When COVID-19 hit, Australian funeral homes turned to technology to change the way things were done. While many in the industry say we are back to normal now, some things like streaming of services, are set to stay.
In fact, at Bowra and O’Dea Funerals in Perth they have taken it a step further by holding what CEO, Deanne McLeod, describes as dual services that have happened simultaneously in Perth and in New Zealand. Across the Tasman the mourners gathered at a funeral home and took part speaking and presenting a eulogy, an innovation which has been well received.
Online memorials, and video and photo tributes, are now fairly standard at funerals across the nation. But technology is also at the cemetery. It’s not uncommon for QR codes to be placed on plaques so people can get information about who is buried in the plot.
Another more recent product, called ModUrn is also gaining traction. It’s a little Bluetooth chip in the shape of an urn or prism that can be attached to a headstone or plaque.
When people walk within Bluetooth distance of a phone, an app pops up and you can read about the deceased person in that grave. Families that have access can post a photos and videos and all sorts of tributes that can be read or heard by anyone in the vicinity. It not only provides an emotional connection to a loved one, even after death, but a moving tribute to how they lived their life.
There are also global companies offering mushroom suits that allow the body to return to earth as compost as well as a more quirky concept of ashes being made into vinyl records.
While Chris Harrington, CEO of the Australasian Cemeteries and Crematoria Association, admits it might sound great, in reality it doesn’t happen often. He recalls when a Sydney entrepreneur started putting cremation ashes into a firework and shooting it into the sky at the ceremony, the enterprise went out of business within a year. “Unless you’re a pilot or astrologist, there’s not a huge market for that sort of thing,” he says.
It comes back to not only a slow progression of change in the industry, but also the impact of death and the subsequent grief. “Most people who die have someone that loved them, and therefore the cornerstone of their decision making is respect for the person who has died,” explains Chris.