Celebrating the life of a loved one

Celebrating the life of a loved one
  • Written by
  • Harri Sharman

Saying farewell in the modern era …

From colourful celebrations of life to eco-friendly burials and services delivered by live-stream, the ways we mark the life of a loved one who has passed away are changing. While traditional funerals with black-clad, sombre attendees are still happening, in recent years the number of less formal, more personalised memorials has risen.

One major shift that has occurred in the last few decades is the move from traditional burial ceremonies to a cremation followed by a memorial service. Barry McIntosh of Taupō Funeral Services has been serving the local community for 42 years and reflects on how funerals or tangi used to be regimented and traditional. He remembers in the mid-eighties, 80% of people were buried and 20% cremated, while today around 95% opt for cremation and only 5% for burial. Memorial ceremonies are more flexible too, allowing photo presentations, religiously neutral celebrants, and family members directing services.

The global pandemic has had its impact, of course. With many unable to travel during lockdowns and venues restricted to small numbers, funeral directors and the bereaved had to get creative. At Hope Funerals in Tauranga, the family-run business has seen a huge rise in live-streamed services, from around 20% before the Covid-19 pandemic up to 80% of all services being live-streamed during and after. They haven’t seen this changing now that borders have mostly reopened, so this virtual upgrade appears to be here to stay.

Another trend Hope Funerals have seen is the rise in eco-friendly, lower carbon footprint options. One service that is gaining popularity is their eco caskets, which are made from cardboard with a solid base and can be placed into a hired traditional casket for the service, then removed for cremation. The eco-caskets cause fewer emissions compared to traditional caskets. This also brings the cost down, with caskets often a large part of a funeral’s expense.

New Zealand is also starting to see unique ways of memorialising our loved ones appear. One such method, brought to our shores by Kara Northcott at Heart in Diamond, involves the creation of laboratory-grown diamonds from carbon extracted from hair or cremated ashes. Not only does this method yield genuine quality gemstones without the price tag of environmental mining damage and labour exploitation, but offers a long- lasting, personal way to carry a loved one with you.

Northcott says Kiwis have embraced the technology whole-heartedly, especially among those who have the time to plan how they want to be remembered, such as the terminally ill. She tells bittersweet stories of clients who have lost partners and fiancés being able to continue their love story after one has passed, by creating one-of-a-kind engagement rings and necklaces. It is also popular for marking milestones such as the first birthday or anniversary of passing. “I am privileged to become a part of my clients’ stories, and to witness the joy they get from having their loved one still be with them,” she says.

Personalisation is now a major element of the modern memorial service. Both Hope Funerals and Taupō Funeral Services offer a range of alternatives to the traditional hearse, including motorbike sidecars, and station wagons. At Bloomin Flowers in Taupō, Sally Coxhead has been providing bespoke floral displays for funerals for 29 years. She says the most important element of their displays is that each one is completely personalised to the individual. They craft floral arrangements to fit the life of the person being celebrated, sometimes going to lengths such as using flowers or meaningful greenery from the deceased’s own gardens. “I love getting to know my clients and am humbled to have the honour and privilege to be part of their last, special send off, and still make my floral displays with love after so many years,” she says.

There’s still space for the traditional alongside the modern, of course. Coxhead notes that while there was a recent trend for exotic flowers, after the traditional carnations of the eighties, a shift back toward “English garden” style displays is happening. Roses are a popular choice again. And as McIntosh puts it, “thank goodness for change, but I do have to express gratitude for the memories of the old traditional ways”.

Hope Family Funeral Services
4 Keenan Road, Pyes Pa, Tauranga
Call 07 543 3151 email office@hopefunerals.co.nz or visit hopefunerals.co.nz

Taupō Funeral Services
117 Rickit Street, Taupō
Call 07 378 9636 email taupo.funeral@xtra.co.nz or visit taupofuneral.co.nz

Bloomin Flowers
25 Sunset Street, Taupō
Call 07 377 2111 email bloominflowers@xtra.co.nz or visit bloominflowers.co.nz

Heart In Diamond
Call 0800 600 013

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