot of people trying to scramble together funds for an unexpected funeral.

Traditionally, when a family loses a loved one, everyone hands over their credit card to make sure that mom, dad or grandma gets a proper sendoff. But when the average cost of a funeral reaches between $7,045 – $8,343 (according to the National Funeral Directors Association), it’s nearly impossible for one family to foot the bill.

That’s where funeral crowdfunding comes in.

The History of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a concept that gained a lot of traction in the early 2000’s as a major funding resource for budding entrepreneurs and startups who were looking for help to make their next big idea a reality. By 2011, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and other crowdfunding platforms began emerging.

With the creation of those crowdfunding platforms people began to raise money for other reasons than business ideas. Crowdfunding quickly became a way for members of a community to work together and support a good cause. The most popular campaigns raise money for college funds, medical emergencies, travel, volunteer work, and now… funerals.

In fact, crowdfunded funerals have become so popular on these platforms that at this very moment, 11,685 memorial campaigns have been launched in the last 30 days alone. Crowdfunded funerals have become so big, there are now crowdfunding platforms being launched just for supporting funerals – Graceful Goodbye, YouCaring and Funeral Fund, to name a few.

So what can the world of crowdfunded funerals teach us? A lot, it turns out.

Lessons The World of Crowdfunded Funerals Can Teach Us

After browsing several dozen campaigns online, the first one that stuck out to me was one created by someone to plan their own funeral. It was the first campaign I’d seen started by someone for their own funeral, and it was a really touching story. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma and wanted a proper burial for himself. In his story, he says “ I do not want to ignore the inevitable and leave my family to deal with the financial burden of trying to pay to bury me. I am trying to fight as long as God allows me to.”

His campaign touched me not because it was a devastating situation, but because he was trying to take control of it. It touched me so much, I wanted to share with you the three lessons I learned from his story and many others I read while researching crowdfunded funerals:

Lesson #1: Crowdfunded funerals create awareness of the cost of a funeral

Not just the costs, but how hard it is to cover them. In the world of crowdfunded funerals, paying for someone’s wake isn’t a private matter any more, it’s a public matter where people all over take part. I think it has created a sense of transparency. After all, we wouldn’t know that it’s impossible to get life insurance if you’re already in bad health. Or that some people can’t even afford to travel to attend their loved one’s funeral, let alone help pay for it.

The takeaway: By creating different package options and offering them in an easy-to-find, transparent way, we can encourage families to educate themselves on the cost of funerals… and how to save up for them.

Lesson #2: Crowdfunded funerals inspire people to think about their own mortality

When’s the last time you really sat down and thought about your own demise? Like, really thought about it? And without having an anxiety attack immediately after. Reading all of these stories inspired me to think about my own mortality so much so that I’ve actually started taking the first steps in planning my own funeral (stay tuned for that blog, it’ll be coming soon).

The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to encourage people in your community to plan for their own mortality. It doesn’t have to be a big deal – it could simple be a meetup at a local coffee shop where people can start having those conversations with one another.

Lesson #3: Crowdfunded funerals force us to be held accountable for our own deaths

Just spend ten minutes browsing through memorial campaigns and you’ll notice that whether it’s a young person who passed away unexpectedly or a 90-year-old woman who’s had stage four cancer for the last year, no one’s ever really ready to die. But by holding ourselves accountable and preparing for the worst, we’re not only lessening the burden on our loved ones financially, but we’re also allowing ourselves to die honorably and properly. I read a statistic a few weeks ago that reported less than 30% of people report setting aside any funds for their own funeral. Imagine how much the attitudes towards death and funerals would change if more and more people started saving for them (think weddings)?

The takeaway: Take the initiative in your community and find an approachable way to educate people on how to save up for their own funeral. Create an infographic, a brochure, or even an online program designed to help them save.

