Death and taxes – you used to know where you stood with both.
Now we have George Osborne, and death is being altered by technology.
Burial, cremation or upsetting a local gangster and getting a pair of concrete boots used to be the basic options for shuffling off. The weirdest it generally got was demanding a Viking burial or a coffin shaped like a guitar. People actually going through with getting cryogenically frozen is still pretty rare, and, contrary to urban myth, Walt Disney never chose to be put in deep-freeze.
Now though, the ‘afterlife experience’ is big business, with companies offering all manner of solutions for the deceased. They include turning your corpse into a hologram so you can sing or speak at your own funeral, or turn up at special family events such as Christmas in ghostly form.
There’s the option of having your natural scent turned into a perfume so loved ones can still give you a whiff after you disappear. And you can have your remains used as part of a dildo so your dearly departed can continue to enjoy your body(part) when you peg it.
Some say the boom in wanting to preserve yourself after death is about an increased need to exert control. Others say it’s vanity, and some say businesses built around preservation in the afterlife is cashing in on the deepest of human insecurities – the fear of disappearing.
Here are your current options for a futuristic farewell.
Billionaire businessman Alki David, who owns Coca-Cola’s Greek bottling plants, first became famous outside Greece when his firm Hologram USA created a ghostly version of Tupac Shakur that sang live with Snoop Dogg at Coachella festival in 2012.
David has since created holograms of Nat King Cole, Patsy Cline and Billie Holiday – and now you can be turned into a hologram too.
If you have £50,000 to £100,000, you can be projected as a 3D image at your funeral, either to play one last prank on mourners or have everyone really welling up at your final curtain call as you speak to them ‘live’. You can also pay to have your hologram appear at big family events such as Christmases and birthdays.
If I Die
You record a video message, send it to the If I Die app and appoint three trustees who are in charge of informing the firm… if you’ve died.
Your final message is then uploaded to your Facebook page. It’s a convoluted way of recording your final words though. Why not just knock up a quick video on your phone and get somebody to post it on Facebook when you’re dead?
Despite other more convenient methods to leave behind a message, If I Die has had 200,000 subscribers since its launch four years ago, and it’s becoming the ultimate way to get likes when lifeless. Business has picked up since Tweeting before you die became the latest social media trend.
Terry Pratchett did it. In a series of four posts, scheduled to appear one after the other, the Discworld writer ended his life as he spent it: by writing a story.
His four small Twitter ‘chapters’ posted in May featured Sir Terry being led by a character called Death “through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night”. His last tweet was, ‘THE END’.
Many bereaved find comfort in clothes or bedwear that retains the smell of a loved one. Insurance seller Katia Apalategui set up French firm Kalain to make a perfume based on dead loved ones’ lingering scents so they would never disappear with the Daz.
“I started Kalain because my mother kept clutching my father’s pillowcase after he died,” said Apalategui. For £400, Kalain extracts the smells and odours from your beloved’s clothes to turn into a perfume. (No need for any jokes about body odour.)
Love Your Stories
Former music publicist Rowan Wilkinson left the world of celebrity PR to set up Love Your Stories after he realised most of us know more about how famous couples got together than we do about how our own parents met.
Via interviews put together by professional journalists, London-based Love Your Stories lets people tell their life stories for the future benefit of their children and loved ones.
It’s a real-life version of Afterlife Advice – the business Andy Garcia’s character Jimmy ‘The Saint’ Tosnia opens in 1995 film Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, in which punters record wisdom for the benefit of their offspring.
Wilkinson says he still hasn’t seen the film and insisted his inspiration came purely from his parents.
He said, “Unfortunately, whilst we are constantly bombarded with stories about the lives of others by the media, often the life stories of our own family, friends and, in particular, our ageing loved ones, remain undocumented and untold. It’s something I have always heard my parents and their generation talk about. They would say they really want to capture some of their amazing stories of their parents before they die.”
Ever thought about having your ashes turned into a sex toy? Then you’re in luck.
Dutch designer Mark Sturkenboom has created a glass dildo called 21 Grams – named after the mythical weight of the soul people lose when they die.
Sturkenboom said, “21 Grams is a memory-box. It allows a widow to go back to intimate memories of a lost beloved one. If she wishes to have an intimate night with her sweetheart again, she can.”
The sex toy is encased in a box which also contains a scent to remind you of your loved one and a speaker connected to an iPod dock so a couple’s favourite song can be played at the vital moment.
The only fault is, it’s women-only at the minute (unless you’re gay.)
So there’s a hole in the market for a male-friendly version.
Several funeral homes across Britain are kitted out with cameras and offer a service where the bereaved can log in and view their loved one’s final journey online.
It’s mainly for people too old to travel for the farewell.
When the practice becomes more widespread It will also be handy for anyone who isn’t arsed to turn up in person. It will also allow people to Iive tweet the ceremony from their sofas.
The first funeral home to try it in the UK was Clarke’s in Northern Ireland.
Described as ‘water cremation’, alkaline hydrolysis involves sticking a corpse in an industrial chrome tube. Inside, high-pressure, high-heat water at up to 160 degrees Celsius blasts the cadaver, leaving a white powdery substance.
It’s cremation for the environmentally-conscious as it doesn’t release carbon emissions that come with a traditional fiery cremation.
Several British cremation sites offer it and it’s only legal in eight US states.
It’s so annoying when a loved one suddenly dies and you have to hoke around for their birth certificate and other legal documents. Lexikin takes the hassle out of the hunting. It allows people to build up a digital record of their lives in preparation for death. It stores records of all legal documents needed to put you in your casket in an organised fashion. But, joking aside, it is handier than sticking all your things in an A-Z binder and sticking it in the back of a wardrobe.
Lexikin lets you catalogue your personal possessions and ensure your estate is passed on exactly the way you want, with legal and insurance experts available to look after your digital archive.
You can also leave messages and funeral instructions for loved ones, with Lexikin making writers available to put a poetic spin on your final words. You’re also encouraged to leave passwords for your email and iTunes accounts so chosen loved ones can make use of your downloads after you’ve departed. They call all this ‘legacy data’, and make dying seem like a clean business, with no need for all that irritating paperwork.
Loaded freelance reporter Ian Wade writes about music and TV for newspapers and websites. He is also a music publicist. Follow him on Twitter at @WadeyWade