Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Holographic Eulogies Will Allow You to Speak at Your Own Funeral


Who will attend your funeral? 

This has been a question posed by society for hundreds of years as a way for us to reflect on our lives, our influence, and our purpose. I am sure given the opportunity we would all like to be a fly on the wall at our own funeral. But with new advances in technology, have you ever thought that in a small way, you could be? And I am not talking about the fact that your body will be present, but what if you could actually have a voice, a real presence? Carl Minardo and his partner believe they have come up with the answer.

They were inspired by the infamous film, Star Wars. They thought, what if you could do a hologram, but in a mausoleum? They took their idea and started a company called AIM (Artistry In Motion) Holographics, where they hope to change the future of funerals by giving people the ability to prerecord their own eulogy with 3D holographic technology. “It gives you an opportunity to talk to the people who are important in your life and, really, let them know how much they meant to you,” Carl explains. 

The website explains further, "Have you ever wished you had some tangible memory of a passed loved one? Yearned to see your parents or grandparents one more time? To hear their voice, see their smile, listen to their stories? This is what drives AIM. We want you to create your life’s legacy so your grandchildren, great grandchildren and beyond will remember who you are, your family’s timeless values and what family means to you. Our company makes those emotion, memories, and messages eternally available."

Carl says the eulogy or any other message or video is recorded in a studio and featured on projectors both small and large. “It’s as realistic as you can get without it being you. Other than you coming up and being here, this is the closest it’s going to be in 3-dimension,” he said.

With so many people opting for cremations today, Minardo sees this as an opportunity to work with funeral homes to help them maintain some revenue, and to tap into the 76-million baby boomers driving the funeral business.

I will say, I think it would be a nice surprise to make an "appearance" at my own funeral and say a few words to all my friends and loved ones! So what do you think? Would you utilize this high-tech way to keep your legacy alive?

Monday, September 14, 2015

What’s a Death Midwife? Inside the Alternative Death Care Movement

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From funeral cooperatives to green burials, there’s a kinder, gentler, less expensive way to die

Char Barrett walked into a quaint cafe in Seattle with business in mind.

Over the smell of coffee and freshly baked tarts, she was going to advise a client on how best to host a special event at her home, helping coordinate everything from the logistics of the ceremony, to how to dress the guest of honor. People might cry, they might laugh, and all attention would be on the person of the hour—only that person would never see, hear, or enjoy the festivities, because they would be dead.

“People looked at me like I had two heads when I said, ‘Keep the body at home after the person dies,’” says Barrett, a Seattle-based funeral director and certified “death midwife.” “For families who want it, they should have the right to do it.”

Barrett has been practicing home funerals in the area since 2006 through her business, A Sacred Moment. In a home funeral service, the body is either brought back to the family from the place of death or stays at home if the person died there. The family then washes the body, in part to prepare it for viewing and in part as a ritual.

“It’s really the way we used to do it,” says Barrett.

To Barrett and many other professionals who are offering alternatives to the more status-oriented, profit-driven funeral industry, it’s time to rethink how we handle death. From consumer cooperatives that combat price gouging, to putting the power of choice back in the hands of the family, the city of Seattle has become a hub for alternative death care in the last two years, according to Barrett. The subculture of “deathxperts” want not only to empower their clients, but also potentially phase out their jobs altogether—a sort of death of the funeral director as we know it.

A History of Death

For the majority of human history, families handled arrangements for the deceased, from the time immediately after death, to burial or cremation. Until the advent of modern hospitals and health care at the turn of the last century, it was the norm for the old and sick to die at home surrounded by loved ones.

During the Civil War, embalming as a form of preservation found a foothold when Union soldier casualties needed to be transported from the sweltering South to mourning families in the North. Today, its pragmatic purpose is to temporarily stop decomposition for viewing and final goodbyes. However, the overwhelming majority of contemporary consumers don’t realize that, in most cases, it’s not legally required to bury a body, although special circumstances vary from state to state.

So why has probably every American funeral you’ve been to had an embalmed body in attendance?
As 20th century consumerism took hold and people were more likely to die in a hospital than at home, death receded from public consciousness. If a loved one were to die today, you would probably call and pay a funeral home to pick her up from wherever she took her last breath. They would wash her, embalm her, and dress her to your family’s liking. You would briefly visit her one last time at a mortuary or a chapel before she was either buried or burned. In all likelihood, her last bodily contact before disposition would be with a complete stranger.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Things get weird at NYC’s Funeral Home for the rich and famous!

A few weeks ago we blogged about the woman who went from socialite to funeral planner. Take an in depth look at her book “Good Mourning.”


