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Wednesday 16 November 2016

Family and Friends - THAT is what the holiday season is all about.

Christmas is coming and of all the feasts throughout the year the celebration of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day seem to be the most popular of all. There are more traditions and customs associated with Christmas in all Christian countries than with any other feast. I love Christmas time, it’s family time, it’s home time.

A few years ago my family and I decided to stop exchanging gifts and focus on the real gift of time, time spent with each other. The first year, it felt a little odd, but as the years rolled by, it became the norm for us and now I love it and would not have it any other way.

Having spent many years in America and enjoying Thanksgiving, it soon became one of my favorite holidays. Why? Because it was so similar to my experience of Christmas but without the pressure of gift buying. Yes, both Thanksgiving and Christmas have become commercial commodities that the stores use to guilt trip us. But what if we could fight off the advertising awareness, the pressure to spend more than the next person on a present and find the time to really, truly enjoy the moment, the season, the holiday with our loved ones, wouldn’t we be more loved and loving? Isn’t that what these dates are truly about?

With increasing awareness of suicide, poor mental health and depression in Ireland today we should be focussing on what is important in life. Family and friends are two of the most important parts of life and for me, Christmas is a time to really bring that to the fore. Whatever business you are in, we should be encouraging all our customers to share this message of love and warmth, family and friends and reaching out to those who we know don’t have the luxury of either.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

The Vatican and me, Head to Head

So the latest this week was the ‘ruling’ from the Vatican who ‘ordered’ Catholics to keep ashes in a sacred place rather than at home.  Umm sorry now, I consider myself catholic and I don’t see anything MORE sacred than my own home where love and family are the biggest contributors??!

They also reckon the ‘remains of the faithful’ should be left in consecrated ground such as a cemetery plot which is interesting because we have to pay for said plot.
Church authorities also say that ashes must not be scattered in the air, on land or at sea, but yet these are all of ‘god’s’ creation are they not???

I’m sorry but I am not having it, yes of course I am biased as this affects my business of cremation memorials but I think it is a load of BS, and JUST when I was starting to dig our current Pope.

People are turning to more natural and green alternatives - natural burials, scattering ashes in the sea or on land are all deemed more natural currently.

My business is memorial jewellery, putting cremated ashes into jewellery so people can keep them close to them for as long as they live. I am catholic so what does this make me? Unfatihful? A Judas?

For me, this ‘ruling’ has nothing to do with religion at all and more with the church making money and exercising their control over ‘the faithful’. Well those ‘faithful’ are about to become the faithful departed if they don’t sort their beans out!

They cannot just make rules up as they go along. One minute cremation is out, then for convenience sake, it's in but don’t separate the ashes! Then it must be on sacred ground. Enough already! Sacred is whatever is SACRED TO YOU, the loved ones left behind. End of story.

Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Grey in Ireland!

Back in 1987, Matthew Broderick (Sarah Jessica Parkers hubby), and his then girlfriend, Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing Star), both co-stars in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, were vacationing in Ireland. Broderick mistakenly drove the incorrect way and crashed into an oncoming vehicle. Both the driver and passenger, who were mother and daughter, of the car died from their injuries.

Matthew sustained a broken leg, fractured ribs, a concussion, and a collapsed lung and Jennifer suffered minor injuries. Matthew was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but was later convicted of a lower charge of careless and reckless driving. (would love the details of that!)

A few days later Dirty Dancing premiered in theatres and it is said that Jennifer never could enjoy all the fame that came with its success as a result of this accident in Ireland! She said that she never recovered from the accident and she turned her back on Hollywood aged only 27. She says “my head was never the same, my ambition was never the same.” How tragic!

Saturday 24 September 2016

Funeral Directors - cremation/burial or something else??

A recent survey carried out by U.K. Company YouGov (a self-proclaimed community of 4 million contributors around the world) of 1,546 adults showed that 58% of those asked would currently opt for cremation, in comparison to 17% who preferred the idea of burial. Of those in favour of cremation, 79% wanted their ashes to be scattered. In response to the results, YouGov said there was a “strong shift in preference towards cremation as people get older”. While 42% of 18-24 year olds wish to be cremated, this figure rises to 71% among the over-65s. Have you found this in your Funeral Home?

That’s nearly 6 out of 10 people with cremation as their preferred final journey when their day is done. Perhaps more interestingly, 25% (which is still more than burial) opted for something else or were unsure, which means we still have a role in educating the market to help people with their choices and decisions OR that there needs to be more options available.
Currently, the most common ways to dispose of a body in Ireland are burial and cremation (earth versus fire), however there are constant developments in technology and new methods will be introduced in the coming years. These include Resomation (where bodies are dissolved into an alkaline hydrolysis liquid), Promession (a process which freeze-dries bodies in nitrogen) and Irish company ecoLation (who use freezing pressure and heat which results in an inert powder where all toxins and chemicals are neutralized).

