Search This Blog

Monday, 24 June 2019

The New Green Burial takes on a whole new concept!

Gas-fueled cremations and toxic burials in cemeteries are currently the only options available to Irish Funeral Directors and their clientele. But this will not forever remain the only ways we care for our dead. We all know this and there are so many options currently in prototype build, in pilot mode or a simple idea in someone’s head. So how might deceased people’s bodies be attended to, honoured, and better utilized in the future? Enter Katrina Spade from Washington State in the USA, the designer/entrepreneur behind the Recompose project.

Katrina Spade invented a system to transform a dead body into the soil while earning her Masters of Architecture. After years testing the concept, the Recompose project won the approval of Washington state’s legislature.

So what exactly is the Recompose project and what happens to the body? The unclothed body is placed into a cylinder vessel on a bed of a blend of woodchips, wet alfalfa and straw. The temperature of the body naturally rises over the course of a month and the vessel is aerated with oxygen. After one month, all that remains is soil.  The soil will be regulated as with current cremains.

While I believe it will be met with questions and I am sure Katrina has a fight ahead of her to get people comfortable with the idea, as, with all new ideas, it will be in the educating of the idea. It is certainly a fascinating conversation of how nature’s principles might be harnessed to more efficiently return deceased bodies to the earth, sequestering carbon and improving soil health.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

She has gone away, so smile....

You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live in yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she’s gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Monday, 8 April 2019

ICCFA 2019

The ICCFA 2019 took place in Charlotte North Carolina. A pretty bland city, clean and efficient city but lacking character for me, Each year when I attend these events I am very focussed on what's new, what's gonna change, what's different and most years I have found seriously interesting stuff to report on. This year, I found the convention quiet and boring.

I did have to dig a little deeper to find something new and different to tell you about and what I did find definitely peaked my interest and will for you too I know, especially because rumour (and the Meath Chronicle!) has it that one of them is coming to Ireland....soon..... so watch this space!

Resomation, also known as Water Cremation and depending on who you are talking to - Aquamation, Bio-cremation, Hydro Cremation, Alkaline Hydrolysis etc etc is the process of body disposition with water instead of flames. I personally am not a fan of flushing granny down the loo but I wanted to know more and maybe you do too. Check out if you want more than I give you here. First things first - resomation and aquamation and others are NOT the same. Not the same companies nor the exact same process which I find extremely confusing and therefore can only imagine how Joe Public feels. I spoke with the creator of RESOMATION, Sandy, a Scotsman - nice to here one of 'our' accents on this side of Atlantic. Legally, Sandy told me that Water cremation is approved in 15 US states. In the UK, plans to introduce water cremation are progressing, he told me that had 'done' two bodies just this week in the UK. Irish Mortician, Elizabeth Oakes, plans to offer water cremation as an alternative to flame cremation and burial in Ireland. More on that at another point. I was impressed by Sandy. I was impressed by the output of the process, it truly is less about flushing Granny down the loo and more about less interference on the body and more about saving the environment from mercury emissions and with water cremation, no airborne emissions are produced and the solid leftover mercury-containing amalgam is collected and safely recycled. I also did love the powdery finish to the remains and, weirdly, we all know that people are vain and particular about this, even in death. A beautiful white powder is better than black, rough grainy

Other innovation discovered was Funeralocity - the Expedia of the funeral world! We have for weddings, for accommodation, for travel, and much much more - it's about time a comparison site came to the funeral industry! That's the good news...for the consumer. The bad news is, its only US based. I know funeral directors will probably want to fight something like this but I think it's important and honestly, it's coming whether anyone wants it to or not.

What are your thoughts on Resomation and Funeralocity?

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Life Celebrations Ireland

A funeral is a service for respecting and remembering the life of the deceased. In order to fully remember their life in death, I believe that parts of their life should be entwined respectfully into their funeral service. If the person was musical, then music could play a large part in the service; if they liked books, someone could read from their favourite authors, books or poems; if they were artistic, perhaps works of art could be displayed. If they were a real ‘people’ person, perhaps friends could contribute to the service. Did they bake? Did they play golf or football? Did they act or dance?

Incorporate all that the deceased loved in life into the service that says farewell. This way, you will truly represent them and celebrate the presence they held in your life.

