Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Is memorialization losing its importance?

Stuart McDaniels,
Materials Manager
I love how the internet has changed how we interact with the world, especially when it comes to the interactions we have with others and the sharing of ideas and opinions. It used to be that there were very few outlets for opinions and ideas beyond three major news outlets, your local newspaper, and your neighbors and co-workers.

Sometimes, I feel our industry is still stuck in this old paradigm of limited thinking and information flow. That’s why I was extremely encouraged by an article I recently stumbled across online that discussed how a particular cemetery in Australia was being conceived to utilize GPS to mark grave sites. There would be no markers anywhere. The headline asked, “Could this be the end of gravestones?” The article spoke of how this “new technology” would challenge what a cemetery could be, and stated that “there is a huge gap between what people want nowadays and what has traditionally been made available.” The director of the landscape company who is partnered with the architects designing the site is quoted as saying, “This project is about changing how we celebrate death.”

Wow. Sounds a little scary if you are in the memorialization business doesn’t it? Well, not so fast. Remember earlier when I talked about the open flow of ideas across the internet? It just so happens that this publication has a comment section below each article that encourages readers to comment on the story they just read. I love reading these as they provide insight as to what the “average Joe” is thinking. Some commenters are there just to troll or have an agenda, but for the most part, there are usually some good responses.

What encouraged me so much about this article were a series of comments from various readers disagreeing with the substance of the article. Commenter after commenter talked about how the marker was more than just a way to mark the burial site. The most popular comment in the thread said “Then that place will be empty. The whole point of a cemetery is to have a tangible point of remembrance and GPS coordinates on your smartphone just don't cut it.” Another great comment read, “I think this misses the point. Most people like some marker, some memorial to say to the world, 'This person existed! They were here!'. At least, that's how I look at markers. I don't only visit those of my family, but others. Walking through an old graveyard is a wonderful and sobering experience.”

Remembrance and memorialization are the key ideas here. What they really are saying is memorialization is important. As an industry, we must not allow ourselves to believe any other way. I believe, when people are prompted to consider mortality and memorialization, most would concede that what they want for themselves may not take into consideration their loved ones needs to have something, somewhere, physical and tangible that enables them to remember or reflect on that person’s passing or a life well lived. This concept is important to our industry and is especially important to the fabric of our culture and society.

All of us in this industry have a unique opportunity, and a profound responsibility, to facilitate a discussion to educate everyone we come into contact with regarding just how critically important memorialization is. We must do all we can to get people to think about it and to consider the implications of a loved one's passing without memorialization.

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

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