Burying someone and erecting a headstone or having a grave marker can provide a family with peace as they have somewhere physical to visit to feel close to the deceased. This is one of the reasons a lot of people opt for burial instead of cremation. However there is also the environmental factor to be considered, as has been seen in Ireland with the increase in demand for green burials, a trend which has not been missed by the new technology companies mentioned above.

A new video has been doing the rounds online showcasing Promession, which got me excited that this new technology might be ready to market. However, with further research you can see that the video is in fact 6 years old and nothing seems to have moved forward for them in terms of bringing the product to market. Resomation is available in parts of the USA but that is it, or at least that was all the information I could find on it. ecoLation seem to have come on leaps and bounds since I last covered them in my book ('Say Farewell Your Way') and they have units rolling out in at least 4 different countries in 2017 which is great news for Funeral Directors, their clientele, and Ireland as a country to have such innovation coming from its shores. So the question is the 25% - will they choose either of these 3 options as they become available?

Things to remember about scattering ashes

  • There will be bones and larger pieces that most people don't expect. It doesn't look like fireplace ash which is what most people assume it looks like.
  • Decide whether you want to scatter all the ashes in one place or do you want your loved one to travel all over the world? Decide how many people or locations you want and divide accordingly. I usually suggest more than one location because you might move house or out of the country. You never know where life will bring you!
  • Ziplock bags will be your best friend - especially if you want to scatter ashes in a few locations or give to friends and family.
  • Figure out the wind direction!! NO one wants to inhale their loved one or have them stuck in their lipgloss or blinding them!
  • Check out the site before you do 'your thing' because it might not be as you remember or visualize it.
  • Using flower heads when throwing ashes into the wind or over water helps you to continue to see the ashes even when they go far away because ash can become difficult to see - it IS after all ash! It also makes it that bit more natural and beautiful.
  • Be careful when traveling with ashes, get permission from the airline if going as carry on and if not carry on then you run the risk of the airline losing your luggage which is not good.
  • Take photos of the area, the day, whatever you do. Keep a memory of it.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Something Beautiful Remains

Something Beautiful Remains

by Martha Vashti Pearson

 The tide recedes, but leaves behind
Bright seashells on the sand.

The sun goes down but gentle warmth
Still lingers on the land.

The music stops and yet it lingers on
In sweet refrain.

For every joy that passes
Something beautiful remains.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

I See Dead People: Dreams and Visions of the Dying this talk. PLEASE. I think it's great. Seriously. I had a similar experience (well I didn't but I heard about it through my mother) when my grand mother passed away 10 years ago. 

I lived in Washington DC 10 years ago and was training for a marathon in Miami. I got a call Friday morning at 930am to say my grandmother had been brought into hospital with panic attacks. I was flying to Miami the following day. My phone rang at 930 pm on the Friday night and I knew immediately that she was gone. I spoke with my mom about her final hours and she said the strangest thing (I thought at the time). She asked my mom when was I next home and when she replied two weeks, my grandmother sighed in resignation. Mom said she knew she wouldn't be around to see me. Then all of a sudden she looked sad and when my mom asked her why she replied "I really liked this world." So she completely knew that she was dying and that it was going to happen soon. 

This Ted Talk is very interesting and I completely agree with Dr. Christopher Kerr. In fact, Id love to know more - does anyone have any experience similar to mine or his?

Sunday 24 April 2016

Ireland - Advanced Healthcare Directives

12 key things you NEED to know according to the Irish Hospice Foundation

  1. Advance Healthcare Directives are recognised in common law but until now there was no legislative framework
  2. Under the new provisions, a person aged 18 and over who has capacity can prepare an Advance Healthcare Directive
  3. They must put their decisions on future medical treatment in writing and their Advance Healthcare Directive must be witnessed
  4. A person will be able to revoke an Advance Healthcare Directive at any time – verbally or in writing
  5. No-one will be under any obligation to create an Advance Healthcare Directive – people are free to make them but are not required to do so
  6. Having witnesses to the Advance Healthcare Directive is geared to prevent people being forced to make certain decisions
  7. You can nominate people who will be legally recognised as acting on your behalf at a time when you lose capacity and can ensure your Advance Healthcare Directive is enforced
  8. An Advance healthcare Directive only comes into force when you have lost capacity and cannot make a decision
  9. Having an Advance Healthcare Directive helps healthcare professionals in caring for you the way you want
  10. Having an Advance Healthcare Directive helps families as it removes doubt about what care their loved one wanted
  11. If there is any serious doubt about an Advance Healthcare Directive, a person can go to the courts
  12. This is not euthanasia or assisted suicide. These acts are and continue to be illegal in Ireland. An Advance Healthcare Directive is a method of obtaining consent for treatment in advance.

