How do we bring the funeral industry and remembrance into the 21st Century?

Why this topic is important?


This topic is important by one main reason — it intimately concerns every human on Earth and is directly connected to everyone’s life. Albeit its natural importance death is still treated as an aged topic, though it has no age at all. It is a part of our life cycle, no matter how much time we’re are to be here. Seems an obvious fact, right? But due to its long-term taboo and cultural reasons recognition of this fact in our current life is quite low. It can be checked by the following questions:

What are your first thoughts of death? Most probably fear, heavy pain feeling, unexpectedness? Do you know how to behave, talk about it, make a will and pay tribute to those who are gone? We usually feel something unnatural and alien when facing this topic. Why?


Many cultures depict death as a scytheman scaring people to take their lives. Few parents talk about dying with their kids. More over the natural mourning pain is forced by the century-old rituals.


In big cities death contact became even more vague due to absence of relevant funeral culture and established infrastructure: all death issues are sorted out by hospitals, morgues, funeral homes. I went through that while organizing my Mom’s funerals. When it happened untimely, being in shock, it seemed we became a part of a big machine where we were told what to do and to make decisions quickly. Time is against Choice.


Big city life made impressive impact on death perception and funerals. Due to burial ground shortage and rising funeral costs, cremation and other cost-effective and green alternatives became dominant in many countries (in the UK 70% of funerals are cremations). Bodies disappear without any grave site. More than ever before people are on the move, and many graves are stayed forgotten. What is left? Memory and love. It turns out the first is not that good now.

Does such low recognition make our life happier? The life shows that many people suffer regrets of missed moments at the end of their life. Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, in her book The Top Five Regret of Dyingdescribed the most common regrets, for instance, having no courage to express feeling, to live a true life not the life expected by others, let just be happier and working not so hard.

It looks like we sometimes forget about living.


How can we rise our mortality recognition to regret less?


You remember a well-known Latin expression Memento mori. Yes, we can remember of our mortality, but city life and high speed rhythm accelerated by the digital age can hardly help focus on that.

What if to shift a focus to Memento vivere — remember to live. It could be a clue how to bring the funerals and remembrance into the 21st century.

While making a research I found that funeral trendsand digital behavior are bringing celebration of lifemore and more to the forefront. This message is also cultivated by TED’s speeches about death.

The natural burials, ashes planted with a tree or turned into a diamond, ocean messenger urn or fireworks and celebration of life ceremonies keep the humanlive spirit.


Digital also became an essential part of all our lifecycle experience and created new values:


  • Social networks embrace our storytelling;
  • Smartphones and Google became our memory keepers;
  • Internet of things makes physical space more tangible;
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology automate many processes thus approaching the human identity;
  • Digital abundance make us to live more in the now moment.


And in this perspective I would assume that:


  • Digital could be the only environment for keeping memories and a family tree by creating virtual immortality.
  • Digital death would reach the same importance as physical death, because we share more and more data about ourselves in the digital environment thus creating our virtual clone.


But currently recognition of this aspect is also quite low.


We generate lots of data for different purposes, keep it in different spaces and don’t have time and wish to manage it, because every new day we have new data.

We think a family tree and stories are important, but don’t have time, inspiring tool and purpose to create a story about ourselves and those whom we love. We don’t think of our digital legacy and associate remembrance and a life story with a summary and something boring.


And we forget some stories of our loved ones which disappear in the past and have less chance to stay in memory for the future.


Actually our bodies keep information about our ancestors in our DNA (23andme.comis one of the examples), but not about their personalities: hobbies, interests, thoughts or something like this we want to remember rather just facts.


Does it mean that Facebook and other social networks’ timeline could be the only digital footprint people leave for the future generations (not laptops, cloud storages, smartphones)?

I don't want my kids to see my hangout photos on Facebook

I have so many friends on social networks, and don't wish to share some of my personal moments I want to keep.

I write my music and keep on YouTube. It would be great to keep it for my future kids together with other moments.

So, we are fast moving into a time where everything we share for different purposes with a power of AI can be analyzed and turned into virtual us — hopefully the ones we are happy with.

We are the owners of our life story and it matters to have some control over it.

How can we make time and digital work for us? How might Circle of Life help that?

Circle of Life brings together art, nature, digital technologies by creating a life story and keeping it in a physical Museum space. It combines current trends, startup concepts, our lifestyle and digital behavior to enhance celebration of life through the following elements:


Museumsurrounded by nature and art as a right place to inspire yourself and keep your story, a right place to start a dialogue and share feelings, a right place to make a choice with your body and how to be remembered and thus to rise recognition of death in a less stressful way and appreciate life more. As a physical space it creates more confidence for keeping stories.
Digital Premium Storage — an AI platform which collects life moments in many ways and automatically creates a story for a Museum, a book, a movie clip.


Instead of archiving or creating a message for the future generations which appeals to our memory or some special mood I focused on the now — to keep what is important at the moment, for instance, some great events like wedding, birthday, or just a good walk, inspiring music, a friends meetup. You catch it, spend time on it at that very moment, then you will probably will not come back — in a while it become a memory. And here Thegrid.ioinspired me to help these moments to be easily shared and automatically turned into a story no matter when we’ll have to check-out.


I see the power of this storytelling when you keep what matters to you now — it will tell about you more than a specially made speech. And you don’t need to be in a right mood and remember about mortality — just be yourself. Of course, it can be edited and synced with the passed moments, because you are the owner and you can do what matters to you.


It takes some courage, because it speaks to our mortality. But it could help appreciate the unique life story, to reveal inner potential. And it could change the way we die.


No matter where a physical Museum would be, it is more about recognition, that your story and stories of your loved ones are in the Museum kept in a beautiful respectful way.


I also hope funeral cemeteries would rethink their role as memorials and will turn to places for celebration of life. No matter where and how your beloved one was buried, you can come to any cemetery, upload a story of your loved one and pay tribute in a respectful beautiful environment — not just on your smartphone.


- Natalia Shipilova, Co-Founder of The Museum of Me