Search This Blog

Thursday 28 November 2013

Thanksgiving and loss

Thanksgiving today and also the one year anniversary of Paul Cusack. He was an old school friend of mine and we connected both on and offline in latter years. It still strikes me every now and then (esp. When I'm behaving all 'woe is me') how short life is. Very recently I got robbed of a substantial amount of money and my laptop. While I know I am lucky that I wasn't harmed or worse, it still stung. I was extremely low for a week or so. Comments from people saying how sad I looked and my sparkle was gone, didn't do much to help but thankfully I did pull myself out of it and that I can do that because I can only imagine how difficult that must be for someone with depression. However it is times like today when it hits home that Paul, the same age as me when he died, was taken from this life too early. Why? What's the purpose? Why give him life for 30 years for it to be taken so suddenly? These and a million more questions are asked every day again and again by brothers, sister, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and friends.

While losing someone brings up a million questions I feel that Paul's anniversary falling on such a prominent day answers at least one question for me - give thanks EVERY day that you get to spend it with the people you love and don't waste time arguing or wondering or ignoring people you care about. If you love them, show it and give thanks that you can.

Friday 22 November 2013

NFDA Austin Convention 2013 - Lasting Impressions Urns

One of the exhibitors who had the greatest impact on me was actually one of the simplest stands. There was no merchandise, no flashy displays, no massive banners or colourful screens screaming at me, there was just one young guy standing at a table with some boxes and some brochures. It stood out because it was different, unassuming, pure and they were inexperienced or clearly working on a budget. The offering was biodegradable urns. Nothing new there but there was something else that caught my attention. Water burial urns, also biodegradable, intended to float with the cremated remains inside for 2-4 minutes on water then elegantly sink to the river floor. I have always been a big fan of water and for me, unless there is another more environmentally friendly option available, cremation is how I would like to go. So to have a final memorial where my ashes, encased in a biodegradable urn, could float out to sea, on a lake, in a river for a few moments while those I have left behind could say a few words is a beautiful tribute. Based in Seattle, Lasting Impressions Urns can be found via their website with the same name.

Monday 18 November 2013

NFDA Austin Convention 2013 - Me and Billy Connolly

To my utter surprise and awe, one of my favourite comedians Billy Connolly graced the 2013 convention with his presence to film a new documentary on death. I was privileged and delighted to make his acquaintance.

I have no doubt that some of my babbling will make the final cut of his ITV documentary but I can only hope that some of it will end up on the cutting room floor.

I pointed him in the way of the Design for Death competition area as he had told me how much of a cynic he was with regards the industry and its offerings. I told him it was good to be a cynic and to view everything with eyes open but also to open his mind to some of the experiences, products and services he would undoubtedly encounter on his journey through the convention.

A lovely man, looking a little slight, pale and frail, I wish him super health and I truly hope he opens up the publics mind in an informative and humorous way to the funeral industry and only he can.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

NFDA Austin Convention 2013 - FuneralTech's Memory Maker App

FuneralTech, a newbie on the scene of the Funeral industry launched a new app called Memory Maker at this years convention. The app is designed specifically for each funeral home and can be downloaded by family members. They can view all of the products and services on offer by that funeral home with no time pressure and in the comfort of their own home allowing them to digest all the options and various cost associated with the funeral.

What I found fascinating was that during a year of testing the market, FuneralTech found that they increased average funeral home revenues by 10% per funeral. Its an interesting result because I would have thought that with no pressure or someone looming over your shoulder as you make decisions most people would opt for the cheaper options - but maybe not so.

Key features to the app include - more power in the family's hands, saves time for both customer and funeral director, apparently increases revenue while also improving customer satisfaction.

Monday 11 November 2013

NFDA Austin Convention 2013 - Mevisto

Mevisto, a business that transforms a loved one’s ashes  (if dead) or hair (if living) into individual synthetic gemstones, caught Comedian Mr Billy Connolly’s eye at the convention. Saphhires or rubies can be artificially created using the deceased cremated remains. They are based in New York but receive orders internationally.

Friday 8 November 2013

NFDA Austin Convention 2013 - ‘Have the Talk of a Lifetime’

Speaking on a personal and professional level to attendees at the convention were Dr. Thomas Long and Thomas Lynch, co-authors of The Good Funeral book.  They made two important keynote speeches, the final one focused on society and how it deals with dying, death and how we, the funeral industry servants, can better serve the dead, dying and bereaved which was a nice focus considering the very important and timely launch at this year’s convention was the Funeral and Memorial Information Council’s ‘Have the Talk of a Lifetime’ awareness campaign.

A national and grassroots campaign the ‘Have the Talk of a Lifetime’ awareness campaign is focused on motivating families to have a conversation about life, what they value most and how they wish to remember and be remembered. Linda Darby, the National Concrete Burial Vault Associations rep to FAMIC summarized it very well saying  “I can’t ever remember a time in my professional career in which a group of key funeral service organizations have united around a common goal and developed a campaign of this nature”. The campaign will include brochures, videos, advertisements on and offline, social media and an informational website.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

NFDA Austin Convention 2013 - Design for Death

One of the most exciting ventures that the convention launched this year was the Design for Death competition, which invited entrants from all over the world to think creatively about funerals and memorials. Over 1,300 entries from over 90 different countries entered the worlds first ever competition of its kind. The winning concepts were on view to everyone at the convention center.

The Lien Foundation, ACM Foundation and the NFDA organized the competition collectively. Mr Lee Poh Wah, CEO of the Lien Foundation said “The designers have interpreted the needs of our generation with sensitivity and empathy. Their innovations and styles give us new ways to relate to death and dying. Their designs not only invite us to reflect on our mortality, they provide what we seem to be yearning for in death and in life – meaning, engagement and fulfillment.” More info can be seen

Monday 4 November 2013

NFDA Austin Convention 2013 - Moon Memorials

An interesting concept called Moon Memorials were providing onlookers with quite an array of merchandise from arrows and stress balls to the aforementioned dried ice cream. Neapolitan was the flavor and although I was told it was ‘delicious’ I personally like my ice cream wet! Aside from their distracting merchandise the concept of Moon Memorials intrigued me – they plan to launch the first mission to the moon carrying the ashes of 800 people as part of an outer space life celebration. The only problem I have is that this business is not yet up and running as a result of funding and also their website is unavailable currently. Not a good sign all in all but I do like the idea.

Saturday 2 November 2013

NFDA Austin Convention 2013

Well what to say about the NFDA Convention in Austin, Texas

They say everything is bigger in Texas and as a friend of mine says ‘go big or go home’ - this certainly seemed an appropriate description for what I witnessed at the 2013 National Funeral Director Association’s International Convention in Austin, Texas. From water burials to mushroom suits and comedian Billy Connolly to dried edible ice cream the show more than catered for everyone’s taste.

And when I say everyone I truly mean it – there were stands that sold pashmina scarves, hats, handbags and gold, silver and copper jewelry – nothing to do with the funeral industry at all. There was a facial youth serum on sale - I don’t know if they realized the irony of that product.

Below are some photos of the show and over the course of the next week or so I will give you guys my take on the various stands I encountered.