It used to be that if someone you were particularly close to died (or at least if you were named in the person's will) you dropped everything to attend the funeral. You had this one chance to grieve with everyone, and you were expected to be there. Seriously, swim oceans, crawl through hot lava ... the point is, be at the church on time or be forever known as the one in the family who didn't care enough to show their face at their great-uncle's funeral. At least the exhaustion and jet lag made it easier to cry.
"Those $5 birthday checks didn't even come close to covering the cost of this."
Enter technology. Like almost everything else these days, the Internet has made attending funerals so much easier. It had to happen eventually. After all, no one thinks it's weird to do a Skype call on someone's birthday; even weddings are being broadcast on the Internet in larger numbers. But there was something about funerals that made them more important to attend in person. But just like present-day Luddites who fear the rise of the e-book, one day people will look a bit odd for not mourning remotely.
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"Wait! Now I can mourn in sweatpants the way God intended us to."
Big funeral events like Michael Jackson's memorial have led the way in making saying your last goodbyes online more acceptable. Now more and more funeral homes are offering the service, with many seeing the number of clients taking them up on the offer increasing tenfold in the past few years. In many cases, far more people watch the funeral online than attend in person. The on-demand option is even more popular, with those who couldn't watch live choosing to view the ceremony at a later time, because we are now at a place in our lives where we expect so much convenience that we won't even mourn our family members live if it interferes with an episode of Breaking Bad.
In 2008, one crematorium in a small town in Sweden failed an environmental test; their cooling towers were no longer up to code and would have to be replaced, an expensive and time-consuming process. Instead of just writing a check and getting on with it, the owners started talking about the intersection between cremation and environmentalism, and they came up with a crazy idea. The heat and smoke from the ovens was not only being wasted, but cost money and required energy to cool down before releasing it into the atmosphere.
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Crematoriums are literally the hottest places in Sweden.
The problem is that burning a body is a strain on the environment. It uses a lot of gas during the actual immolation process, but the smoke is worse. Because we all hate flossing, most people have fillings, and when they burn, they release mercury into the atmosphere. This has to be filtered out before the smoke can be released or people living in the surrounding area will suffer from something called "death." The smoke also has to be cooled down drastically. It starts out at about 2,000 degrees, and most countries require water cooling to get it down to 150 degrees before it is acceptable for the atmosphere.
By redirecting the smoke and turning it into a power source, crematoriums can reduce the amount of energy they use while reducing the power usage of the people who receive the green energy. Everyone wins! The reaction has been surprisingly positive to what could be a very controversial idea. Sweden's test run worked so well that a few towns in Denmark also went the dead bodies-as-fuel route. So many large crematoriums participated that they actually sold the resulting energy to the national grid. Some towns in England have recently considered the scheme, with one already using power generated from crematorium heat to warm their local swimming pool, saving the local council more than $20,000 a year. In all of these towns, the locals have been polled about their feelings on the subject, and the overwhelming majority has reacted favorably.
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The world is so connected now that you can't even switch off when dead. In a serious technological one-upping of the Ouija board, funeral homes around the world are reporting an increasing number of people being buried with their cellphones. And why not? You worked for hours to get three stars on all those Candy Crush levels, there is no way you are leaving them behind.
In ancient Egypt, the deceased were buried with things they might need in the next life, like some treasure and a few thousand slaves. These days, the only thing anyone really needs to get along in the afterlife is a full battery and someone on this side of the veil to pay your phone bills. That's not a joke; at least one woman is still paying her late husband's Verizon bill more than four years after his death. She even invited the public to get in on the act by having his cellphone number etched on the gravestone. So if he is getting his voicemails in the great beyond, he's probably wondering why loving messages from his family are interspersed with prank calls from giggling children.
"Is your refrigerator running? Yeah? Too bad you can't catch it since you are rotting in the ground right now."
Anecdotal evidence suggests that this trend is especially popular with those who die young. One man was reportedly buried with his Bluetooth headset firmly in his ear (presumably because he wanted to be just as much of a douchebag in death as he had been in life). Another popular theme is to leave the phone's volume on loud and then call it as the coffin is lowered into the ground, which has the double benefit of literally saying goodbye to someone as you are seeing them for the last time, as well as scaring the shit out of unsuspecting gravediggers.
If you are one of the millions of people who plan on being cremated after you die, don't worry -- you still don't have to give up your iPhone. Recently, many caring but slightly misguided family members started slipping smartphones into the pockets of their gadget-obsessed loved ones right before they were placed in the furnace, a trend that became immediately obvious when the bodies started exploding in the fire. Now many crematorium owners offer to put the cellphones in the urn with the ashes in order to avoid any more unfortunate mishaps.
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It's like if Michael Bay had made Six Feet Under.