It’s the place New York City’s elite are dying to get into: Frank E. Campbell, the illustrious funeral home that has waked everyone from Rudolph Valentino to Biggie Smalls, John Lennon to Joan Rivers, Walter Cronkite to Heath Ledger.

At Campbell, confidentiality is key, and even in death — that great equalizer — celebrities are supposed to go out with more elegance and style than the rest of us. Jackie O, for example, was embalmed in her apartment so that the press wouldn’t get a photo of her in a body bag. Instead, she was removed from her Fifth Avenue apartment building in a casket.

“High-five figure services were regular,” says Elizabeth Meyer, a 30-year-old socialite who spent five years working at Campbell. “But we had some six-figure funerals as well. There’s no right or wrong — it’s what you want to spend.”

In her new memoir, “Good Mourning” (Gallery Books), Meyer writes about the strangest services and corpses she pulled together — and things at Campbell, or “Crawford,” as it’s called in the book, aren’t as chic as you might think.

There was the room she converted into a replica of Bungalow 8, replete with palm trees and a DJ, so mourners could properly send off an infamous party boy. His family buried him in his favorite things: a Snoopy T-shirt and bright green sneakers, a bottle of absinthe in his hand.

On the guest list: royalty and rockers, socialites and designers. “It all felt a little empty,” Meyer writes. “My fears were confirmed when I saw guests coming out of the bathroom with red noses. Suddenly it made sense why the family had asked if the upstairs bathroom had marble countertops.”
There was the tour bus parked outside for guitarist Les Paul; the $100,000 Ferrari placed next to the casket of a millionaire car collector, who was buried with a black Ferrari jacket and a gold chain. (Names have been changed, but identifying details remain.)

There were the two women who called for the same husband, each completely unaware of the other. Meyer was at a loss; her boss, on the other hand, had seen just about everything. He called one widow, then the other, explaining that two identical phone calls had come in about the same man.
“These people, I tell ya,” Meyers’ boss said. She asked if the widows were surprised. “Even when they don’t know, they know,” he said.

He had two wakes for two families, though the widows rode to the cemetery in the same car.
Then there was the phone call from the son of a socialite who had just passed away and was about to be embalmed at Campbell. Meyer didn’t know she was there.

“I have a favor to ask,” he said. “I need . . . my sister and I . . . we need . . . Can you tell me that my mother’s brain is in her head?”

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Funeral Directors: Are You Practicing Basic Blocking & Tackling Skills?

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I have once again survived the drought that begins at the end of the Super Bowl and finally starts sprinkling this time of year… ITS FOOTBALL SEASON! From little boys to professionals, pre-season practices and scrimmages are abundant preparing for official kick off. Whether a 6 year on the field for the first time to the seasoned pro veteran, everyone works on the basics of blocking and tackling. So why don’t funeral directors have regular “practice” on the basics?

Just recently, I was part of a training exercise at a large volume funeral home. The training focus was for phone discussions with consumers whether they were a shopper, pre-planning or at-need inquiry. This part of a funeral director’s job is rarely practiced, monitored much less honed. The engagement with callers is critical to the success of funeral homes as the conversation between the funeral director and inquirer can determine if the firm is selected for services.

Fortunately for this particular funeral home, their leadership understands and provides directors regular relevant training for various aspects of a funeral directors job. However, with certainty I know that training is the exception rather than the rule for a vast majority of funeral homes. As an owner or director, have you ever wondered why business is slow, your firm is losing market share to others or the revenue per call is in a downward spiral? A coach on the sidelines sees when his offense consistently jumps off-sides, missed tackles, fumbles, interceptions and so on. What is the difference in the approach to the problems? Training, practice and coaching.

Funeral homes have sidelined their “players” by not offering regularly scheduled meaningful training. Unfortunately the industry has created a mess for funeral directors educationally. Once graduated from Mortuary School, the only “training” that is offered for funeral directors come from CEU’s or seminars. CEU’s are mandated, however often provide no practicum (with the exception of regulatory classes) and none have a pass/fail requirement. Basically, just attending is the standard. As for seminars, the majority of directors are not privy to such because the firm leadership/owners usually attend. Thus, “the field” is full of players with no practice for a game plan with potential for devastating losses.

Solutions? First, funeral home leadership must recognize that training/practice is a solution to literally every challenge. Second, find an experienced/credible coach and program for training. There are “consultants” that make a lot of money prolonging the problems by not producing measurable results…many that never even “played the game” and don’t own a team. A casket rep training YOU on how to handle phone calls…pathetic! Finally, be determined. Successful teams build programs with consistency; not fancy plays, a star player or gimmicks.

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