We talk about life in so many ways: the meaning of it, obstacles that can hinder it, joys that light it, and the creation
of it, often in incredible detail. But one aspect of life that most of us would rather forget is that with life comes death, with every beginning, there is an end. To accept our mortality and realize that there will be an end is to enjoy life. As Abraham Lincoln once said “And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”
Unfortunately, death is cruel, inevitable, not ageist and is perhaps the only thing that is guaranteed in life but, when it comes down to organising a loved one’s funeral, how do you do it? Where do you do it? Are you getting good value for money? What do you really need and what are unnecessary expenses?
There are three situations in which you may find yourself planning a funeral; a loved one has passed away suddenly, a loved one has been diagnosed as terminally ill or you wish to pre-plan your own funeral.
Still somewhat taboo in Ireland, pre-planning your own funeral is growing from strength to strength; it is already big business in the USA and UK. If you decide to preplan your own funeral you have a number of options in Ireland; preplan with a funeral director, do a preplan with an independent funeral plan provider or sit down and put your wishes down on paper.
Preplanning your own funeral may sound like a morbid thing to do but there are many reasons why you should do it; you are relieving your family and friends of added stress when the time comes, which is especially important if children live abroad, you can choose how you would like your life celebrated, and you can financially look after the funeral expenses.
There are some interesting high profile examples of how funeral planning is beginning to change worldwide. Robert Tisch, a CEO of Loews Corporation in America had a marching band at his funeral. Estée Lauder had waiters passing out chocolate-covered marshmallows on silver trays. Ozzy Osbourne in his health column for the English Sunday
Times magazine wrote (of his funeral) "I do want to make sure it's a celebration, not a mope-fest…..I don't want my funeral to be sad. I want it to be a time to say 'thanks.'"
In the UK, make up brand Illamasqua joined forces with a Funeral Home in London to create what they call the ‘Final Act of Self-Expression’. A make up service, which can be booked as part of a pre-arranged service with the funeral home.
Without doubt the concept of the funeral is evolving into a ‘life event’. Organising a funeral is not the same as a 40th birthday but lines are blurring more and more, people are opting to personalize the service with music, readings, methods of transport and even the option of burial or cremation.
Cremation is on the rise in Ireland and is set to continue to do so with the increasing costs of burial and the scarcity of land available. With cremation there are more options to personalize like ash scattering at sea, from a hot air balloon, while skydiving, or sending them into space! There is also memorial cremation jewellery, which can be a great way to honour the deceased and allow family members to have something physical to hold onto when they need it most. It can be especially poignant if everyone lives in different countries all over the world.
Another major development affecting funerals is advancements in technology from QR codes on headstones, social media, and webcasting funerals around the world. Millions of fans were able to virtually attend Whitney Houston's funeral thanks to digital technology advancements. While very new to Ireland, streaming funerals live around the globe could become a very important part of our future. Figures show emigration of Irish people is increasing every year and a lot of these people will stay illegally in the countries they migrate to. In doing this, it means they can’t leave to return home for the funeral of a loved one.
Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and other social media giants have made us much more comfortable with sharing intimate details about ourselves online. Many deaths and funerals are reported, commented on, tweeted, recorded and posted online every day. These companies have had to develop accordingly the most recent is Google’s development of it’s Death Manager.
Death is inevitable unfortunately and we will all plan a funeral at some stage in our lives – not a nice thing to have to do but with a little bit of thought and thinking ahead we can make it easier on those we leave behind. So if you have made a will, which hopefully you have, then why not go a step further and consider preplanning your funeral or putting down a few notes as to how you would like your life celebrated when it comes full circle.