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Wednesday 15 November 2017

Ted dream come true

Officially a Talker of Ted!

So it finally happened, a dream come true, another bucket list item ticked off, a career milestone, a personal mountain conquered – I finally stood on a Ted stage and did a ‘Ted Talk’ and boy, did it not disappoint!

Anxious and stressed in the days leading up to it, I was frequently frustrated with people dismissing my worries with a typically Irish phrase for dealing with things “Sure you'll be grand, not a bother to ya” and an emphasis on my perceived confidence. I say perceived because apparently, I give off an impression that nothing fazes me and have an almost uber confident aura. Nothing could be further from the truth. Aside from the weeks of stressing that my speech wasn’t ever going to be good enough, my message not clear enough, 5 minutes wasn’t long enough, 5 minutes was too long, my attire too bright, my attire not bright enough, my topic too boring, my story not relevant or that ill probably fall on my ass while walking on stage, they were minor to the 24 hours leading up to the ‘talk’.

I was working from home, finalizing orders, new designs, writing and analyzing blogs, sending out press releases etc etc, all in a days work…, when I got a call asking me to come into Newstalk (Irish Radio Station) for a radio interview. ‘Brilliant’ I say and accept wholeheartedly, excited for the opportunity. I hang up and immediately think F@£K what did I do that for, that’s gonna raise the anxiety levels a few notches…NOT something I need the night before my talk. As I usually do, I think feck it, roll with it, go with the flow. Running out the door I decide I should use the bathroom really quick – nothing worse for your nerves than shaky legs! Stupidly forgetting my phone was in my back pocket, my lovely iPhone gets acquainted with the toilet bowl water and dies stone dead. JUST when I needed it most. No time to think, I run out the door to Newstalk, the interview goes well, I cry, Ivan(presenter) doesn’t and the show goes on – apparently, the Hard Shoulder should be called the Cold Shoulder (I love my fellow pet loving community!).

I arrive home to some seriously fabulous family news and I cry all over again, by now I am an emotional wreck! Sleep comes hard and fast that night thank god but I wake early next morning (D Day!) to messages from friends cancelling their spot in the Ted audience, which although understandable, sends me into another emotional downward spiral of feeling let down, not important enough, not good enough, all of which are untrue but still weighed me down. Then to add further woe, I slick on some facial moisturizer that I use every day and break out in huge red blotches all over my face. NOT a good look.

An antihistamine, a chat with mom and an old boss later and I'm standing in the dressing room doing final prep work for Ted. I slick on a bit of red lipstick, put on my grim reaper cloak and a quick blur later and I'm walking off stage to rapturous applause, a WOW from the compare and I'm buzzing with endorphins and YESSSSSS I did it vibe.

Like practically every bucket list item I have ticked off, part of the joy ride is the pre event tears, tantrums, and anxieties but after every single one – running a marathon, writing a published book, skydiving, moving countries the absolute buzz of having accomplished something I only dreamed possible and the wonderful feeling of having pushed myself to my (deemed) limits, I ALWAYS always feel so unbelieveably proud and can smile knowing that from this day forward, I did this and no one, not one person can ever take away the fact that I did it and as that old crooner would say, I certainly did it my way ;-)

ACTUAL footage of me talking Ted ;-)

Prepared transcript of speech->

My name is Jennifer and I am fascinated with funerals.


Not what you were expecting?

My nickname is the Glam Reaper, aptly named for my weird interest in the funeral business but unlike the idea of that grim reaper cloak I try to bring love and life to the death business.

Today I want to share with you a story that I have not typically shared when interviewed.

Rewind to 8 years ago. I had just come home from Cuba. Holiday of a lifetime.

To bad news.

She had had a stroke. Several actually.

Me and my family had a big decision to make.

A decision between life and death.

We brought her to the hospital clinging on for dear life.

She had a little bit of food stuck to her nose.

She was so innocent and vulnerable.

Once so full of life. She just lay there. limp.

me and mom hugged each other as we watched as the light leave her eyes. She never took her eyes from ours.


Now let me tell you that this lil lady was my best friend, she was my confidente, I could have told her anything and she would have wagged her tail, licked my wounds and encouraged me to go for a walk!! Yes folks I have been talking about my dog

Does your perception of the story change?

Do you have any less sympathy for me?

Some of you probably even said “Oh for god sake its just a dog!!’

And I get it. But FOR ME. At that time. she was my whole world.

We'd been through childhood, the terrible teenage years when you feel the whole world is against you right through to adulthood.

Zero judgement, unconditional love every single day.

In interviews I have always been careful not to compare the loss of a dog to the loss of a human for fear of judgement.

So I buried my grief. And I'm not alone.

I've recently talked to a number of people who also experienced grief judgement.

People who lost uncles that were like dads.

Cousins who were like brothers.

All felt uncomfortable in their grief for fear of judgement.