One last thing…

If there’s one thing the world of crowdfunded funerals can teach us more than anything, it’s that death is an integral part of life, and it’s time we started treating it that way. Let’s embrace the media attention towards funerals and death to create awareness, accountability and creativity when it comes to celebrating life. Sure, crowdfunded funerals can be just another trend. But it’s a step in the right direction. And for me, one step is all we need to start connecting with our families better. Tell me in the comments below if you’re with me!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ebola Guidelines Pose Challenges For Funeral Industry

The Ebola virus has only killed one person on U.S. soil, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued protocols for how to deal with victims’ bodies to avoid new infections.

Health care workers in the United States are not the only ones confused over evolving government directions for treating Ebola patients.
Funeral directors, whose work and personal safety also could be affected in the event of an outbreak, are puzzling over federal edicts for handling the dead that conflict with long-standing practices and state laws.
"Everyone's taking it pretty seriously," said Robert Fells, a lawyer who directs the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association. "Our people will be on the front lines when and if there are any deaths from Ebola."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a series of precautions that it says are aimed at safety for all who, by virtue of their jobs, could come into contact with those carrying the disease.
Among the protocols: The dead should get double-bagged, and buried or cremated as soon as possible after death. Autopsies are to be avoided, and embalming is ruled out. No open caskets or visits for family members of the deceased, even to confirm identification.
Funeral home workers are not to wash the body, a typical and important rite to practitioners of some religious faiths. Nor are they to remove tracheal tubes or catheters, let alone implanted devices such as pacemakers or defibrillators that can explode in a crematory furnace.
The guidelines run counter to mandatory waiting periods between death and cremation — a safeguard on multiple levels, including to make sure that the right person is being cremated. They also conflict with the industry's safety standards for cremation and practices meant to ensure the dead are treated with dignity.
"There is a lot of talk in the industry about this," said John McQueen, the owner of Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home in St. Petersburg and the recently elected president of the board of the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice.
A loose network of funeral and cremation providers in Tampa Bay, as well as professional associations nationwide, have been quizzing and sending CDC updates to one another in recent months.
Funeral industry representatives note that they are already well versed in responding to disasters, as a surge of Ebola deaths would certainly represent. And they've handled bodies struck down by contagious diseases and other disasters since the profession came into being.
"This is no different from any other health care worker," said Tom Ralph, a Plantation funeral home owner and a board member of FEMORS, or the Florida Emergency Mortuary Response System. "Funeral directors have been doing this for centuries in some fashion or another."
In Florida, some funeral workers remain on call for FEMORS, a watch list. Because that system was in place, crews were ready to handle the remains of the 110 people who died in 1996 on Mother's Day, when ValuJet Flight 592 crashed into the Everglades.
At the same time, the CDC wants funeral workers to be prepared because of the nature of Ebola itself, should an outbreak threaten. The disease is at its most potent when its victim has died, often preceded by substantial leaking of body fluids that continues after death.
"Bleeding is abundant, but this is also when the viral load is the biggest," said Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman with the World Health Organization in Geneva.
That dynamic, coupled with African funeral customs of kissing or touching corpses, has contributed to the spread of Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, leading some to refer to certain funerals as "superspreaders" of the virus. A study published in the Sept. 12 issue of Science linked 78 Ebola cases to 14 women who had attended a funeral in Sierra Leone.
An Aug. 20 CDC document says that when an Ebola patient dies, workers should wrap the body in a plastic shroud, slip the wrapped body into a body bag of a predetermined thickness, disinfect the bag, then deposit it into another body bag and disinfect that one, too.
From that point, no one sees the face of the deceased again.
"We do a visual identification of the remains to make sure, 'Hey, we cremated an 85-year-old woman,'" McQueen said. "I'm guessing we won't be doing that in this process."
The body of Thomas Duncan, the only person to have died of Ebola on U.S. soil, was cremated by Texas health authorities according to these protocols.
In another point of contention, the guideline calling for immediate disposal of bodies places cremation providers in a legal dilemma. Florida and other states require a 48-hour waiting period before a body can be cremated. The holding time gives funeral homes enough time to procure a death certificate and notify any remaining family members.
"What do you do?" said Keenan Knopke, owner of Curlew Hills Memory Gardens in Clearwater. "Do you do what the CDC recommends you do, or do you do what the state law will discipline you on?"
Meanwhile, crematory operators consider removing battery-operated devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators from the deceased an important safety precaution. Explosions of those devices have damaged cremation chambers and injured workers.
The CDC cautions against removing any such devices from Ebola victims, posing another dilemma.
"Is the risk of explosion greater than the risk of exposure to bodily fluids?" said Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America. "I would never tell a CANA member never to remove a pacemaker because I don't know which risk is greater."
For those who are buried, the CDC specifies that health or mortuary workers should deposit the shrouded and wrapped bodies in a "hermetically sealed casket."
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a hermetically sealed or airtight casket. The CDC is likely referring to Ziegler transfer cases, galvanized steel shipping containers used for transporting bodies over long distances, said Mark Risch, a St. Petersburg warehouse manager for Aurora Casket Co. The cases do not allow air in or out. Risch said he normally stocks about 20 of them a year.
"But with this Ebola scare I have purchased a couple more, just in case," Risch said.
Fells, of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, asked the CDC to clarify its guidelines. Although the CDC did not reply directly, Fells told the Times that other federal government sources relayed his questions to the agency.
On exploding pacemakers, he said, "The answer was basically in those cases, use the option to bury."
The CDC's recommendations do not carry the force of law, and the agency would evaluate any Ebola death on a case-by-case basis, spokeswoman Melissa Brower said.
As for the waiting period and other issues raised by providers, Brower said the agency has created "a mortuary working group" to answer such questions.
In the meantime, funeral professionals are hoping that their preparations for Ebola will turn out to be unnecessary.
"You've got to be extra vigilant and pay attention," Knopke said. "If you've got to trust something I guess it's got to be the government, good or bad."
Article originally published at Tampa Bay Times.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Top 10 Strangest Deaths

