The State

March 31, 2015 - COLUMBIA, SC

A Columbia funeral home is offering a new way for the bereaved to remember their loved ones as they loved to live: chasing an ocean wave, bird watching in the mountains or baking in their kitchen.

Using the tools of the digital age, Thompson Funeral Home at Greenlawn Memorial Park incorporates a mini-iPad, a huge LED screen and computer technology to capture the sights and sounds of a lifetime into a ShareLife program available at its Leesburg Road chapel.

“Yes, other funeral homes can play videos, DVDs on drop-down screens,” Edward La Posta, Thompson’s managing director, said. “But as far as we are aware, being able to create backgrounds and themed events to essentially make you feel as if you are experiencing a funeral service in another place, in that atmosphere, coupling it with the scents, the sight aspect – no other funeral home does that.”

Mike Squires, S.C. Funeral Directors Association executive director, agrees. “The big screen is very unique,” Squires said Tuesday of the 22-foot by 14-foot screen. “I don't know of anyone in South Carolina who has one that large.” Video presentations, however, are commonplace in South Carolina funeral homes, he said, but they are shown typically on 40-inch to 55-inch screens.

Thompson’s introductory funeral home package includes use of ShareLife along with a trained “celebrant” who leads the celebration service, if the family desires. The celebrant also guide customers to the type of service they seek for their loved one, La Posta said. The package also includes a tribute video and a sit-down, catered reception for up to 75 people in the funeral home’s community room, for $1,500.

“Funeral service hasn’t changed much since the Civil War, and the way we go about delivering funeral services hasn’t changed much since then,” La Posta said. “We did ShareLife to try to get away from the traditionalism that surrounds funeral service.

“It’s done in an effort to think outside the box, to offer our families and the community a new way of celebrating lives.”

ShareLife, as the price-listed service is known, gives families the opportunity to transport a funeral audience to a place different than the literal funeral setting, La Posta said, using a family’s imagination, or their gathered memories residing on cell phones, smart phones, in video footage, pictures, from older video cassettes and other means, he said.

ShareLife has been in the works for about a year, La Posta said, and available as part of its “value-added services” package for six months. So far, the funeral home has carried out 15 to 20 full ShareLife services, La Posta said, though various aspects of the package is used in almost all services held in the funeral home chapel.

Thompson, owned by Orlando-based Foundation Partners Group, LLC, has three locations in the Midlands that include West Columbia and the Town of Lexington. The ShareLife service is only available at the Leesburg Road location, however, and at its facilities in Florida and the New York.

Thompson Funeral Homes and Greenlawn Memorial Park merged in 2013 to create Thompson Funeral Home at Greenlawn Memorial Park.

Thompson’s imagery library can bring themes to life that include hobbies such as fishing, cooking, arts and crafts, golfing and bird-watching, to traditional religious themes, the Air Force, a favorite university and all seasonal settings from snow capped mountains to Lake Murray. They are developing celebration of life themes for other branches of the military, too.

Reach Burris at (803) 771-8398

Twitter: @RoddieBurris

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