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Friday 20 April 2018

ICCFA Convention 2018 Las Vegas

The ICCFA 2018 Annual Convention took place in sunny Las Vegas!

I was happy for an excuse to take me to some sunshine after a pretty long winter in both Ireland and New York.

I flew in a day early to gather myself and get some Vitamin D because I know, from previous conventions in Vegas, that you can get so involved in work and networking that you may never leave the adjoining hotels or see daylight!
 I had hardly walked in the door of the convention and I met the infamous Funeral Commander, Jeff Harbeson. Always a laugh to catch up with him and his bright colourful suits!

I love coming to the ICCFA and the NFDA annual conventions because twice a year, every year, the funeral professionals gather to educate, innovate, network, eat, drink and rarely sleep!! Always a chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones in the process! I even got to catch a few shows with friends while I was in town too which was great, considering Vegas is THE go-to spot for any show!

Sadly, Innovation at this year's show, along with attendance, was slow and seriously lacking. I was hard pushed trying to find something new to report on. There were SongPods of Solace which contain cremated remains, locks of hair/fur or feathers of a loved one. They are handmade and considered a musical memorial. Shake them and hold to your ear to hear a unique chime!

Then there is commemorative rosary beads which are made from flowers - from a wedding, a funeral, a birthday or anything. A good way to 'recycle' flowers and keep a memorial of the date.

A very girly innovative find this year, lastly we had Phyll The Love. A company set up, when she found herself limited according to Jewish customs to throw something onto her mother's coffin as it was being lowered into the ground. A series of hurried questions to the rabbi later and colorful sand was the chosen love token! She now provides beautiful little bottles of coloured sand that funeral directors or family members can hand out to graveside goers to toss onto the casket in lieu of flowers. Innovative and creative? Yes, however, when I asked a number of my followers on Instagram their thoughts on usage, the result was a resounding NOPE. Ah well.

Other interesting things to note from the show was innovation in marketing or lack thereof. According to big players Funeral One and their attendees, marketing remains to be a funeral homes biggest challenge.

People WERE trying though, with Virtual Reality games happening and a giant colouring board to name a few fun things I spotted.

My first time Insta Story-ing the convention and the reactions were priceless - people thinking things were creepy AF (see below) or fascinated with the fact that there was such a thing as a funeral convention and wait...what...they have fun at it??! Noooooo.

I think we need to look at marketing for the industry from these people's perspectives and stop hiding our heads in the, even colourful, sand!

Friday 13 April 2018

Wakes Ireland

According to Wikipedia, a wake is:
A ceremony associated with death. Traditionally, a wake takes place in the house of the deceased, with the body present; however, modern wakes are often performed at a funeral home.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes a wake as: A watch or vigil held beside the body of someone who has died, sometimes accompanied by ritual observances, or a party held after a funeral.

Historically, a wake was the process of laying out the body of a departed (deceased) relative in the family home and watching over them from the time of death until the body is taken into the care of the church. The body is usually laid out in the parlour (living room or bedroom). Family, friends, and neighbours attend. Typically, a large amount of food and drink was consumed over the period of mourning. In Ireland today, wakes are still thought of as part of an Irish funeral, although they have altered slightly and happen more frequently in country towns and villages than in Irish cities. So where did it all come from? The true origins of the wake are foggy but the custom appears to date back to an ancient Jewish custom of leaving the sepulchre (burial chamber, vault, tomb, or grave) of the deceased open for three days before finally closing it up. This time allows family
members to visit, which they typically did in the hope of seeing signs of a return to life.

A myth that might be a basis for the Irish wake suggests that, in medieval times, people who drank from pewter tankards would suffer from lead poisoning, a symptom of which would be a catatonic state causing the person to appear dead only for them to recover or awaken a few hours
or days later!

Whatever the origins, there are specific steps that need to be followed in order to perform a historically accurate Irish wake:
• Family members and neighbours – typically women experienced in laying out the body – gather at the house of the deceased;
• The body is washed and dressed, usually in white;
• A bed is prepared for the body to rest on;
• If the deceased is a man, he is shaved;
• Sheets are hung over the bed and along two or three sides;
• A crucifix is placed at the throat of the deceased and rosary beads are entwined between the fingers;
• Candles are lit around the body;
• The clocks in the house are stopped and curtains closed as a mark of respect for the deceased;
• All mirrors in the house are turned toward the wall or covered.

A wake is most famously remembered for the keening (crying), as the women who prepared the body join the family in mourning. The preparations and the keening carry on until the arrival of any family members who may have been abroad. The deceased is never left unattended for the entire period of the wake. A person, generally a woman or a few women, sit nearby and watch over the body. When a mourner enters the room, they make their way to the side of the body, kneel down and silently recite prayers. Traditionally, the mourners then sympathise with the family before leaving. Visitations
last until midnight and food and drink are served throughout. Men typically congregate outside if it is not too cold or in the kitchen if it is winter, while the women care for the deceased or can be found in the kitchen making tea and sandwiches for visitors. The Rosary is recited at least once around the body and is led by a priest.

A wake can last a number of days, ending when the body is ‘removed’ from the home and brought to the church for a short service, known today as a removal.

There are two funeral services for the deceased, which is still relatively common in Ireland today. One is the removal, which occurs in the evening when the body is ‘removed’ from the home to the church; the second is held before the body is taken from the church to the graveyard or crematorium the next day.

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Online Legacy Part 2/3 - Death on Twitter and LinkedIn

In a study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, data from more than 15,000 social media networks of people who died were examined during a 4 year period. They examined how people interacted on those networks both before and after a death. The result was that people are indeed now grieving ONLINE and use online channels to stay connected to networks of the deceased. Online death needs to be addressed, both in terms of our legacies left online, how we grieve online and how people can be negatively affected by online trolling during times of grief.

Gmail (Google email) and Hotmail allow the email accounts of the deceased to be accessed by the next-of-kin, if certain documents are provided and requirements are met, however, they make no guarantees. Yahoo! Mail (and thus Flickr) will not provide access, citing the ‘No Right of Survivorship and Non-Transferability’ clause in their terms of service.

For a Gmail account, if you are preplanning, their Inactive Account Manager is the best way to manage who should have access to your information and whether you want your account to be deleted.  Inactive Account Manager is a way for users to share parts of their account data or notify someone if they’ve been inactive for a certain period of time. More info here

In the event of someone’s death, Twitter will work with the next-of-kin or executor of the deceased's estate to have an account deactivated. When requesting removal of a deceased user’s account you will be asked to provide the following:

Deceased’s Twitter account username and the account owner
Your relationship with the user (next-of-kin/executor of the deceased's estate)
Your full name and email address
a copy of your ID
copy of the deceased’s death certificate

They will NOT give account access to anyone regardless of their relationship to the user. Requests on the removal of images or video of deceased individuals can also be made and will be assessed on case by case basis. More info here

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn does not have a thorough “death policy” but maintains a simple guide if you come across the profile of a deceased person and have:

Your relationship to the deceased
Their Name and URL to their LinkedIn profile
Their email address
The date they died and a link to their obituary
The company they were most recently working for

The only option on LinkedIn is account deletion. See more here