Qeepr put together a list of the Top 10 Strangest Deaths in History, continue reading for examples of weird, ironic, and crazy ways these people met their unfortunate end.

1. The Final Victory

Frank Hayes was a good jockey, so good infact that in 1923 he won a race at Belmont Park in New York despite being dead. Hayes had suffered a heart attack mid-race, but his body stayed in the saddle for the entire race! Hayes and his horse crossed the line for a 20–1 victory from behind. 

2. When Nature Calls, Answer...


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To "Funeral Parlor"

Whose excited for the release of Dumber and Dumber To this week?! The gross-out adventure comedy from brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly will debut in U.S. theaters on Friday and begins with Harry, 20 years older but just as stupid, needing a kidney transplant but unable to find a donor match.
That is until he learns about an unknown daughter he fathered who was put up for adoption. He and Lloyd set out on a road trip to find her but become unwittingly ensnared in a murder plot.

In the above clip they visit a funeral home while on their road trip, and enjoy a glass of... embalming fluid! At least it doesn't have Aspartame in it, right? Cheers!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The 10 Best and Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief. put together a great list of the best and worst things to say to someone who is grieving and wanted to share it! VIA Security National Life.

The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief
Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.” We meant no harm, in fact the opposite. We were trying to comfort. A grieving person may say one of the worst ones about themselves and it’s OK. It may make sense for a member of the clergy to say, “He is in a better place” when someone comes to them for guidance. Where as an acquaintance saying it may not feel good.
Some people often unintentionally trivialize grief by expressing to the person their own opinions as if that is what the person needs to hear. While some of these opinions have been helpful to some people, the way in which they are often said has the exact opposite effect than what was originally intended.
The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief
1. I am so sorry for your loss.
2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.
4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…
6. I am always just a phone call away
7. Give a hug instead of saying something
8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you
9. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything
10. Saying nothing, just be with the person
The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief
1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young
2. He is in a better place
3. She brought this on herself
4. There is a reason for everything
5. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now
6. You can have another child still
7. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him
8. I know how you feel
9. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go
10. Be strong

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Springfield Funeral Home will Host its First Fireworks Show Using Cremated Remains...

Who doesn't love a firework show? People have gone all out using them at their parties and weddings, but what about a funeral? Why not take it a step further and have your loved one be apart of them, literally...

