At my birthday dinner last night, I was reminded by my (older) friend that at 29, I should realize how I’m “getting up there.” Although I know he was just trying to get a rise out of me, I couldn’t help but become fixated on aging. Time does fly.

I still get carded, wear boy's Converses, am petrified of spiders, and the concept of diapers grosses me out; I don’t consider myself old. At the same time, I realize my arbitrary immature aspects do not save me from the inevitable aging process. Yes, I’m an adult.

Now, here’s where my ramblings affect you, dear reader. I cannot help but think: No matter how old we are, we’ll never admit that we fall into the “old” category. Although age is “just a number,” maybe it is a number we should address and accept.

Not included on chart: When you need to look at charts to see if you're old.
Source: Pew Research Center

Although as the Funeral Guru, I am constantly thinking about death, my thoughts are even more focused today. I suggest that maybe we should use our BIRTHdays as a reminder of our limited time, but not in a morbid way. Perhaps, we should take a bit of time out of our fun-filled day to celebrate our lives and make wills or get life insurance.

Or, maybe we should do what we always say we will do… put it off until tomorrow…

Death + Dinner = Delicious. Bloomberg Media recently highlighted the “death dinners,” which recently collaborated with Everplans, in an effort to get people to discuss end-of-life plans while they’re healthy...and hungry.

Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death” has facilitated hundreds of these not-so morbid meals. The site offers a simple multiple choice questionnaire helping people choose attendees (parents, friends, co-workers...), clarify their talking points (“I have recently lost someone very close to me…”), a list of article/video/podcast resources, and a helpful activation email that allows you to get the party started.

Everplans teamed with DeathOverDinner.org and created a helpful workbook so death dinner survivors could turn their talk into action after the evening was over.

The Bloomberg article also includes a video and nifty infographic labeling America a “Death-Denying Society," part of which focuses on cremation and funeral costs:

The graphic goes on to explain how “end-of-life care decisions, medical intervention and burial wishes are topics that most baby boomers would rather ignore. However, with a 32 percent increase in the number of people dying in the U.S. by 2030, it will force countless decisions on how we die.” Not such a yummy statistic, but this is something DeathOverDinner.org and Everplans are working to correct, one placesetting at a time.

As a general rule, it’s safe to assume that if you use a reputable crematory the ashes in your possession belong to your loved one. If you’re still skeptical, here are some of the strict protocols they follow:

TAGS

When the body is picked up it’s ID’ed and “tagged” (i.e. toe tag). This includes the name and date-of-birth of the person. (Personal note: At the funeral home I used to worked for we used ankle bracelets.) Every time the body moves locations the tag is checked. This is not an act that is brushed over or taken lightly. Before the body is put into the oven, the tags are checked a final time.

IDENTIFICATION DISK

Before the body goes into the oven, a stainless steel disk around the size of a quarter with a unique number is placed with it. That number is then recorded on the paperwork of the deceased. Since the disk doesn’t melt, it will remain in tact with the ashes that you receive. If you’re really set on IDing the cremains, you could sift through the ashes and find the remaining disk. Not the best way to spend an afternoon, but whatever gives you closure is fine with me.

SEE FOR YOURSELF

If you plan in advance, most crematories will allow you to watch the event take place. In some cultures, this is quite normal. If, however, you are uncomfortable with this, please do not feel obligated to do so.

USA Today offers up a long story, at least by USA Today standards,  called "Knowing when you need life insurance."  No big revelations, but the accompanying video is what caught our eye. 

Summary: If you're unattached without kids, you don't need it. If you've got anyone depending on you, you need it. Money writer Hadley Malcolm succinctly explains who needs life insurance and the basics on how to get it...

Our favorite, non-educational part of the video is when Malcolm explains why some people can't get life insurance due to health issues or because they don't want to take a medical exam. Here's the photo they use to drive the point home...


Me-owww!

In short: Unhealthly or unwilling to comply with medical tests = Sad woman clutching a cat. From the look of things, the cat is clearly not amused by this generalization.

 

Photo: Pia Interlandi

Although I’m completely ok with pre-arranging my own funeral, there is one decision I cannot make, what should I wear?!?!?!

Fortunately, Wired.com answered my question.

It seems like Pia Interlandi’s Garments for the Grave were made for me. They are biodegradable like a Jewish shroud, which would make half of my family happy. All my friends would respect the fashionable aspect. And, I would win points with the local embalmer by making it easy for him to dress me.

Finally, as an indecisive Libra who changes her clothes multiple times a day, I would be thrilled to just have the decision made. Now, just a final question remains… Which one?!?!

Now you can with the Demeter Funeral Home perfume. I’m not kidding. This is real.

When I worked in a funeral home, I used to spray an extra spritz of my go-to perfume, Channel #5, onto my wrist. When the terrible smells of the funeral home became too unbearable, I’d lift my wrist to my nose and enjoy the ylang ylang-scented moment’s reprieve. No matter how clean a funeral home is, the smell of rotting lilies and bodies inevitably permeates the air. Getting accustomed to it is a form of indoctrination.

Having fought the battle and taken the extra few hundred showers to get the scent off me at night, I still cringe when I smell lilies. The last thing in the world I would ever want is to purposely recreate this scent. But I must be in the minority because now there’s Demeter Funeral Home fragrance. Here’s how they describe it:

...a blend of classic white flowers: lilies, carnations, gladiolus, chrysanthemums with stems and leaves, with a hint of mahogany and oriental carpet.

This has got to be a gag gift for the goth in your life. Or else I’m seriously out of touch with the mainstream. Shockingly, this perfume gets positive reviews! I would love to hear why people like smelling like decomposition.

I sat down to write this blog as a timeline; I thought it might be helpful to organize my thoughts so you’d be able to fully understand the complexity of the situation. As I started to type, however, a big issue arose… I just don’t remember everything that clearly. The 24-hours before my late dad’s birthday are a blur. My coping method of choice is repression and over the years I’ve become a true master.

I opt for repression, my mother chooses stoicism and my brother just wants everyone to be happy. We were not strong enough to accept the shitty reality none of us admitted: We were still grieving and desperately in need of each other’s love and support. We all very much wanted the same thing--to be together--yet none of us said anything.

Fast forward, the waterworks started at 7:30 am the next day. They were not the feminine tears that gracefully glide down my cheek and leave my eyes a few shades lighter (I always found that attractive and thought of it as the silver lining to crying). These tears, however, were the ones that come from deep down. There is no perk to these; I am left with a swollen pink nose and the deep realization that my dad is gone.

The next three hours were not pretty. I cried. I cried a lot. I replayed memories in my head; I cried because I longed for more of the good and I cried because I hated that dad suffered and died. I cried. I canceled all appointments that day (even joyous ones that I was looking forward to) and I cried some more.

With sobbing on hiatus, I confessed to my mom and brother that I needed to be with them; I convinced them we all needed each other. We all changed plans and spent the rest of the day together. The tears were replaced with smiles. I may have lost my incredible and irreplaceable father, but I am so fortunate to still have two unbelievably supportive and loving family members.

I didn’t think September 13th was going to be so hard for me. I think about my dad everyday, why would one calendar day make a difference? I told myself that it’s been seven years and I should be “better” by now. The thing is, it happens. Maybe it’s not your loved one’s birthday, could be the anniversary of his death, a holiday, or any significant random day; it hits and it hurts. These events are going to come up multiple times a year and we must find a way to cope in a healthy way.

What do we learn from these rough times? It may have been my dad’s birthday but he’s the one who gave me a present; I accept reality; I still have a family whom I can depend on and compassionate friends who want to help me. I suggest to all of you that you honestly vocalize your feelings and ask for the support when you need it--you have no idea what a difference it will make.

So, now, without tears, I can wish my father a belated very happy birthday. Rest in peace, Daddy. 

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Every day we’re seeing more and more stories addressing what happens to your iTunes account, Twitter, Facebook and every other aspect of your digital estate when you die. And this is a great thing! The Wall Street Journal, which has covered this topic before, once again tackles this important issue with the recent story “Make Sure You Know Who Will Inherit Your Twitter Account.”

The WSJ also provides a nifty chart outlining the five states with digital estate laws (Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island,) and the 12 states with proposed legislation (Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia).

Some other worthy tidbits from the story

--The most important thing, estate attorneys say, is to establish procedures for protecting and granting access to passwords and for transferring assets and account ownership.

--By placing the license and necessary passwords in a trust, access to such accounts can be preserved.

--Estate advisers caution against listing digital assets and passwords in a will because the will can become public. Such information instead should go into a separate letter.

via The Wall Street Journal

What do you want to happen to all your online accounts when you’re gone?
 

An article on Alleywatch.com, a site that offers important and topical news surrounding New York startups, mentioned us in an insightful article entitled Does Your Target Market Need to be the 50+ Crowd?

Here’s what they had to say about our founders’ presentation at the Aging 2.0 event held in New York City on September 12th:

While using the Internet to share all the “happy transitions” in her life, like her wedding and pregnancy, Abby Schneiderman wondered what people did during the “unhappy transition,” like illness and death. Together with her partner, Adam Seifer, she launched Everplans to ensure that everyone can have a plan in place. Starting out as a content-only site, the duo decided to expand into creating a handful of essential items people need to get started once they enter information – like resources on how to write a will if a user states he/she hasn’t already written one. The site also allows users to set who can have access to their information. Everplans has started working with a few hospitals and healthcare facilities to guide their patients through some of the sticky decisions they might have to face later.

Thanks again for the mention and for recapping all the other great presenters that night. We genuinely appreciate it.

[Click here to read the full article]
 

A new Time magazine cover story ask a really cool question: “Can Google Solve Death?” The answer: No. Google can’t solve death. But they’re trying.

The story has very little information about Calico, which is the name of the anti-death project Google’s developing in one of their super-secret labs that built the self-driving car and mini-computer you wear on your face. Instead it’s a profile of the mega-company, their philosophy regarding huge challenges (like death), and a rare interview with co-founder Larry Page.

A few interesting excerpts if you don’t have time to read it:

Page on Health Care

“In some industries it takes 10 or 20 years to go from an idea to something being real. Health care is certainly one of those areas. We should shoot for the things that are really, really important, so 10 or 20 years from now we have those things done.”

Remember Google Health?

This story cites example of Google cutting their losses when a project isn’t working out, like Google Health, which was a personal-medical-records service. It was a bold initiative that we had completely forgotten about.

Page’s Analytical Take On Cancer

“One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy. We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.”

[Click here to read the full article]

Here’s a question to think about: Is death a problem we need to solve?