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Balloons and online memorials: How a millennial is changing the funeral business

SINGAPORE — Once, his company was asked to provide 100 coloured balloons for people to release into the air, as a way to “celebrate” a person’s life.

Balloons and online memorials: How a millennial is changing the funeral business

Mr Paul Wong and his son Daniel of Amazing Grace Funeral.

SINGAPORE — Once, his company was asked to provide 100 coloured balloons for people to release into the air, as a way to “celebrate” a person’s life.

The occasion: A funeral service for a man who wanted to live until 100.

For 34-year-old Daniel Wong of Amazing Grace Funeral, this is just an illustration of how the funeral business has changed over the years.

Instead of traditional funerals mourning the loss of a life, millennials prefer “a celebration of life”, he said.

His father, 64-year-old Paul Wong, who set up the company in 2009, agreed, saying: “In the past people seemed to associate weeping or crying as a sign of filial piety, and if you don’t do that you’re not so filial.

“The younger generation is now more open to the celebration of life of the person so they are more prepared to accept new ideas in the funeral process. This is to make it more celebratory of the person’s life and share it with friends.”

The younger Mr Wong has been involved in the business for a decade and that is a rarity too, especially for a millennial.

The Singapore Management University graduate had a six-month stint with a travel startup before he started helping out in his father’s funeral business.

When he officially joined in 2011, he went in with a millennial mindset, looking for ways to do things differently.

“When I understand more about what’s going on in the business, then I got an idea about what can be done,” Mr Wong, the eldest of three children, said.

“Then my father and I started talking about possibilities — what kind of services we could offer families to enhance the current services provided and the experience.”

‘NOT A TIME FOR MOURNING’

For instance, he introduced an online memorial, which allows relatives and friends of the deceased to find out details of the funeral and post their thoughts on the page.

Mr Paul Wong said that some profiles could garner over a thousand views and provide a platform for those who were unable to attend the funeral a chance to share their thoughts with the families.

“This helps families to recognise that there are so many people grieving and to comfort them as well,” he added.

Sometimes it is the customer who comes up with a unique idea. Like the family that requested for the 100 balloons to celebrate the life of their father.

The balloons were for family and friends to release into the air before his cremation.

“The family shared the same objective — from the beginning when we met them, they were very clear that they wanted to celebrate their dad’s life and it was not a time for mourning. That’s also not saying that they were not tearing, too,” said Mr Daniel Wong.

In fact, he deals with grieving families on a day-to-day basis.

It does not faze him, in fact he is now looking to take over Amazing Grace Funeral.

“It brings us great satisfaction, fulfilment and joy when we can actually fulfil their requests — how they want to express their grief or how they want to express their memories, especially in the final days,” he said.

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Funeral business Amazing Grace Funeral

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