Is the future of funerals virtual?

This week I attended my first online funeral, and it went very well, considering only the other day I shared a post about online funeral etiquette.

Livecast on Facebook, by my mentor in technology and optimism*, and family, the funeral is available in replay on YouTube for his dear Mother, Lilia.

The moral of the story is that a right of passage doesn’t have to adhere to convention.

Indeed, in many ways an unconventional approach is exactly what I think Lilia Perton needed to do her justice.

Not for the first time during this pandemic, though, I admit to being more than a little bit surprised that the potential for technology to enhance and disrupt an industry that’s been driven for decades by economic rationalisation, by consolidation, restructuring and cost savings, hasn’t meant that the remaining homes (why are they called ‘homes’?) aren’t already delivering services that forgo travel, and allow more people from disparate locations to ‘be’ at the funeral virtually, without the real estate and labour overheads to deliver that experience on the supply side, and the travel and organising that it takes to be on site on the receiving.

My own Grandmother, who died in 2016, wanted to be “put in a cardboard box” and insisted that she not be physically, personally present at the funeral service.

Whilst the funeral director didn’t question her personally not wanting to be present, that didn’t stop him traumatising me with a detailed explanation concerning what happens to cardboard that has been left in the fridge (meaningful eyebrow raise) when you set the combination of damp cardboard and dead weight onto a set of industrial castors that pinch at the bottom of it repeatedly during its short trajectory into a furnace.

Who knows if Grandma did or didn’t get the same casket as Grandpa? I can only hope that the sales targets for her service were met that day, as it seemed to me that they were more important than avoiding any additional personal trauma.

A quick Google search suggests I’m not alone in considering the possibilities

Article one on the legal treatment of virtual tributes and are they digital equivalents to physical graves enabling the Electronic Transactions Act to apply.

Article two from SBS on how a virtual graveyard in Hong Kong is sitting with Chinese tradition of visiting grave sites once a year.

For myself, I will be making arrangements though RIV or its Australian equivalent, to be pressed into an LP record, with the intention of shelving me and my musical taste in the State Library for eternity.

Being agonistic and pro-technology, it would make me perfectly happy for my entire service consist of someone playing my record in the Domed Reading Room (both sides) and this to be cast on the web.

So far, the playlist includes ‘Real Life – Send Me an Angel‘ because well, duh, really.

Also Thompson Twins ‘Lay Your Hands,’ because it’s the song that inspired the idea in the first place.

Chicane’s ‘Saltwater‘ (again – obvs.); Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself‘ (the Girlie show version); The Waterboys ‘Whole of the Moon’; ‘Wonderful Life’ by Black; Debra Conway with Do Re Mi – Man Overboard and also on the title track to ABC TV’s Sweet and Sour series; and ‘What About Me?’ by Moving Pictures, so that the good version is the one that is preserved.

The rest of it is a work in progress, but it’s likely Duran Duran is going to have to be in the mix, (probably this one), as I’m insisting on being cremated with all of my DD music: CDs, records, DVDs, VHS, hard drives and cassettes because there is no more fitting epitaph for what it was like to be Gen X, than owning the same music in multiple formats.

Working title: I am a DJ I am what I play.

All of that aside: will we see a ‘virtual only’ service on the menu in the future?  I would say so. But a few million Australians are doing a pretty good job of proving me wrong in virtually every other sphere, and that might mean I’m way off base.

* I have my copy of ‘The Optimism Bias’ by Tali Sharot open on the desk as I type at the very page discussing optimism and how it manifests in people’s mindset during times of economic crisis. It isn’t pleasant to see how predictable we are as humans but at least I can account for my hope that things will not be too bad, at the same time as I think that this result is highly unlikely.

#startupidea #virtualonlyfuneral #RIV #RIVAustralia

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