Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Another Better Way To Remember

Notes from the Exhibit Hall of the Annual National Funeral Directors' Convention, part 5

It was inevitable. You had to know that technology was going to eventually insert itself into American death rituals. It should be a surprise to no one. Right? Well, guess what? The techno-revolution is being vehemently resisted by many funeral directors, particularly those in ole' Virginny. I have no fear in writing that because this is a BLOG. Those in question don't even know what a BLOG is.

"Hey, Buford. Isn't a blog one of those arterial things that messes with the embalming process?"
"Naw, Winslow. A blog is that smell when there's too much water underground at the cemetery."

To all the techno-savvy funeral directors, Bufords, and Winslows out there, please accept my apologies. I don't mean you, but YOU know who I'm talking about. These guys just got a fax machine to send their handwritten obits to the newspaper. These are the guys who still only let women answer the phones or do the hair at the funeral home. Cutting edge to them is piping in some music on a... GASP!... CD during the visitation hours. And there are DOZENS of them in Virginia and thousands elsewhere. You know if a Luddite like yours truly is rolling her eyes at them, they gotta' be pathetic.

So Little Miss Luddite galavanted off to the National Funeral Directors' Convention looking for some twenty-first century innovations to bring back to the hinterlands. It would appear that the horizon line of innovation in the funeral industry is web remembrance companies. And, as with the other installments in this series, I think I found the most UU friendly of the bunch. There were 15 web-related exhibitors in the program. I found two favorites, but they are very different.

From the creator of is This website caters to all things for the over 50 crowd. It's a hip site and has hip marketing. Not a hint of fogey as far as I could tell. One aspect of the site is the obit/memorial section. This appeared relatively easy to use and appealed to the low-tech in me. The obit/memorial area of the site has many purposes and is worth a browse to see if your high school nemesis is still alive, to check out the archives for your grandma's obit from 1983, or to find how obits are written if you have neither a paper nor a funeral director handy. (Personally, I strive never to be without one or the other.)

The company that really lit me up, though, was Now, you may go to the site and be wondering what on earth I'm talking about, so let me give you a little tutorial about the possibilities first. This company offers two options - a web memory repository and a tangible book (available in different styles and formats. ) The web part can include stories, memories, music, and photos. The books put the photos and some of the writings together. It sounds really simple, but the possibilities are very powerful.

First, this is very helpful for out-of-towners, those who missed the service, or people who find out much later about the death. The order of service, the eulogy, stories from friends, the obituary, and photos can all be posted.

Secondly, many sites do not offer the possibilities for input and creativity that Timeless Memories does. Be sure to check out the sample memorial they have, but bring your hankies. It was designed by the mother and sister of a young man who died this year, presumably by suicide. I teared up looking at it in the exhibit hall. It is very personal, much more so than other sites are willing to be. But, fear not, your entry is also password protected.

Finally, and most importantly, this company is relatively new and they are creative thinkers. When I approached their chief technology officer, Aaron Kelley, and asked him what kind of non-traditional elements could be added for Unitarian Universalists, he was not only open but enthusiastic. This company appears to be willing to investigate what we would be interested in, and designing things accordingly. In other words, less gulls and crosses at sunset, more Emerson quotes and multicultural influences.

As for the books TimelessMemories offer, they are lovely in person. Think Hollywood biography in their look. Very professional. See my previous post "A Better Way to Remember" for why on earth you would want a book.

1 comment:

Christine Robinson said...

Dear 7th,

Reading about your adventures has been interesting, thanks

Maybe I missed something, but I'm wondering what led you to go to a convention of funeral directors in the first place.