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Friday, 20 January 2017

2016 - The Year of Celebrating the Dead Celebrity

2016 – wow what a year for celebrity deaths!

We kicked off the year losing David Bowie and Alan Rickman to the devastating disease cancer and the deaths of Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, her mom Debbie Reynolds and pop star George Michael in December felt like the final gut wrenching twists of the celebrity knife. Are we/Am I being dramatic, or has 2016 actually been a cursed year for the ‘celebrity’ and those who spend time idolizing them? More on that later but seriously...MILLIONS and MILLIONS of people around the world reacted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat etc etc. So I have to ask the question WHY do we mourn people who we have never met, so publicly?

I think that the way that we grieve on social media today has also amplified the perception that 2016 really was the worst year for celebrity deaths and there's proof to that below! In addition to the 24 hour news cycle, most people are using the aforementioned social media outlets to express their personal memories and attachments to celebrities. Before the big world wide web, that conversation and that grief was limited to talking in person and pulling from newspapers. The younger the celebrity, the cause of death, the more sudden the death, the larger the shock, cultural impact and social media outrage there tends to be rather than if they succumbed to a long-standing illness or old age.

Millions attended Whitney Houston’s funeral and listened to “I will always love you” as her body left the local church. After Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros was killed covering a Libyan uprising, thousands attended his memorial service. The majority of the audience at each of these funerals attended them virtually which is one of the few things that is changing the way we mourn and how we do funerals in the 21st Century. EVERYONE can be let in to experience this historically private event.

Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter have also made us much more comfortable with sharing intimate details about ourselves online with strangers on a constant basis and hey I'm not objecting, I just learned Snapchat last year and currently have a love/hate relationship with the App. Many deaths and funerals are reported, commented on, tweeted, snapped, recorded and posted online before even their loved ones have heard of the news.

According to Famous NYC Funeral Home to the Stars, Frank E Campbell Director Schultz:

‘They (the public) Want Closure’. The funeral home stood as a backdrop to those who came to mourn Heath Ledger in NYC in 2008, as his casket was carried from the home, and the media and fans who came to watch. The intense dedication and unity of the mourners, the familial connections felt for people they have never met, the volatility of grief was apparent for all to see and this is not just reserved for Heath Ledger and his fans but to every “celebrity” or person in the publin arena." 

“They need to be a part of that life that they … have never touched personally, individually, privately, and in person — but through the media, through television, through the movies, it was very much a part of their growing up and their life. They want closure, People from every walk of life.”

National University professor/celebrity death expert Jacque Lynn Foltyn says:

“All these reactions can be viewed as ways of managing death in societies where actual death and the corpse are hidden away and seldom experienced firsthand but rather through Game of Thrones and CSI. Funerals are more rare, as memorial services have become popular. For some, social media is the virtual memorial service when they cannot attend, making a death an international event.”

SO - WAS 2016 really the WORST year for celebrity deaths??! Well Apparently not...... there is an interesting and (self admittedly) unscientific analysis of whether 2016 really was the worst year for celebrity deaths….check out CNN for further details. We lost at least 34 celebrities in 2016, which factor in Oscar and Grammy winning celebrities but when it comes to numbers, 2016 is edged out by 2006, during which 36 celebrities died so there ya have it! Dont ask me what you do with it but at least you have it! Feel better?? No, me neither :-( Bring back Alan and George!!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Family and Friends - THAT is what the holiday season is all about.

Christmas is coming and of all the feasts throughout the year the celebration of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day seem to be the most popular of all. There are more traditions and customs associated with Christmas in all Christian countries than with any other feast. I love Christmas time, it’s family time, it’s home time.

A few years ago my family and I decided to stop exchanging gifts and focus on the real gift of time, time spent with each other. The first year, it felt a little odd, but as the years rolled by, it became the norm for us and now I love it and would not have it any other way.

Having spent many years in America and enjoying Thanksgiving, it soon became one of my favorite holidays. Why? Because it was so similar to my experience of Christmas but without the pressure of gift buying. Yes, both Thanksgiving and Christmas have become commercial commodities that the stores use to guilt trip us. But what if we could fight off the advertising awareness, the pressure to spend more than the next person on a present and find the time to really, truly enjoy the moment, the season, the holiday with our loved ones, wouldn’t we be more loved and loving? Isn’t that what these dates are truly about?

With increasing awareness of suicide, poor mental health and depression in Ireland today we should be focussing on what is important in life. Family and friends are two of the most important parts of life and for me, Christmas is a time to really bring that to the fore. Whatever business you are in, we should be encouraging all our customers to share this message of love and warmth, family and friends and reaching out to those who we know don’t have the luxury of either.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The Vatican and me, Head to Head

So the latest this week was the ‘ruling’ from the Vatican who ‘ordered’ Catholics to keep ashes in a sacred place rather than at home.  Umm sorry now, I consider myself catholic and I don’t see anything MORE sacred than my own home where love and family are the biggest contributors??!

They also reckon the ‘remains of the faithful’ should be left in consecrated ground such as a cemetery plot which is interesting because we have to pay for said plot.
Church authorities also say that ashes must not be scattered in the air, on land or at sea, but yet these are all of ‘god’s’ creation are they not???

