As morbid as it sounds, chatting with engineer turned entrepreneur Shane McWhinney makes it a little exciting to start envisaging your own funeral.
McWhinney speaks of a future where celebrants conduct personalised memorial services in forests and on top of mountains, and where guests can share your eulogy straight to Facebook at the conclusion of the ceremony.
It's a future that's closer than we think, McWhinney says, with two thirds of Australians choosing cremation over burial, and a civil celebrant (60 per cent) over a minister (40 per cent). As for the social media aspect, he's taken that matter into his own hands by launching new web-based app FuneralPartner.
It's like Google Docs for funeral planning: a place where families, funeral directors and celebrants can collaborate on a memorial. It's also a rich database of quotes, poems, readings, scriptures and hymns, and a place to ensure all printed material is "on brand" - with matching graphics, images and even logos, all printable from home.
FuneralPartner automatically creates a slideshow from images uploaded to the app, and also houses individual memorial pages that are shareable on social media and via email.
The app's pricing is $15 for one-off purchases like an obituary, eulogy or booklet template, or $59.99 for access to all of FuneralPartner's services.
It's McWhinney's attempt at disrupting Australia's $1 billion funeral industry; an industry where "innovation is not front of mind", he says, and where funeral directors are confessed "technology dinosaurs".
Funeral costs in Australia range from $4000 for a basic cremation to "the sky's the limit", but McWhinney's research shows the average funeral costs around $15,000.
"The [funeral] industry could be better, more innovative and less conservative," McWhinney says.
"A lot of independent funeral directors and celebrants will tell you that they don’t really use much technology ... and actively avoid social media.
"Many don’t feel any pressure to change or innovate in the way they do things - few people shop around so there’s a low level of awareness of the options around funerals.
"So there’s a real opportunity to modernise practices, empower people with new tools, and to be where the customers are – online and on social media. Change requires new tools."
Is there really a role for technology in the highly stressful and emotional task of planning a memorial?
"Almost everyone you speak to who’s been involved with the process will tell you it’s difficult and expensive and not particularly enriching," McWhinney says.
"There are a lot of separate processes to undertake – a separate obituary process, a separate funeral program process, a separate eulogy writing process, a separate slideshow production process.
"And after it’s all over and time has passed, people struggle to find the paperwork or get access to key memorabilia such as the program, eulogy or slideshow.
"It got me thinking about what role technology could play in making it better and easier, and more integrated."
FuneralPartner's other key role is to encourage people to have a critical conversation with friends and family ahead of their own eventual burial or cremation, McWhinney says. As a central place for funeral planning, it also allows the dying to have input into the event that will remember them.
"I want it to be a place where people can pre-plan a funeral in a meaningful way, like preparing a funeral program or a eulogy in advance, ready for use at a future time," he says.
"The most popular tone for a funeral in 2018 is ‘relaxed and reflective’ - funerals have become less ritualised. Profound instead of sacred."
For further information head to www.funeralpartner.com