A funeral home will host its first fireworks memorial service this Saturday.
The Greenlawn Memorial Gardens event will showcase fireworks manufactured with cremated remains by AM Pyrotechnics. The inaugural display will be near Greenlawn Memorial Gardens.
“We are anxious to see the first of what we hope to be many of these unique fireworks displays,” said Jason Diemer, vice-president of Greenlawn Funeral Homes. “This is an exciting service which Greenlawn is pleased to bring to our community.”
Greenlawn Funeral Homes collaborated with AM Pyrotechnics in 2013. Through this partnership, they have the ability to create a beautiful and meaningful tribute. Cremains can be displayed in a breathtaking fireworks display of one’s choosing. One can choose from varying noise levels, colors and more to create a personalized display.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the rate of cremations is more than 40 percent, and continues to grow. Greenlawn’s partnership with AM Pyrotechnics increases personalization options for families that choose cremation and allows its customers to design a memorial as close as possible to each individual’s personality.
Greenlawn Funeral Home is a sixth-generation family owned funeral home.

Monday, October 20, 2014

We Need a Heroic Narrative for Death

Amanda Bennett and her husband were passionate and full of life all throughout their lives together — and up until the final days, too. Bennett gives a sweet yet powerful talk on why, for the loved ones of the dying, having hope for a happy ending shouldn't warrant a diagnosis of "denial." She calls for a more heroic narrative for death — to match the ones we have in life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Urn Company Foreverence Make 3D Printed Custom Urns

Have you heard of 3-D printers yet? They have been all the buzz the last few years, and have now made their way into the funeral industry in an impressive debut with custom urns. Now you can have an extremely unique urn made for your loves ones that really go above and beyond. They have the ability to really showcase someone's personality and display what they loved most.

Foreverence began making one-of-a-kind cremation urns using 3-D printers about three months ago. It can design an urn in just about any shape, giving families the opportunity to have endless creativity in memorializing their loves ones. The urns typically cost about $2,500. Foreverence is on track to make $500,000 this year and hopes to hit $3.3 million by its third year. Co-founder Pete Saari said. “It’s literally having a conversation with a family that suffered a loss to say, ‘What is symbolic of the way that person lived their life? What is a form of passion for them? What is something that was a hobby or interest of theirs?’ The conversation is around legacy — what was meaningful to that person, what’s meaningful for the family.”

With more and more people looking to cremation, this should come as no surprise. Pete Saari and Wally Danielson the founders of Foreverence found a way to customize cremations, and people are loving it. Check out their site, because the possibilities are endless. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Funeral Home Offers Drive-Thru Viewing

People want things fast and easy, and that mentality has found it’s way to the funeral industry as well. A funeral home in Saginaw, Michigan recently added an unusual new convenience for mourners — a drive-thru viewing window.

Original article posted here.

"The Saginaw News reports Paradise Funeral Chapel has installed a window that displays a body set up in a special area inside the building with a raised and tilted platform for the casket.
Curtains over the window automatically open when a car pulls up, and mourners get three minutes to view a body as music plays overhead.
There also a deposit opening for leaving donations, cars or memory items. And behind a door is a retractable guest book that drive thru mourners can sign.
President Ivan Phillips says he is trying particularly to be sensitive to the needs of the elderly, who may have mobility problems that make it difficult to get into the building or who may be afraid of funeral homes.
He says his drive-through allows people who might not otherwise visit the funeral home to honor the deceased.
Phillips says it's up to each family to decide if they want to use the window as part of a funeral viewing. For those who do, the drive-up window is only used when indoor visitation is not taking place, he said, and the viewing area can not be seen from the inside of the funeral home.
His business also offers a silver, horse-drawn carriage to bring the dead to nearby cemeteries.
At least three other U.S. funeral homes offer drive-thru service."