Friday 22 April 2016

ICCFA in New Orleans or “The Crescent City”, “The Big Easy”, “The City That Care Forgot”, “Nawlins”

New Orleans, Louisiana or “The Crescent City”, “The Big Easy”, “The City That Care Forgot”, “Nawlins” and/or NOLA might have a number of nicknames but one thing is for sure it is widely known for its nightlife, vibrant live-music scene and spicy, southern creole cuisine reflecting the melting pot of French, African and American cultures. What a location for the ICCFA Annual Convention and Expo 2016! I fell in love with New Orleans completely, despite a stolen purse, missed flights and the typical Irish weather dampening the experience.

 The welcome was superb. A taste of a true Nawlins funeral and wow what a send off!. You can see a video clip of it on my blog – It was definitely the best part of the expo for me. But what else was there that was new or interesting?

 There was UPD Urns – the Always bust is sculpted by world class 3D artists or bronze sculptors. The bust sits on top of a flat cremation urn where cremains can be safely stored. If ordered before a passing (preneed) the bust can be delivered so it is present for the funeral and the cremains interred after the cremation process and the bust can then stand in a family home as a lasting tribute to a loved one. It takes 6-8 weeks but as it is based in Oregon I would allow a further 2 weeks for shipping to Ireland. See more

As always, I’m delighted when I hear of some Irish lurking at these shows and usually I can find at least one! This time it was PLOT BOX. Having already covered the cemetery in DĂșn Laoghaire and currently commissioned to do all of the graveyards in Carlow, these guys are set for big things. The Plot Box team map cemeteries, from old closed historical grounds to 200 acre fully functioning sites. Especially important in Ireland where we still rely so heavily on paper for everything, these guys digitize existing paper trails into high resolution maps. Ancestry researchers will love this as life will get a whole lot easier as they can browse online databases to find graves and records of their ancestors. See more

One of the strangest booths at the show and one that may not be for everyone was Save my Ink Forever. These guys have developed a unique process of preserving a person’s tattoo after they have passed on. The embalmer removes the tattoo from the body following the directions provided by Save my Ink and sends it in a preservation box to the guys who then return it ‘preserved’ and framed. Its certainly not for the faint of heart but I can imagine it will appeal to some. Check out for more info.

 I have to give a big shout out to AP Lazer who gave me my very own personalized mini coffin – hopefully I wont need the real one anytime soon! These guys are trying to change the way we think of death care by focussing on memory care. Their laser machines are amazing and would allow a lot of funeral homes to personalize countless products at the touch of a button saving both money and time for them and the families they care for. For more info check out

All in all a great show with lots of innovation and also a lot of familiar faces which shows long term investment and stamina in the industry which isn’t easy. I absolutely fell in love with New Orleans and as I said despite the stolen purse, missed flights and the rain I still got to taste all of what New Orleans has to offer and she is vibrant for sure!

Friday 8 April 2016

20 ways to die in NYC

As compiled by the Village Voice.

  1. You fall through the subway grate on the sidewalk
  2. You fall through the sidewalk cellar door
  3. You fall off a roof
  4. You're struck by an exploding manhole cover
  5. You're hit by a bus
  6. You're hit by a taxi
  7. You're hit by a bicycle
  8. You're hit by a car on your bike
  9. You're hit by a falling air con unit
  10. You're hit by falling ice
  11. You're hit by a piece of construction debris
  12. You're hit by falling scaffolding
  13. You're hit by falling tree branches or trees
  14. You fall out a window
  15. You fall off a boat
  16. You touch the 3rd rail
  17. You fall down the stairs to the subway platform
  18. You fall onto the subway tracks
  19. You do the above and survive only to be hit by a train
  20. You're involved in an elevator disaster

What do you think? Have you escaped near death in NYC?
I mean these are all valid but what about murder, terrorism, heart attacks, cancer and all the other regular death inducing things?! Oh I forgot...its New York!!! ;-)

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Be happy…. think about death! 2016 Resolutions.

Be happy…. think about death!

WANT a better 2016? Try thinking more about your every day. No I don’t mean your routine or your eating habits or lack of exercise or business financials but about your work - why you do what you do.