So, some ideas to consider:
• Transport: Instead of a hearse transporting the body, you could organise a motorcycle or horse-drawn hearse, or a favourite vehicle of the deceased. These are widely available and accessible in funeral homes across Ireland. The family could follow a hearse on horse, bikes, motorcycles, running, walking or whatever was personal to the deceased;
• Music: Have someone musical sing a song, play an instrument, compose a piece of music or even just organise the musical elements of the funeral service, or reception;
• Words: Usually, there will be a friend or family member who will feel comfortable sharing a story or an anecdote, reading a prayer or saying the eulogy. Involve as many of these people as possible, as it will make the funeral much more personal;
• Images: Most people have a wide variety of friends, clubs, family, networks, work associates and
colleagues and each of them know the deceased in a different way. Allow them to share through imagery their own personal memory of the deceased;
• Video: Similar to images, there may be videos of friends, family or work events that included the
deceased. Allow someone to take charge of compiling a video with music to showcase during the service or at the reception;
• Greeters: This can be a great way to involve children and teenagers who may not understand what is
happening or don’t know how to express themselves. It is a task that doesn’t require a huge amount of responsibility as they are simply greeting people as they enter the venue and guiding them to their seat or handing them an order of service. Including them in the service is very important for their grieving process and gives them something practical to focus on;
• Pallbearers: Typically, six men – usually close family or friends – fill the roles of pallbearer at the funeral. Don’t be afraid to deviate from tradition: if there are women interested, allow them to get involved;
• Service: Is there a friend or family member who can perform the ceremony or service? If so, inviting them to get involved in this capacity can be another way to personalise the funeral. Depending on the deceased’s religion, there may be freedom to personalise a service;
• Design: An artist in the family or a graphic designer colleague may wish to participate creatively in the funeral through using their skills and creating an
image for display, or designing the order of service booklet or a personal memorial favour for guests to take away with them;
• Reception: The reception allows a lot more freedom for personalisation as a service can be dependent on religious beliefs. Here you can become more creative, choosing to serve only the deceased’s favourite drink or food, play only their taste in music or hire their favourite band, etc;
• Graveyard release: At the burial, you might like to release some doves, butterflies or balloons to signify the release of the body, soul or spirit, depending on your beliefs.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Speakers at the Digital Legacy Conference 2018

The Digital Legacy Conference, chaired by Jennifer Muldowney aka The Glam Reaper. Jennifer gave an overview of the subject of Digital Legacy and a summation of each speakers anecdotes rounding the conference to a close.
Jennifer Muldowney, Tedx survivor, author of book ‘Say Farewell Your Way’, event planner and spokesperson worldwide on death, funerals and end of life planning. She has been called a ‘refreshingly honest voice of the funeral industry’ and become the go to ‘Irish celebrity’ of the funeral world. Her blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts help her to help others as she forms the bridge between the often scary idea of funerals and the misconceptions and questions of Joe Public. She is a presenter on the ‘Farewell’ vlog where she provides information about funerals, memorials (both pet and human), life/bucket-list planning and encourages pro-active and creative funeral planning. Her voice has been published worldwide, including a Tedx talk about grief and the critically acclaimed ‘Before I Die’ book by fellow Ted Speaker Candy Chang.

Key Note Speakers: Facebook's Shelby and Kim explored the policy and product design behind Facebook’s Memorialization and Legacy Contact capabilities.

Shelby Lindblad is a Product Designer at Facebook working on issues related to memorialization. Prior to joining Facebook, she worked at Method, a global design firm with clients such as Google, HP, and the San Francisco Ballet.

Kim Malfacini is Associate Manager of Product Policy at Facebook, the team responsible for developing Facebook’s Community Standards governing what is and is not allowed on the site. Kim focuses on stakeholder engagement, ensuring Facebook’s policies are informed by experts across the globe.

James Norris is the one who brought it all together. He is the founder of the Digital Legacy Association, The Digital Legacy Conference and DeadSocial. James’ goal is to help raise awareness and provide support around digital end of life planning. James explored how the Digital Legacy Association innovate with healthcare, social care, legal and funeral professionals to evoke behaviour change and develop best practice. He also relaunched DeadSocial, planning app for the Digi-conscious.

Dr. Carla Sofka is a Professor of Social Work here in Siena College, NY. A former medical and hospice social worker, she has been teaching death education courses since 1993. Carla coined the term “thanatechnology” in 1996 to describe the role that online resources were playing in death education and grief counseling and co-edited the book Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe.
Carla used this experience to tell us how technology is changing grief and the ways in which we grieve.

Lee Poskanzer is the CEO of Directive Communication Systems. He has been successfully leading product innovation change at Fortune 500 companies including American Express, Safeway, PolyGram and Staples that have evolved to becoming industry standards and practices.
Did you know the average person has over 150 online accounts? And that number is expected to grow to over 200 in the next year. Lee presented on how financial and sentimental online property can easily be hidden, lost or forgotten about. He told us about new and existing privacy laws, along with Terms of Service Agreements (that we all agree to) that can prevent access to much needed information.

Antonio Estevan Huerta is a singer/songwriter and avid marathon runner from Texas who brought us a beautifully REAL penned letter to David Bowie from Palliative Care Doctor Mark Taubert. David Bowie died from Liver Cancer in January 2016. Antonio’s father, also named Antonio, died from the same tragic disease in the summer of 2018.

Stephen Hans is a licensed funeral director and owns and operates Hans Funeral Home in Albany, New York. He is a member of the New York State Funeral Directors Association. 
Stephen focussed on what he knows best - the funeral profession and research carried out in NY around death and digital legacy.