There have been mixed review on this new service. On one hand this new way of viewing gives people the opportunity to pay their respects from the comfort of their vehicle even if they cannot make the traditional viewing because of work, disability or other challenges. While others think it is disrespectful. 
What do you think? Convenient, or controversial?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What To See and Do During the 2014 NFDA Convention


 Article originally found on 

Every year, funeral professionals set aside time from their hectic schedules to attend the National Funeral Directors Convention. For many directors, a trip to the NFDA Convention may be the only opportunity to take a vacation. It is a truly special event that combines fun and sightseeing with informative educational sessions and networking opportunities. Without a doubt, the NFDA is the highlight of the year for many in the funeral profession. This year’s convention will be held at the Music City Center in Nashville, TN. By selecting a location in the city “that music calls home”, the NFDA is helping funeral directors to discover a live music experience unlike anywhere else in the world. And that’s not all that Nashville offers. ASD researched the most popular sites in Nashville along with NFDA’s full lineup of workshops and convention activities. We are pleased to provide you with this fun and informative guide to the seminars, events and attractions that you won’t want to miss this year.

Here is Your Complete Guide to The 2014 NFDA Convention.

1. WORKSHOP: Transparency and Social Media: Creating an Ethical Edge for Your Firm
Social media allows funeral home owners to communicate and truly engage with their communities. Many funeral directors are familiar with the popular blog, Confessions of a Funeral Director, created by Funeral Director, Caleb Wilde, of Wilde Funeral Home in Parkesburg, PA. As the first guest on Funeral Pro Chat, Caleb shared how remaining open with his readers has helped him to inspire meaningful discussions with his blog followers. In his first NFDA workshop, Caleb explains how the transparency of social media allows for a type of self- disclosure that honest, caring funeral homes can use to separate their firms from the competition. (Approved for 1 CE hour by APFSP and licensing boards in most states and provinces.)
  • Presented by Caleb Wilde, Confessions of a Funeral Director
  • Sunday, October 12th, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

2. NFDA Whiskey Tasting & City Tour
Take a driving tour of Nashville with the NFDA to see the city’s landmark attractions including the famous Music Row2nd AvenueBroadway and the Tennessee State Capital. After getting to know this year’s host city, enjoy a beer and bourbon tasting at Doc Holiday’s Saloon which features some of the city’s best local selections. To learn more or to register for this tour, click here.
  • Sunday, October 12th, 2-5 p.m.

3. NFDA Welcome Party
Kick off your first night in Nashville by attending NFDA’s Welcome Party at Nashville’s #1 Dining and Entertainment destination, Wildhorse Saloon. Hosted by 2013 NFDA President,Robby Bates, this year’s Welcome Party will take place in a historic warehouse turned restaurant where guests can enjoy live music, delicious cuisine and billiards in the famous Wildhorse Billiards room.
  • Sunday, October 12th, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Wildhorse Saloon
  • Located at 120 2nd Ave. North.
4. Broadway’s Nightlife
The NFDA convention will take place in the heart of Music City Center where live music can be heard from hundreds of venues across the city. Just a block away from the convention center, lower Broadway consists of 4 blocks bursting with live country music venues, restaurants and businesses. From honky tonk clubs to historic cafes to concert halls, lower Broadway offers everything a music lover could ever want. Head to the world famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (422 Broadway) to see where country legends like Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson got their start and listen to local talent cover modern country hits. For those who like a little bit of rock with their country music, check out The Stage on Broadway (412 Broadway) where live music plays every night and there is never a cover charge. If you’re in the mood for some mechanical bull riding, visit Tequila Cowboy (305 Broadway) where you’ll also find live music, a dance club lounge and Karaoke stage. The NFDA will host this year’s Funeral Directors Under 40 Party there on Tuesday night at 8 p.m.   5. WORKSHOP: How Green Practices Benefit Your Business Green burial practices have been a hot button topic in the funeral profession over the last several years as more firms embrace environmentally friendly burial options. At this year’s conference, directors will have an opportunity to learn how to integrate green practices into their funeral homes and communicate the program to the public. In this workshop, Funeral Director, Bob Prout, owner of the first funeral home in the United States to earn the NFDA Green Practices™ Certificate, will explain how he used cost-saving green practices to increase his firm’s market share.
  • Presented by Carol Lynn Green, Law Office of Carol Lynn Green and Robert J Prout, Prout Funeral Home in Verona, NY
  • Monday, October 13, 7:30-9:30 a.m.
6. The World’s Largest Funeral Expo
Be sure to set aside some time to explore the NFDA Expo Hall and learn more about the latest funeral products, trends and innovations. With more than 300 exhibitors, the expo hall is a chance to catch a sneak peak of what your funeral home’s vendors have in the works. There is always an exciting new product, booth design or special prize on display. You can find Security National Life at Booth 1902 where you can learn more about how we can help your funeral home. We believe the preneed industry is as service oriented as our funeral home client base. Our goal is to provide those client relationships with competitive preneed products and services and also accompany our other divisional offerings to fulfill that commitment. Our strategy is to educate our client base on how a service approach to marketing can increase the ability for them to serve more families. Let SNL show you a better way. We will be giving away a Peyton Manning signed football, as well as going through our iRegister and Funeral Home Services.

