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Technology Changes Mourning Rituals

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Religion News Service — When her 91-year-old aunt passed away in 2010, Diane DiResta videotaped the eulogies to create a record of the moving words spoken. She wasn’t ready to talk about her aunt at the service, so she used an online tool for publishing audio to record her thoughts, then e-mailed the audio file to close family.

And when a cherished 89-year-old uncle died in Las Vegas in February — and there was no funeral service to follow — the New York City resident again turned to technology.

“Since there was no way for the family to share his life and express their grief together, I created a blog,” she said. “I added pictures, and family members were able to post their memories of him.”

This is Mourning 2.0. Technological advances have dramatically altered how we grieve for and memorialize the dead.

In this new era, the bereaved readily share their sorrow via Facebook comments. They light virtual candles on memorial websites, upload video tributes to YouTube and express sadness through online funeral home guest books. Mourners affix adhesive-backed barcodes or “QR code” chips to tombstones so visitors can pull up photos and videos with a scan of a smartphone.

Those in need of consolation can replay the streaming video of a funeral service to hear a cleric’s comforting words. Those who want help remembering a yahrtzeit — the anniversary of death in the Jewish faith — can get e-mail reminders from websites such as ShivaConnect.com.

“It would be naive to assume that technology would leave the ‘death sector’ unaffected,” says Ari Zoldan, CEO of wireless-products provider Quantum Networks. “Technology has pervaded all aspects of our lives, and the honoring of our dearly departed is no exception.”

At the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association’s convention in Las Vegas in March, high-tech companies mingled with the more expected urn suppliers and casket makers on the exhibition floor. There were firms that created memorial websites and streamed online funeral videos, as well as producers of the QR codes that go on headstones and urns.

The pitch from LifeMarker, one of those QR producers: “Since the beginning of time, the memorial process has changed very little. Until now.”

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