Grief is uncomfortable enough without the added weight of protecting ourselves from judgment. From friends. From family. From colleagues. From strangers.

Loss is LOSS

Who are we to judge ANYONE who is grieving.

We all grieve differently. A set of twins who lose their mother will grieve completely differently.

Grief is as unique as our heart beat, our DNA, our fingerprint.

Who are you to judge?

If I lose my mother and you lose your mother, will we grieve the same?

No way my moms the best and because I love my mom more than you!!


I am not you, I don’t know what your grief is to you.

What it feels like every day.

To wake up with it in the morning. Fall asleep with it that night.

There should be no judgment, no men don’t cry, no time limit on it.

Its YOUR grief.


Do you like my necklace? You probably can't see it right now but

This beautiful necklace around my neck contains the ashes of that beloved dog Roxy.

I bet your judging me now! Crack pot!

I created this jewellery with that ‘lack of judgement’ in mind after my granny died.

She had given me a miraculous medal as most Irish grannies did to keep me whole and keep me pure ;-)

When she died I wore it as a way to remember her but of course I was young and trying to fit in.

Suddenly I was a ‘holy joe’ or the ‘virgin mary’.

So much so I took it off.

I specifically designed these pieces NOT to broadcast what they are, they don’t scream HEY I HAVE SOMEONES ASHES AROUND MY NECK!

Because grieving is personal and if I want to share I will and If I don’t I wont.

I don’t need your judgment.

There is no blue print for grief, I have yet to meet two people who have grieved the same.

So tonight, today, tomorrow, next week, lets go easy on each other, and lets simply STOP judging each other.

Friday 3 November 2017

NFDA Boston 2017

The NFDA took place in beautiful Boston this year. It was a busy busy convention for me, a lot of media interest in learning about Ireland. The reason behind the sudden interest was more than likely due to the fact that I presented a workshop at the convention titled “Ireland is green and growing” covering the various components that makeup a typical Irish funeral, some old Irish myths and stories and some new Irish technology news.


Considering my workshop took place at 8am the morning AFTER Halloween night, I was pretty impressed with the attendance. Videos of short interviews with a rural Irish funeral director, a Dublin city one, and a fascinating Irish funeral ‘goer’ all featured and together we helped each other to add a touch of Irishness to funeral planning in America. Small additions can make a big difference to the Irish American community.

The Irish groundbreaking technology innovation of ecoLation was discussed and a great deal of questions asked after the workshop was complete. Massive interest in this technology from Americans and the Asian markets.

But my workshop aside, the convention itself was different this year, no one could quite put their finger on why, it could have been the convention center itself – it seemed bigger, bolder and more roomier than usual. The floor was littered with memorial jewellery. It seemed everyone and their mother was offering a variety of memorials jewellery and a lot of it looked the same sadly, with quality lacking in the majority.

I met with the guys from Memorial Reef who create artificial reefs with the cremated remains of a loved one in areas most affected by the global climate crisis. The remains are placed inside a compact urn which is placed inside a special reef ball and secured. This ball is then anchored into the ocean and secured to the ocean floor where ocean life can begin to form. They have locations in Bermuda, Cancun, Baja, Golet, Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands. Prices start at 6000 dollars.

I met Colonel Saunders of KFC fame at the AIM Holographics booth (it was fancy dress day at the show!) where he spoke to me about his 3D hologram video technology. I got excited as I thought it was the type of hologram that has in previous years brought Tupac and Michael Jackson to life on stage but for me, this seemed like a very expensive but great looking video experience.

The SecuriGene DNA presentation was very cool - they preserve the DNA of loved ones in their DNA bank. A great option for families wishing to preserve the genetic legacy of their family for future testing which could be important to identify hereditary diseases and who knows what developments the future will produce so holding onto this information is very important.

Other booths that caught my attention included the Icons in Ash booth, where a mosaic is made out of the ashes of the deceased. Approx 6 teaspoons of ashes are used to create the artworks. Another ‘dirty’ booth had an Irish theme – Handfuls of Home creators Aifric and Dominika brought Ireland to the NFDA quite literally! Attendees were able to feel and massage the green, green grasses of home - well maybe not the grass but the soil beneath that grass. They sell pots of Irish soil to the funeral industry. A great idea for the funeral director working with Irish communities.

Lastly, I came across a very impressive booth called Life Celebrations that was a mini mock-up of a very comfortable funeral home. It was warm and inviting with gorgeous images adorning the walls via projectors. There were beautiful corners of personalised memorabilia honoring the deceased. I was very impressed with this level of personalisation until I heard the join up fee of 18,500 dollars! That was before you bought a projector or a personalised bookmark! A bit of an exclusive club if you ask me, I didn’t see much give back from such a high subscription fee.  Also while their show booth was impressive, their marketing collateral was poor and lacked visible descriptions.

In summary, once again the Irish did well and made themselves known, and memorialising or personalising seems to be key in the industry for 2018.