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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Bio/Water/Hydro...etc...Cremation! OR Alkaline Hydrolysis OR Resomation

Known by a million different names, Resomation (that's what I am sticking to for the purpose of this article) is definitely a hot watery topic in the funeral world. ;-)

At the ICCFA in Las Vegas earlier this year, there was a workshop early one Saturday morning talking all things resomation in the pet world. I went to update my knowledge.

So what is it? From what I gathered at the show and from previous informative workshops and a little research, it produces less carbon dioxide than cremation and would be considered more environmentally friendly as there is no fire or smoke emissions as it 'dissolves the body's tissue'. It uses a combination of heated water and potassium hydroxide (or the cheaper sodium hydroxide) to liquefy the body, leaving only the bones behind. The bones are then pulverized, similar to regular cremation, and these are fragments returned to loved ones.

There is a choice of two different types of machines - one using high temperatures and one using low. There is a 'cycle time' for the typical body of a pet of 8-20 hours which seems like a fairly broad estimation of time so clearly, there is no 'average' yet. For pets, about 2-6 pets can be put through each 'cycle'. For humans it appears the cycle time is 3-4 hours as there is a higher temperature use.

While considered environmentally friendly and research has proven the destruction of all pathogens (things that cause disease), there is still a concern over prions (deadlier disease-causing creeps that mostly reside in the brain). The speaker at this particular Vegas workshop, Seyler, said he had not ever witnessed the destruction of prions and was curious to hear more on studies of it using resomation.

The first human 'test' was completed in the Mayo Clinic in 2005 and it slowly gained traction in the US, reaching a height of...morbid curiosity maybe...in 2011 and it continues to grow. As far as I am aware, however, it is not legal in every State in America but is gaining traction outside of the US, in the UK and Canada.

It has been described by those looking to promote it as a 'gentle reduction process', however, I have heard, on fairly good and accurate authority, that to begin the process and help it along, the skull which protects our most valuable accessory, the brain, must be cracked open so the brain can be dissolved in the liquid. Otherwise, there are times when some brain tissue is left because of the hard protective nature of the skull. There is an issue with fully dissolving the liver also. On the plus side, operators of the machine can open and see the machine running - although I'm not quite sure why this is a positive because you're hardly going to stick your arm into a solution that dissolves tissue to prod or move things around are you?

So the big question - What happens to the wastewater? Apparently, it can go down the drain but what about the pH balance? Surely the same solution that dissolved the body would corrode the infrastructure and the sewer plant and anything else it passes through?

Prices for resomation seem to average at similar, if slightly more expensive than regular cremation.

In summation, I'm not a fan of knowing granny or indeed puppy's head will be caved in before she gets dissolved and then flushed down the drain and I'm not entirely sold on the benefits to the environment but as always, I am open to suggestion and discussion so if anybody can inform me differently, please elaborate!

Friday, 20 April 2018

ICCFA Convention 2018 Las Vegas


The ICCFA 2018 Annual Convention took place in sunny Las Vegas!

I was happy for an excuse to take me to some sunshine after a pretty long winter in both Ireland and New York.

I flew in a day early to gather myself and get some Vitamin D because I know, from previous conventions in Vegas, that you can get so involved in work and networking that you may never leave the adjoining hotels or see daylight!
 I had hardly walked in the door of the convention and I met the infamous Funeral Commander, Jeff Harbeson. Always a laugh to catch up with him and his bright colourful suits!

I love coming to the ICCFA and the NFDA annual conventions because twice a year, every year, the funeral professionals gather to educate, innovate, network, eat, drink and rarely sleep!! Always a chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones in the process! I even got to catch a few shows with friends while I was in town too which was great, considering Vegas is THE go-to spot for any show!





Sadly, Innovation at this year's show, along with attendance, was slow and seriously lacking. I was hard pushed trying to find something new to report on. There were SongPods of Solace which contain cremated remains, locks of hair/fur or feathers of a loved one. They are handmade and considered a musical memorial. Shake them and hold to your ear to hear a unique chime!

Then there is commemorative rosary beads which are made from flowers - from a wedding, a funeral, a birthday or anything. A good way to 'recycle' flowers and keep a memorial of the date.

A very girly innovative find this year, lastly we had Phyll The Love. A company set up, when she found herself limited according to Jewish customs to throw something onto her mother's coffin as it was being lowered into the ground. A series of hurried questions to the rabbi later and colorful sand was the chosen love token! She now provides beautiful little bottles of coloured sand that funeral directors or family members can hand out to graveside goers to toss onto the casket in lieu of flowers. Innovative and creative? Yes, however, when I asked a number of my followers on Instagram their thoughts on usage, the result was a resounding NOPE. Ah well.










Other interesting things to note from the show was innovation in marketing or lack thereof. According to big players Funeral One and their attendees, marketing remains to be a funeral homes biggest challenge.

People WERE trying though, with Virtual Reality games happening and a giant colouring board to name a few fun things I spotted.