4X3 SNL Convention Booth 
  7. Jack’s BBQ Only a short walk from Music City Center, the award-winning Jack’s Bar-B-Que has a little of everything for BBQ lovers. Offering a wide selection that includes Tennessee pulled pork shoulder, Texas-style brisket, St Louis-style pork ribs and a large selection of side dishes, you won’t find a better BBQ joint in Music City than Jack’s.
  • Located at 416 Broadway

8. Country Music’s Roots It’s not just the burgeoning live music scene that makes Nashville the city that “music calls home”.  Nashville’s very foundation is built on music. Be sure to spend some time exploring all of the music history the city has to offer. Only a few blocks from Music City Center, you’ll find the “Mother Church of Country Music” – the Ryman Auditorium (116 Fifth Avenue. North.) Built in 1892, the theater has showcased legendary artists like Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Just a few blocks away, you’ll find the largest collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world at the Johnny Cash Museum (119 3rd Ave. South.) On your walk back to the convention, take a stroll through the Music City Walk of Fame Park (4th Ave. South, directly across from Music City Center) to see the star-studded pavement honoring Nashville music legends and the Nashville Music Garden. 9. Grand Ole Opry This is the show that made country music famous. Located about 15 minutes from Music City Center, The Grand Ole Opry (2804 Opryland Drive), Nashville’s #1 attraction, features a mix of legends and contemporary artists performing country, bluegrass, folk and more. It is also the longest running radio broadcast in history. Unlike a typical concert, the Opry shows feature eight or more artists, giving the audience a sample of each artist’s style. If you don’t have time to see a show, you can schedule a backstage tour of the theatre. In the center of the stage is a circle taken from the Ryland Auditorium where the Grand Ole Opry began in 1925. If you’re feeling hungry while you’re in the Opryland area, check out Aquarium Restaurant (516 Opry Mills Drive). Dine while seated around a 200,000-gallon aquarium with floor to ceiling views of tropical fish, sharks, stingrays and more!

