Dutch funeral expo digs up latest trends

The funeral expo in Amsterdam offered visitors new ideas to help bid loved ones a final farewell.
The funeral expo in Amsterdam offered visitors new ideas to help bid loved ones a final farewell.PHOTO: REUTERS

Plenty on offer to help give loved ones a grand send-off

AMSTERDAM • Coffins decked out with board games, grave sites doubling as vegetable patches or children's toy "funeral building bricks" complete with a hearse and crematorium - just some of the latest trends for dealing with death.

More than 3,500 visitors flocked to a recent one-day expo at Amsterdam's historic central Westerkerk church for a peek at new gadgets to help give a loved one a grand, final farewell.

From those wanting a unique burial for a relative or friend, to others with an appreciation for the morbid, there was plenty on offer, such as 3D-printed urns in the shape of a deceased person's head.

A hollow walking stick, which can be filled with ashes that are then scattered at the touch of a button and registers the person's final resting place via Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates, was another innovative exhibit.

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Pulling in the crowds were the "funeral" small plastic building blocks for children to create their own hearse that comes with a coffin and a crematorium with imitation flames at the back or a graveyard.

Far from just being macabre playthings, the toys have a very practical application.

"Often you find that children don't understand the funeral process and what happens at a funeral," said Mr Richard Hattink, a children's counsellor, who specialises in dealing with grief.

A CELEBRATION

Death should not be something sad. This expo shows that dying can be celebrated, rather than mourned.

EXHIBITION ORGANISER PETER VAN SCHAIK

"We found that using these blocks helps to include youngsters in the mourning process," said Mr Hattink, who painstakingly put together the miniature models, also used by some funeral parlours and crematoriums.

What about cultivating a vegetable patch on top of a loved one's grave? No problem.

The veggie patch grave is the brainchild of exhibition organiser Peter van Schaik and found particular appeal among green-fingered Dutch, many of whom live in densely-built homes without enough space for a garden.

The veggies are grown in self-contained holders on top of the grave so there is no risk of contamination, Mr Van Schaik pointed out.

A myriad of different coffin designs were also on display.

They included one incorporating a traditional Dutch game of shuffleboard where players slide the wooden pucks along the top of the coffin, and another casket shaped like a football boot.

Another was a mail-order coffin, which conforms to Dutch postal standards and, once delivered, can be assembled by the family of the deceased themselves.

"It's a coffin that's easy to assemble. We often refer to it as Ikea- style," Mr Dingco Geijtenbeek said, referring to the Swedish manufacturer known for its ready-to-assemble furniture.

The idea of a funeral expo is "all about life, how you celebrate and say farewell to your life", Mr Van Schaik told Agence France-Presse.

"All these objects we have are meaningful ways to expose a little bit about your personality and the way that you want to be remembered," he said. "It's about things that you were doing while you were still alive, so it's not morbid at all."

"Death should not be something sad. This expo shows that dying can be celebrated, rather than mourned. It is, after all, something that's going to happen to all of us," added Mr Van Schaik.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2017, with the headline 'Dutch funeral expo digs up latest trends'. Print Edition | Subscribe