Celebrations of Life

Back in 2009 I did a project for a funeral home in Pennsylvania. They were looking for “blue ocean” strategies to increase share, in a business where everyone went where their other family members went. The question was, how do you get people to consider a different place for your last stop?

One of the things I most love about my work are the opportunities I get to learn and think about new and different fields. In the course of this project, I delved into background about the history of funeral homes and parlors (those words are used for particular reasons) and how the traditional funeral homes and funeral services are meeting – or not meeting – modern consumers’ needs.

One of the key findings from the research was that these days, a lot of people seem to want to have celebrations of life for a loved one, and very much want that for themselves. I won’t go into the implications for my client. I will, however, relate the story of Earl, the Pittsburgh Steelers fan, who allegedly was shown at the funeral home sitting in an easy chair, with a beer in his hand, watching a tv that was showing a game in a loop. “That’s Earl!” That’s how his loved ones wanted him remembered.

And awhile ago I read in the New York Times that funeral homes in New Orleans, following a tradition in Puerto Rico, are being asked to stage the deceased in ways that reflect their life.

A couple of thoughts and questions. First, if you were to have your life celebrated at your death, what would you want? Then, if you were to be shown, not in a casket, but in a way that reflected your life, what would that pose and situation look like? What’s the iconic you?

And finally, how cool that I was to be able to know about these kinds of poses and celebrations of life before it hit the NYT!


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