Meditating death is a key to better living. Contemplating our own demise forces us into considering the present and future. Knowing that one day it will all come to an end (depending on your beliefs) allows the brain to acknowledge the present and living and the countless opportunities that await us. The future depends on what you do now, today. Death will surely come knocking - as a professional in the funeral industry you know this but are you ready for it? Have you fulfilled your Bucket List? If by some miracle you have then create a new one for 2016. If you have procrastinated on your Bucket List until now then make 2016 the year you complete the list. To make this easier and more achievable when planning always try to vividly visualize the activity - when is it happening, where and how?

Sometimes we can become to engulfed in our work day to day that we lose sight of why we do what we do until we lose someone ourselves and then it is often too late. So if you are planning a summer holiday this year - if this was to be the last one ever - with whom would you go and spend some time? Where would you go? What would you do when there? How long would you go for?

If this year were your last, would you spend the next hour mindlessly checking your social media, or would you call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while? Would you spend the day with your family or spend the day helping other families? Some of our choices are not easy, or fair and sometimes it takes looking death directly in the eye before we realize the real choices we want to and should make. Although his name is now forever associated with drug allegations in sport some would say that it took a serious potentially fatal cancer diagnosis to send Lance Armstrong on to make history and win seven consecutive Tour de France championships. What will your Tour de France be?

There’s still time to rethink your resolutions. Forget losing weight, giving up cigarettes (although you should try!) and saving money. Those are New Year’s resolutions for regular joe soaps but you’re a funeral director. You live, breathe and sleep death so why not apply it to your own life and this year, improve your outlook: Be fully alive now by thinking about your demise. Have a Happy  and Healthy 2016!

Steve Jobs 

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. 
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. 
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

Sunday 17 January 2016

Don't ever let anything stop you

I just listened to Tony Robbins and his 2006 TedTalks piece. I watched through to the end and was glad I did when he told a beautiful touching story about his experience of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. He was right when he claimed that it is when people are faced with extreme adversity and death that they become emotionally and physically driven to change the course of their lives and to LIVE their life.

This is what he said:
"When 9/11 happened -- I'll finish with this -- I was in Hawaii. I was with 2,000 people from 45 countries. We were translating four languages simultaneously for a program that I was conducting for a week. The night before (9/11) was called "Emotional Mastering.".......And all of a sudden I said, "When do people really start to live? When they face death."

And then I went through this whole thing about, if you weren't going to get off this island, if nine days from now you were going to die, who would you call, what would you say, what would you do?

One woman -- well, that night is when 9/11 happened -- one woman had come to the seminar and when she came there, her previous boyfriend had been kidnapped and murdered. Her friend, her new boyfriend, wanted to marry her, and she said no. He said, "If you leave and go to that Hawaii thing, it's over with us." She said, "It's over."

When I finished that night, she called him and left a message at the top of the World Trade Center where he worked, saying, "Honey, I love you, I just want you to know I want to marry you. It was stupid of me."

She was asleep, because it was 3 a.m. for us, when he called her back from the top and said, "Honey, I can't tell you what this means." He said, "I don't know how to tell you this, but you gave me the greatest gift because I'm going to die." And she played the recording for us in the room.

She was on Larry King later, and he said, "You're probably wondering how on Earth this could happen to you twice." And he said, "All I can say to you is, this must be God's message to you, honey. From now on, every day give your all, love your all. Don't let anything ever stop you."

Friday 15 January 2016

Celebrity deaths and public mourning

Just this week we lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman to that devastating disease called cancer. It was a sad week in Celebrity world and millions of people around the world reacted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to name a few. Why do we mourn people who we have never met so publicly?

Millions attended Whitney Houston's funeral and listened to "I will always love you" as her body left the local church. After Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros was killed covering a Libyan uprising, thousands attended his memorial service. The majority of the audience at each of these funerals attended them virtually which is one of the few things that is changing the way we mourn and how we do funerals in the 21st Century. EVERYONE can be let in to experience this historically private event.

Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter have also made us much more comfortable with sharing intimate details about ourselves online with strangers on a constant basis. Many deaths and funerals are reported, commented on, tweeted, snapped, recorded and posted online before even their loved ones have heard of the news.

According to Famous NYC Funeral Home to the Stars Frank E Campbell 'They (the public) Want Closure'. The funeral home stood as a backdrop to those who came to mourn Heath Ledger in NYC in 2008, as his casket was carried from the home, and the media and fans who came to watch. The intense dedication and unity of the mourners, the familial connections felt for people they have never met, the volatility of grief was apparent for all to see and this is not just reserved for Heath Ledger and his fans but to every "celebrity" or person in the publin arena. "They need to be a part of that life that they ... have never touched personally, individually, privately, and in person — but through the media, through television, through the movies, it was very much a part of their growing up and their life. They want closure," Schultz (director) said. "People from every walk of life."