Saying goodbye with multi-sensory technology

By Dennis Taylor, Monterey Herald

AR-150429901.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667Release date: 4/23/2015, MONTEREY >> Once upon a time, this kind of send-off was reserved for movie stars, athletes and presidents. Now, a local funeral home is offering a multimedia, multi-sensory, high-tech way to go out in grand style.

Mission Mortuary has created a ShareLife room, where the departed’s pre-produced life story can be shared on a 40-foot movie screen, an experience that incorporates light, sound, even ambient scent to create what they’re calling “a personal and meaningful remembrance experience.”

“In this area, this is one of a kind,” said Nick Bermudez, general manager and funeral director for the mortuary. “It’s about memorializing, personalizing, creating meaningful tributes.”

EP-150429901.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667A sneak preview of the technology on Wednesday included a simulation of a funeral, including a casket flanked by a large photograph of the “deceased,” his golf clubs and golf balls, his military flag (folded into a triangle) and a favorite guitar — the type of personal things that might be included at a typical memorial service.

The enhancement is the enormous screen on the wall behind that display, where mourners might see photographs and/or footage of moments, things or locations that were important in life to the departed.

The film presumably could stand on its own, or might simply provide a backdrop for the person at the podium delivering the eulogy.

“ShareLife was created by the same company that created the ‘Soaring California’ exhibit for Disney,” Bermudez said. “It’s the vision of our CEO, Brad Rex, who is the former CEO of Disney’s Epcot Center. When he got into funeral service three years ago, it was for one purpose — to be a leader in innovating. This is one of the first tools he gave to us.

“It’s still very new to us — we’ve had it here for about three weeks, and we’re still learning about it — but we’ve already used it with five or six funerals and the feedback we’ve received has been very positive.”

The mock funeral shown to the media and invited guests on Wednesday included footage of U.S. Air Force jets in flight (the fictional “deceased” person was a veteran) and scenes from the U.S. Air Force Academy, panoramic views of Pebble Beach Golf Links, and pastoral scenery of seascapes and wilderness areas, interspersed with family photos. Anything that was important to the loved one in life presumably could be included in the production of the film.

That includes scent: Ocean, flowers or forest. Even more-intimate smells. “If the funeral is for a grandmother who loved baking, and was famous for her muffins, we’ll have the capability of filling the room with baking smells,” Bermudez said.

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