My first time Insta Story-ing the convention and the reactions were priceless - people thinking things were creepy AF (see below) or fascinated with the fact that there was such a thing as a funeral convention and wait...what...they have fun at it??! Noooooo.

I think we need to look at marketing for the industry from these people's perspectives and stop hiding our heads in the, even colourful, sand!
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Thursday, 12 April 2018

Wakes Ireland

According to Wikipedia, a wake is:
A ceremony associated with death. Traditionally, a wake takes place in the house of the deceased, with the body present; however, modern wakes are often performed at a funeral home.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes a wake as: A watch or vigil held beside the body of someone who has died, sometimes accompanied by ritual observances, or a party held after a funeral.

Historically, a wake was the process of laying out the body of a departed (deceased) relative in the family home and watching over them from the time of death until the body is taken into the care of the church. The body is usually laid out in the parlour (living room or bedroom). Family, friends, and neighbours attend. Typically, a large amount of food and drink was consumed over the period of mourning. In Ireland today, wakes are still thought of as part of an Irish funeral, although they have altered slightly and happen more frequently in country towns and villages than in Irish cities. So where did it all come from? The true origins of the wake are foggy but the custom appears to date back to an ancient Jewish custom of leaving the sepulchre (burial chamber, vault, tomb, or grave) of the deceased open for three days before finally closing it up. This time allows family
members to visit, which they typically did in the hope of seeing signs of a return to life.

A myth that might be a basis for the Irish wake suggests that, in medieval times, people who drank from pewter tankards would suffer from lead poisoning, a symptom of which would be a catatonic state causing the person to appear dead only for them to recover or awaken a few hours
or days later!

Whatever the origins, there are specific steps that need to be followed in order to perform a historically accurate Irish wake:
• Family members and neighbours – typically women experienced in laying out the body – gather at the house of the deceased;
• The body is washed and dressed, usually in white;
• A bed is prepared for the body to rest on;
• If the deceased is a man, he is shaved;
• Sheets are hung over the bed and along two or three sides;
• A crucifix is placed at the throat of the deceased and rosary beads are entwined between the fingers;
• Candles are lit around the body;
• The clocks in the house are stopped and curtains closed as a mark of respect for the deceased;
• All mirrors in the house are turned toward the wall or covered.

A wake is most famously remembered for the keening (crying), as the women who prepared the body join the family in mourning. The preparations and the keening carry on until the arrival of any family members who may have been abroad. The deceased is never left unattended for the entire period of the wake. A person, generally a woman or a few women, sit nearby and watch over the body. When a mourner enters the room, they make their way to the side of the body, kneel down and silently recite prayers. Traditionally, the mourners then sympathise with the family before leaving. Visitations
last until midnight and food and drink are served throughout. Men typically congregate outside if it is not too cold or in the kitchen if it is winter, while the women care for the deceased or can be found in the kitchen making tea and sandwiches for visitors. The Rosary is recited at least once around the body and is led by a priest.

A wake can last a number of days, ending when the body is ‘removed’ from the home and brought to the church for a short service, known today as a removal.

There are two funeral services for the deceased, which is still relatively common in Ireland today. One is the removal, which occurs in the evening when the body is ‘removed’ from the home to the church; the second is held before the body is taken from the church to the graveyard or crematorium the next day.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Online Legacy Part 2/3 - Death on Twitter and LinkedIn

In a study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, data from more than 15,000 social media networks of people who died were examined during a 4 year period. They examined how people interacted on those networks both before and after a death. The result was that people are indeed now grieving ONLINE and use online channels to stay connected to networks of the deceased. Online death needs to be addressed, both in terms of our legacies left online, how we grieve online and how people can be negatively affected by online trolling during times of grief.



Gmail (Google email) and Hotmail allow the email accounts of the deceased to be accessed by the next-of-kin, if certain documents are provided and requirements are met, however, they make no guarantees. Yahoo! Mail (and thus Flickr) will not provide access, citing the ‘No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability’ clause in their terms of service.

For a Gmail account, if you are preplanning, their Inactive Account Manager is the best way to manage who should have access to your information and whether you want your account to be deleted.  Inactive Account Manager is a way for users to share parts of their account data or notify someone if they’ve been inactive for a certain period of time. More info here

In the event of someone’s death, Twitter will work with the next-of-kin or executor of the deceased's estate to have an account deactivated. When requesting removal of a deceased user’s account you will be asked to provide the following:

Deceased’s Twitter account username and the account owner
Your relationship with the user (next-of-kin/executor of the deceased's estate)
Your full name and email address
a copy of your ID
copy of the deceased’s death certificate

They will NOT give account access to anyone regardless of their relationship to the user. Requests on the removal of images or video of deceased individuals can also be made and will be assessed on case by case basis. More info here

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn does not have a thorough “death policy” but maintains a simple guide if you come across the profile of a deceased person and have:

Your relationship to the deceased
Their Name and URL to their LinkedIn profile
Their email address
The date they died and a link to their obituary
The company they were most recently working for

The only option on LinkedIn is account deletion. See more here



Saturday, 31 March 2018

Are you living or visiting San Fran in April??

