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Thursday 7 November 2019

Oxygen, massage and puppies have got what to do with funerals?!

With over 28 miles of shoreline and more than 2,000 hot dog stands, Chicago was an interesting choice for this year's US National Funeral Directors Association. 

An oxygen bar, massage station and even a puppy parlor made for an enjoyable experience for funeral professionals from all over the globes to convene. One could spend an entire day on the expo floor checking out all the freebies, albeit these were offerings from the exhibitors and not the NFDA Convention itself who, in previous years, held cocktail hours, free lunches and handed out free knick-knacks at every turn. This year beer and pretzels with cheese dip, free wine, and cheese tastings and the famous Garrett Popcorn were offered as an enticement into booths. I personally do think these ‘gimmicks’ work but they need to be thought through. We went up to one exhibit and pulled at a Fortune Wheel to win a cruise (which plot twist..we didn’t win!) and we walked away not having any idea what the brand or business was. Now I also cannot stand the pouncing on you the second you browse past a booth. A colleague and I were unfortunate enough to pause for a catch up beside a gentleman’s booth and he promptly interrupted us without apology and even when we tried to continue our conversation after politely answering him, he plundered on with his sales pitch. Finding the balance is key.

The most popular booth by far at the show was Pause for Paws who provided cuddles and snuggles with therapy dogs. Ultimate Canine is an award-winning, internationally recognized company that provided therapy dogs, service dogs and family dogs to people all across America. 

So aside from eating my weight in deep dish Chicago style pizza, I was there to learn. One of my favorite moments, other than listening to the fabulous and incredibly motivational Seth Godin speak, was the video featuring a number of funeral directors talking about the aftermath of topics we sadly see all too often in the media these days - mass shootings and terrorism. Not something even I had considered or dealt with but a very real reality when a community is shaken to its very core. Check out the NFDA Instagram page to see the video.

Another great takeaway was the NFDA initiative of ‘Remembering A Life’ self-care box which contains a carefully curated collection of items to help a grieving individual find relaxation, reflection and remembrance following the death of a loved one. Containing a grief journal, memory jar, a candle, an oil roller, rose quartz stone, water bottle, and dragonfly keyring. While it definitely won’t be for everyone and I know some people may even find offense in some of the contents, I do think a care box is a lovely addition for a funeral home to give to grieving clients they think would appreciate its contents. Remembering a Life is online and a quick Google search will bring any funeral director worldwide to its wide and varied content. Worth a quick search!  

Reimagine the end of your life will you?

You are going to die. I am, too, and the thought of our inevitable demise is scary and unsettling. But, what if we were regularly encouraged to reflect on why we’re here, prepare for a time when we won’t be?

Reimagine End of Life, a festival that happens twice a year in the US - in NYC and San Fransisco, is doing exactly that with annual “death festivals” that inspire a community-wide exploration of death and celebration of life. The response to these weeklong gatherings has been tremendous with more than 20,000 people participating in 500 plus events presented by 300 plus collaborators in both locations in 2018. The organizers want to take the topic of death and dying out of the shadows through the mediums of art, music, comedy, and conversation.

The latest death festival took place in San Fransisco during the last week in October. Over 10 Days there were 250 Events, 52 Interactive Rituals, 24 Food Experiences, Comedy Shows and all with ONE Universal Topic. Venues include a variety of community centers, art galleries, churches, temples, parks, bars, concert venues, and even The Walt Disney Museum.

Previous Reimagine headliners have included Oscar winners Frances McDormand, ‘Coco’ director Lee Unkrich, The New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast and National Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith