Until recently, when surviving family members needed to assemble all the necessary items for their loved one’s memorial it could take a small army. They would rummage through drawers, file cabinets, closets, attics, garages and storage units. Carefully sifting through photographs, home movies, cards, letters, diaries, journals and even business and medical records in search of anything they could find that would help tell their loved one’s story. As daunting of a task as it was, somehow, families managed to pull it off.

When I lost my dad in 1989, I remember thinking, as I was going through his things, “how could anyone have so much stuff”? It took 20 plus years but I finally realized the answer was very simple: life, marriage, kids and possibly undiagnosed ADHD. It shouldn’t surprise any of us that today’s generation will leave even more behind than any that came before them. The good news is, technology has made it possible for most of it to fit in the palm of our hand. Our smart phones have become the center of our universe. They are the keepers of our photographs, videos, music, texts, emails, calendars and by the way, our communication. I would like to share some examples from some very forward thinking firms that realize the keys to the future are in their grasp.

Carlson Funeral Home, in Brunswick, recently had a family member ask if it was possible to incorporate the recorded greeting from the decedent’s iPhone into his Memory Keepsake video. The decedent was an avid biker and his greeting of “Hi, this is Tiny, I can’t come to the phone right now, I’m on my bike” was something his family desperately wanted to preserve and share. Carlson Funeral Home did what they always do by taking the “all hands on deck” approach and they pulled it off. With a bit of sonic surgery, Tiny’s raspy voice narrated his final scene: a motorcycle riding off into the sunset as if he was riding straight into heaven. To this day, people are still talking about it, especially Tiny’s family. Not long after, another family asked if they could use the voice mail messages that their grandpa was famous for leaving on their phones. Again, mission accomplished. Remember, most phones can record much the same as any tape recorder and with the push of a button or two, your loved ones voice can easily be preserved for generations to come.
Here’s another example, from Troy at Gray’s West Funeral Home, in Baker City. Troy was helping a family honor their son who had tragically lost his life during one of his many adventures abroad. You could have produced a complete documentary for this young man’s life from the YouTube videos he had created with his phone, and that’s practically what they did. With the use of a special program that allows you to download YouTube videos, the family got the star treatment with a Hollywood style documentary. The family could not have been more thrilled and appreciative that they were able to honor their son in such a professional and personal way.

With any high reward there is usually a high risk, especially when it comes to technology. I learned my lesson the hard way when one of my clients was disappointed because she had forgotten to include a photo of their lake cabin. I asked her if she had taken any photos of it with her phone recently. Her expression suddenly changed from disappointment to enthusiasm as she remembered, “Yes, I have several”. Within a few seconds of navigation she selected a photo and handed me her phone. The photo she selected was not quite what we were looking for so I did what I always do when I am looking at photos on MY OWN phone and continued the search. One swipe of my finger later and I was looking at a photo of her in her skivvies. I dropped her phone like a hot potato and began my apologies before it even hit the table. When I finally had the courage to look her in the face, I noticed that she and her sister were giggling at me. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized they saw it as nothing more than an awkward moment and not as a violation. Crisis averted? Yes! Lesson learned? Absolutely. Thankfully I can share this story and let everyone have a laugh at my expense while making a very important point about privacy.

Our hand held devices, including phones and tablets, give us access to a world of possibilities. So, the next time you’re facing an obstacle and you’re not sure where to find the solution. Look down; the answer may be right there in the palm of your hand. FBA


Kevin Wakefield Headshot PhotoKevin Wakefield is the executive director of customer relations at Memories by Design, based in Spokane WA.  His service to the funeral industry spans 25 years and includes work as a musician/composer, audio engineer, sales and marketing director, and customer service expert.  Memories by Design offers video production, graphic design, photo restoration, marketing assistance, and multimedia services.  You can reach Kevin at [email protected] or call 509-343-0113.