Unlike many of you who are a lot younger than I am, I no longer am responsible for working day after day and am no longer responsible for making the everyday decisions of businesses that I was in charge of in the past. What that really means right now is that while I salute you for what you are doing in the workplace and for your community I am “sheltering in place” and basically watching the snow melt outside my Minnesota window.
These are certainly different times, and for many, difficult times. However, I know that funeral directors and those in the death care profession are ready, willing, and able to minister to those in need. Today, we are in the darkness of night, but the dawn will come, and with it a new day in funeral service will be upon us.
Sheltering in place has its advantages. I really don’t worry about much. Our 21-year old son is home from his closed college doing online work and it is a joy to have him home. Our 25-year old son lives and works in our community and stops over to see mom and dad on occasion. Sheltering in place has somewhat brought our family back together. . . and I like that. We can eat together, we can watch television together. . .and we are probably doing this more than when the boys were growing up and were so very busy with their lives and I was busy with my work life.
It is interesting when I think about the days my boys were growing up. Mom was always pretty busy doing what Mom does, Dad was busy watching his television, and the boys were in the basement activity room watching South Park or doing homework. We were in the same house and didn’t visit all that often.
Compare that to when I was a kid in the 1960’s and 1970’s. . .we had one television and a pretty small house. We sat in the living room and watched what mom and dad watched. . . . and asked questions about things such as school, sports, politics, and business.
I also realize, that until about 20 years ago, all of my interaction with the exception of the telephone, was of the human kind. Today, I am
communicating with all of you electronically and never really get the chance for human interaction with you. And, while this works, I enjoy human interaction and visiting with all sorts of people. I enjoy getting texts from my boys, but it is not like having them home at the house.
So, when the dawn arrives after the COVID-19 night, I don’t really think funeral service will change much at all. . .as a matter of fact. . .maybe we will understand that back-to-basic works best. People are working more and more from home, and taking classes more and more online in this environment. And, I think that will continue to be a growing trend as we move forward.
However, I think back to almost 40 years ago when I read a book entitled, Megatrends, by John Naisbitt. He theorized on trends that would, in the future, affect our lives. One of those trends he wrote about was that as we move to a “high-tech” society, people will also need what he called a “high-touch” fulfillment of their lives. In that he meant that “our response to the high tech all around us will be the evolution of a highly personal value system to compensate for the impersonal nature of technology”.
In essence, we need “high-touch” in our lives. I’m of the opinion that this COVID-19 episode is reinforcing that fact in our lives. The more we are high-tech and isolate ourselves, I believe that the more we will realize we need and want high-touch. Working from home and staying at home is great but it will not fulfill the high-touch element we need in our lives for balance.
So, as we work less with our peers and more isolated in our homes, where will we get the high-touch that we need. I believe it will be more and more common for celebrations among those with common interests. Weddings, neighborhood gatherings, birthdays, graduations, and yes, funerals and memorial services. People will continue to make a decision on cremation, earth burial and other alternatives, but I think those funeral homes who understand the desire of people for a “high-touch” experience and can come up with programs that fit the needs of those people, within a value realm, will prosper greatly.
It may not be a church service like the past. It may be in a hotel conference room and it may not consist of an urn and flowers, but, like author Naisbitt, I believe people will crave “high-touch” environments at certain times. Like the wedding planners have done for destination weddings — which changed weddings from large gatherings to smaller more intimate gatherings — our profession needs to find the right equilibrium in how families can have a memorable “high-touch” experience at the time of death.
Those firms that can create this experiential “high-touch value”, will be the new leaders in our profession going forward.
Death Care in the news:
- Virtual Memorials and No Hugs: the funeral industry prepares for coronavirus. Mother Jones News.
- Government to amend emergency coronavirus bill to stop cremations against families wishes. The Jewish Chronicle
- Petitions filed for Irvine veteran cemetery’s 2nd go at the ballot. The Orange County Register
- How COVID-19 is changing funerals in Nova Scotia. CBC-Radio Canada
- Wrexham Council closes parks, limits funeral gatherings. The Leader (Great Britain)