Death—a truly universal topic—is the focus of more than 100 unique events happening in every corner of San Francisco this April (which is tomorrow!)

Reimagine, a nonprofit inspired by OpenIDEO's End of Life Challenge has partnered with the City of San Francisco via the Department of Aging and Adult Services and the
Palliative Care Work Group to present Reimagine End of Life, a full week of exploring
big questions about life and death through creativity and conversation. 

From April 16 to 22, more than 100 collaborators will produce experiences, workshops, and
performances designed to spark public discussion and connection. Details and tickets
are available at www.letsreimagine.org/san-francisco or by calling (415) 329-6911.

“Reimagine convenes public conversations that transform our approach to life.
Everyone, irrespective of culture and background, is encouraged to reflect on why we’re
here, prepare for a time when we won’t be, and design what it means for us to live fully
right up until the end,” said Brad Wolfe, founder and executive director of Reimagine.
“More than 2,500 people attended 30 events during our first Reimagine week in 2016,
so we are expecting 7,000 this year. We want to connect the entire community with
life’s universal truth.”

Drawing on the arts, spirituality, healthcare, and design, Reimagine End of Life is
intended to break down taboos and bring diverse communities together in wonder,
preparation and remembrance. Events will be hosted throughout the week by a wide
variety of local organizations and individuals, from physicians performing personal
stories of their own experiences with death to music and comedy shows about mortality,
to a remembrance ceremony for the environment on the eve of Earth Day.

During the weekend prior to Reimagine End of Life, spiritual leaders across San
Francisco will participate in a “Conversation Sabbath,” speaking to their congregations
about death and encouraging involvement in Reimagine week events, especially the
numerous Advance Care Planning Workshops. More than 25 churches, community
organizations and libraries will host these free workshops to help residents plan their
end-of-life care and complete healthcare directives.

Friday, 30 March 2018

'Let the pink fluff and sparkles break through’

"But they say that all things happen for a reason. I don’t want to go looking over my shoulder or waving my fist in anger. That was never my style. But the truth of the matter is this: I would never have wanted to go, there would never have been enough time so I am trying to be gracious about it.

I know it is practically illegal to champion all things pink in this all bustling world where being girlie can be mistaken for being stupid. But I would like to be remembered as somebody who believes that fairies live at the bottom of the garden, that unicorns exist but they are simply shy and that angels flutter on all of our shoulders.

There is enough gray in the world already. Let the pink fluff and sparkles breakthrough. There’s enough sadness, suffering, and strife. Let the laughter be heard.

Farewell. Look after each other. Be kind. Be happy. Be grateful. And most of all, be yourself.

Life is short. It is so very, very precious and it’s not a dress rehearsal. So enjoy; eat chocolate, drink strong coffee, have a fabulous glass of wine and buy those clothes; walk in those high heels and let the world know that you are here to work hard and to play even harder."

These were the final words of Irish Author Emma Hannigan. These were the words she wanted to tell the world herself but she knew she would not be around to say them as they were to be spoken at her funeral.

I posted these words across all of my social media channels when she passed away a few weeks ago. A tragic and too soon end to such a vibrant soul. I didn't know Emma but in her final words, I feel like she knew me, or my soul at least. These are words to live by. No wonder she was such a wonderful author. Rest in sparkles Emma, wherever you are. x




Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Interview Clive Anderson


Clive Anderson has been living in the US for the last 14 years. He is an Irish native from Co Cork who now lives and works just 25 minutes from Times Square in New York City.

He is the owner of Pelham Funeral Home and has been a funeral director and embalmer for over fifteen years. He wasn’t born into the business as many funeral directors are but rather Clive feels as though he was ‘called’ into the service. The moment occuring when Clive lost his father to cancer. His experience of the funeral profession stimulated his desire to help others.


He got his experience in Ireland, initially with Jeremiah O’ Connor & Sons Funeral Home in Co. Cork before immigrating to the United States to get formal training in the funeral profession and working as a funeral service consultant for Matthews International.

Clive believes the Irish deal with death very well, as he said “the whole community stops, Irish Weddings are optional, Funerals are compulsory”. He thinks the American funeral industry has gotten quite commercial and has “forgotten the old ways” of respecting the body. He mentioned the animal kingdom and how animals grieve a loss and that it is a part of the process we should all embrace. He believes spending time with and looking after the body is both respectful of a life lived and a natural part of the grieving process.

Notable funerals that he has had the opportunity to plan included a thrice Powerball (similar to the Lotto) winner and an old Irish man who was homeless and passed away on the streets. He strives to make each funeral unique and special and include as many personal touches to the service as possible and this can include photos of the deceased placed all around the funeral home, their favorite music playing, smells filling the rooms, flags flying and a guest book for all who arrive to sign.



The recipient of several awards, Clive has been recognized by Irish Newspaper, The Irish Echo “40 under 40” for his contributions to the Irish community in the US and was also an aide to the Grand-Marshal of the Irish Business Organization on St Patrick’s Day In NYC. He was honored by the Irish Aisling Center in New York in September 2017.