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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Digital Putting the Fun in Funerals


Hey kids, time for another exciting episode of What’s New in the Death Care Industry. Smart people everywhere are exploiting the Internet to pre-plan their funerals, and here are some ideas you might want to take into consideration for your own personal eternity.

There’s good news for warehouse shoppers. Wholesale giant is now selling caskets. And because they’re from Costco, the casket is family sized, roomy enough for six bodies. Caskets can be shipped regular ground or overnighted either to you or the funeral home of your choice. If you’re a typical Costco buyer, you’ll buy spares just in case someone else in the family dies without sufficient warning. There’s plenty of room in the garage, right? Prices are reasonable, but there’s not a whole lot to choose from, and each casket comes with the following disclaimer in bold type, all capital letters: THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC OR OTHER EVIDENCE THAT ANY CASKET WITH A SEALING DEVICE WILL PRESERVE HUMAN REMAINS.

Are you a busy, on-the-go executive and can’t find time to attend your mom’s funeral? Then arrange for a Web cast or pod cast. Many funeral homes offer this high-tech feature, as do independent contractors like and You can hire them to attend and film the funeral for you. And maybe, if you play your cards right, they’ll pretend to BE you. Then you can watch the funeral on the Web any time for up to 30 days following the service, or you can get them to transfer it to a DVD. Stuck in traffic and tired of the same old in-car entertainment? Then pick up that smart phone and watch Mom’s funeral footage. If traffic improves, you can turn it off and watch the rest later. It’s the TiVo of death rituals.

Do you think that your life has been so exceptional that you’d like to share it with complete strangers after you’ve passed on to your reward? Then check out the Vidstone Serenity Panel. Using state-of-the-art solar power, a weatherproof LCD screen is mounted onto a headstone, and visitors to your grave can hit the Play button and see a slide show of the highlights of your life. It even has a headphone jack for the ultimate posthumous multimedia experience. If you thought death was the only thing that would release you from the agony of PowerPoint presentations, then think again! There are a couple of things to keep in mind about the Serenity Panel (which to me sounds like some kind of feminine protection). To keep the battery charged, the solar panel must have 3-4 hours of direct sunlight each day, so no treeside graves, please. Should the battery die, the cemetery staff can replace it. Think they won’t charge to do that, either, right? Uh-huh. You can also insure your Serenity Panel with the optional vandalism package (theft not included). More details at

For all you techies, Web-enabled tombstones are here at last! Now you can add a Memory Medallion to your marker. You can plug your PDA into a little metal disk built into the headstone and get a picture and life history (600 word maximum) of the person on whose remains you’re squatting. For no extra charge, a link to the deceased’s Web page can also be listed. It’s such a steal, starting at only $595. That computes to just a dollar a word. Check out

I’m sure some of you are asking, “Is there a vacation hot spot where I can take my family to see how funerals have changed throughout the years, a place where I could get some old fashioned ideas for my service?” Sure. Plan a trip to the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston. Admission is very reasonable, with discounts for seniors, veterans, and children. But if you can’t make it in person, check out their Web site: Don’t forget to order something from their online gift shop and snack bar. In true Texas style, they offer hot sauce called “Blair’s Death Sauce,” which can be washed down with Undertaker’s Spring Water. Yummy.

If you worry about the sadness your survivors will feel when coming to view your body, then you want Ahlgrim’s Funeral Parlor in Palatine, Illinois to handle your funeral. After the viewing is over, the mourners can cheer up with a trip down to the parlor’s basement where there is a funeral-themed miniature golf course! That’s right, nine holes of ghoulish golf, complete with coffin and headstone obstacles. A modern sound system plays spooky music peppered with screams. Take your kids there for Grandpa’s service, and they’ll never want to miss another funeral. Don’t believe me? See for yourself and go to

Do you view cremation as a waste of energy? Do you shudder at the thought of having your life’s blood pumped out and replaced with formaldehyde? Do you value compost enough to turn yourself into it? Then you might want to consider having a Green Burial: no obtrusive concrete vaults, no waterproof steel caskets coated in environmentally unfriendly toxins; no earth-poisoning embalming chemistry; no unsightly markers or headstones. Just your rotting body “nurturing a nearby tree,” as one web site points out. Your choice of shroud or biodegradable coffin. Just add dirt, and you’re done. Literally. How, you might ask, will your survivors find your grave? Simply turn to your handy-dandy global positioning device, of course. These burials are making an especially big splash in—where else?—the greater San Francisco area, naturally. Do a Web search for “green funeral” for packages in your locale.

Because I don’t have offspring to prepare for the disposal of my body, I’m going to have to plan and pay for my own. One day I’ll select a funeral that’s just like I was in life: cheap. Meanwhile, I’m holding out for a Tupperware coffin. I like the idea of being “burped” before being lowered into the ground. Hopefully by then there will be SCIENTIFIC OR OTHER EVIDENCE THAT TUPPERWARE CASKETS WITH SEALING DEVICES WILL PRESERVE HUMAN REMAINS.

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