I’m sorry but I am not having it, yes of course I am biased as this affects my business of cremation memorials but I think it is a load of BS, and JUST when I was starting to dig our current Pope.

People are turning to more natural and green alternatives - natural burials, scattering ashes in the sea or on land are all deemed more natural currently.

My business is memorial jewellery, putting cremated ashes into jewellery so people can keep them close to them for as long as they live. I am catholic so what does this make me? Unfatihful? A Judas?

For me, this ‘ruling’ has nothing to do with religion at all and more with the church making money and exercising their control over ‘the faithful’. Well those ‘faithful’ are about to become the faithful departed if they don’t sort their beans out!

They cannot just make rules up as they go along. One minute cremation is out, then for convenience sake, it's in but don’t separate the ashes! Then it must be on sacred ground. Enough already! Sacred is whatever is SACRED TO YOU, the loved ones left behind. End of story.

Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Grey in Ireland!

Back in 1987, Matthew Broderick (Sarah Jessica Parkers hubby), and his then girlfriend, Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing Star), both co-stars in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, were vacationing in Ireland. Broderick mistakenly drove the incorrect way and crashed into an oncoming vehicle. Both the driver and passenger, who were mother and daughter, of the car died from their injuries.

Matthew sustained a broken leg, fractured ribs, a concussion, and a collapsed lung and Jennifer suffered minor injuries. Matthew was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but was later convicted of a lower charge of careless and reckless driving. (would love the details of that!)

A few days later Dirty Dancing premiered in theatres and it is said that Jennifer never could enjoy all the fame that came with its success as a result of this accident in Ireland! She said that she never recovered from the accident and she turned her back on Hollywood aged only 27. She says “my head was never the same, my ambition was never the same.” How tragic!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Funeral Directors - cremation/burial or something else??

A recent survey carried out by U.K. Company YouGov (a self-proclaimed community of 4 million contributors around the world) of 1,546 adults showed that 58% of those asked would currently opt for cremation, in comparison to 17% who preferred the idea of burial. Of those in favour of cremation, 79% wanted their ashes to be scattered. In response to the results, YouGov said there was a “strong shift in preference towards cremation as people get older”. While 42% of 18-24 year olds wish to be cremated, this figure rises to 71% among the over-65s. Have you found this in your Funeral Home?

That’s nearly 6 out of 10 people with cremation as their preferred final journey when their day is done. Perhaps more interestingly, 25% (which is still more than burial) opted for something else or were unsure, which means we still have a role in educating the market to help people with their choices and decisions OR that there needs to be more options available.
Currently, the most common ways to dispose of a body in Ireland are burial and cremation (earth versus fire), however there are constant developments in technology and new methods will be introduced in the coming years. These include Resomation (where bodies are dissolved into an alkaline hydrolysis liquid), Promession (a process which freeze-dries bodies in nitrogen) and Irish company ecoLation (who use freezing pressure and heat which results in an inert powder where all toxins and chemicals are neutralized).

Burying someone and erecting a headstone or having a grave marker can provide a family with peace as they have somewhere physical to visit to feel close to the deceased. This is one of the reasons a lot of people opt for burial instead of cremation. However there is also the environmental factor to be considered, as has been seen in Ireland with the increase in demand for green burials, a trend which has not been missed by the new technology companies mentioned above.

A new video has been doing the rounds online showcasing Promession, which got me excited that this new technology might be ready to market. However, with further research you can see that the video is in fact 6 years old and nothing seems to have moved forward for them in terms of bringing the product to market. Resomation is available in parts of the USA but that is it, or at least that was all the information I could find on it. ecoLation seem to have come on leaps and bounds since I last covered them in my book ('Say Farewell Your Way') and they have units rolling out in at least 4 different countries in 2017 which is great news for Funeral Directors, their clientele, and Ireland as a country to have such innovation coming from its shores. So the question is the 25% - will they choose either of these 3 options as they become available?

Things to remember about scattering ashes

  • There will be bones and larger pieces that most people don't expect. It doesn't look like fireplace ash which is what most people assume it looks like.
  • Decide whether you want to scatter all the ashes in one place or do you want your loved one to travel all over the world? Decide how many people or locations you want and divide accordingly. I usually suggest more than one location because you might move house or out of the country. You never know where life will bring you!
  • Ziplock bags will be your best friend - especially if you want to scatter ashes in a few locations or give to friends and family.
  • Figure out the wind direction!! NO one wants to inhale their loved one or have them stuck in their lipgloss or blinding them!
  • Check out the site before you do 'your thing' because it might not be as you remember or visualize it.
  • Using flower heads when throwing ashes into the wind or over water helps you to continue to see the ashes even when they go far away because ash can become difficult to see - it IS after all ash! It also makes it that bit more natural and beautiful.
  • Be careful when traveling with ashes, get permission from the airline if going as carry on and if not carry on then you run the risk of the airline losing your luggage which is not good.
  • Take photos of the area, the day, whatever you do. Keep a memory of it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Something Beautiful Remains

Something Beautiful Remains

by Martha Vashti Pearson

 The tide recedes, but leaves behind
Bright seashells on the sand.

The sun goes down but gentle warmth
Still lingers on the land.

The music stops and yet it lingers on
In sweet refrain.

For every joy that passes
Something beautiful remains.