By Rob Paterkiewicz, CAE, MBA

Executive Director

Selected Independent Funeral Homes

In this day of Facebook selfies, viral video clips and trending Twitter Hashtags, it seems a bit ironic that we have built a consumer education program that encourages people to talk to each other about their lives! One might assume that these talks already take place. Sadly, in many cases, there is nowhere near enough discussion going on before a loved one dies. The “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” campaign encourages us to talk and share what matters in our lives with family and friends so that when we die they can tell our story; they can help others know more about us. I’m not a funeral director but I work closely with hundreds of funeral professionals every day. They share stories with me about families and individuals who often know so little about the person who died, other than the basic information or perhaps their more recent activities. And yet the most meaningful funeral experiences are the ones where the deceased’s interests, hobbies, and life moments are shared and celebrated. My members tell me that a great funeral is one where attendees leave knowing more about the person who died than they knew when they walked in.  Having the Talk of a Lifetime is a definitive nod in this direction. So why is it so hard to get people to talk to each other? The world we live in today offers many opportunities to connect and share our story, even if that story is about our drive in to work this morning! Maybe the differences in generations play a role. The older generations may be on social media, but are they really posting updates on things going on in their lives? It’s up to us then to take that first step and invite a conversation that will hopefully lead to more knowledge, more insight and even more conversation. One of the great features of the Talk of a Lifetime Campaign are the tools and conversation starters. They are designed to make it easier to start and ultimately capture the discussion. To see what’s available go to http://talkofalifetime.org/have-the-talk/. What about those of us who share our lives on social media? Can we rely on this tool to ensure our messages are captured? Perhaps. Facebook recently announced that it will allow users in the US to designate a friend or family member as a “legacy contact” who can make one last post on our behalf when we die. That contact can respond to new friend requests, update the cover photo and profile, and archive our Facebook posts and photos. I’ve got to think this is one of many opportunities to come in this arena to preserve what we shared while we were alive. I’ll need to keep this in mind though the next time I post some silly update! I look at the environment that my children are growing up in and I marvel at how wide-open their world is. School is a good example; I can easily access my children’s online portal which displays their daily schedule, what grade they got on that science test and if they failed to turn something in! While I’m glad as a parent to have this level of oversight, I do wonder what impact all of this may have on their generation. I’m hopeful that one of the more positive impacts is that they won’t have to remind each other to tell their stories. ###

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