10. WORKSHOP: “Talkin’ ’Bout My Generation”: Four Generations in the Funeral Home
ASD team members have heard Lacy Robinson’s funeral seminars in the past and found her to be both informative and engaging. At this year’s NFDA convention, Lacy’s seminar will tackle the challenges of working in a multi-generational funeral home. Learn practical tips about resolving conflicts among the generations. Lacy will also offer guidance on how to mentor and motivate employees based on the core values of their generation.
  • Presented by Lacy Robinson, CFSP, Aurora Casket Company
  • Tuesday, 8:30–9:30 a.m.
11. Centennial Park
If you’re looking to spend a little time with nature during your trip to Nashville, take a short, 10-minute drive over to Centennial Park (2500 West End Ave.) where you’ll find 132 acres of pristine green space. The park boasts the impressive and iconic Parthenon building, which is the only full-scale replica of the original Athens Parthenon in the world. As Nashville’s premier park, Centennial Park is also known for its beautiful sunken garden, historic monuments and views of Lake Watauga.
12. Pedal Tavern – The Original Nashville Party Bike
If you want to see as much of Nashville as possible while enjoying the nightlife, check out Pedal Tavern, a 16-person party on wheels! Take one of the two different tours offered throughout the city and stop at local bars, restaurants and shops to explore Nashville in a completely unique way.
  • Located at 1514 Demonbreun.
13. SPECIAL ENGAGEMENT: “Radar On-Antenna Up”: The Ritz-Carlton Method of Fulfilling Unexpressed Wishes and Needs
This year’s Special Engagement Speaker will focus on a universal business concept: customer service. Presented by Jeff Hargett, Senior Corporate Director of the Ritz Carlton, the seminar will explain how to extend personal service by fulfilling not only the expressed, but also the unexpressed needs of your customers. Personalization is central to both the hotel and the funeral profession. Listening to an outside perspective often challenges you to consider how an approach used by a different industry can be adapted for your business.
  • Presented by Jeff Hargett, Senior Corporate Director, Culture Transformation, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center
  • Wednesday, October 15, 2–4 p.m.
14. A Hall of Fame Evening: Celebrate with the Stars
The NFDA has saved the best for last this year. Head over to the Country Music Hall of Fame (222 5th Ave South.) for the final party of the convention and celebrate the induction of new NFDA President, Rob Moore. In addition to hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and live music, this event also offers exclusive after-hours access. Stroll through the museum exhibits, explore the immense collection of recordings and learn about the history of country music while sipping cocktails. To learn more or to register for this event, click here.
  • Hosted by 2014 NFDA President Rob Moore
  • Wednesday, October 15th, 6-8:30 p.m.

ASD Quick Tip: If you’re still unsure what you’d like to do during your trip, download a travel app like Roadside America or Best Road Trip Ever. These mobile apps help you to locate nearby attractions, restaurants, shops and more.
We wish everyone safe and happy travels as you journey to Nashville for the 2014 NFDA Convention. Please leave us a comment if there are any events, CE classes or attractions in Nashville you would recommend that we might have missed. We’d love to add more to this guide.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ghost Bikes

On a trip back home to visit my parents I was driving down a very familiar highway about to take my exit when I noticed to my right a white painted bicycle up on a chain link fence. My heart sunk a little when I made the connection to what had happened there. My mother had called me a few months earlier to tell me about a tragedy that occurred in our community. I am sure we have all seen a roadside memorial placed to commemorate a site where a person died suddenly and unexpectedly, but this one was different than anything I had seen before. This white painted bicycle represented the death of a cyclist who had been hit by an SUV that lost control while making a lane change, went off the road, up a grassy embankment and through a chain link fence before flipping over onto a group of riders.

I later learned that what I saw was a ghost bike; a bicycle set up as a roadside memorial in a place where a cyclist has been killed (usually by a motor vehicle) which also acts as a reminder to passing motorists to share the road. The first recorded ghost bike was in St. Louis Missouri, in 2003. After witnessing a motorist strike a bicyclist, Patrick Van Der Tuin placed a white-painted bicycle on the spot with a hand-painted note, "Cyclist Struck Here." It became a powerful reminder to the community about safety, and has become a way to commemorate the one lost.

CRAIG MURPHEY (left)Ten Eyck Street and Union Avenue, Williamsburg.Early in the morning of October 18, 2007, Murphey was biking home from escorting his date to her South Williamsburg apartment. According to police reports, Murphey attempted to outrun a gas truck turning left on Ten Eyck Street. His pelvis shattered on impact, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. In his honor, over 40 friends have since received tattoos that read BE BETTER.
FRANK C. SIMPSONLinden Boulevard near 175th Street, St. Albans.Simpson, a janitor returning from the evening shift at a Con Edison facility, was hit by a Dodge Stratus on November 9, 2006.

ELIJAH ARMAND WRANCHER (left)Springfield Boulevard and 130th Avenue, Springfield Gardens.On August 28, 2007, 12-year-old Wrancher attempted to ride his bicycle while holding onto a moving truck. He lost his grip and fell under the truck’s rear wheel.
DAVID SMITHSixth Avenue and 36th Street.On December 5, 2007, Smith was biking up Sixth Avenue when the passenger-side door of a parked pickup truck opened unexpectedly. He was knocked into the path of an oncoming truck.