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!