Content here represents the voice of SIGNATURE SUNSETS, an informational initiative designed to broaden and brighten horizons in the funerary domain.

The material is an outgrowth of a pre-planning reference book, Pondering Leaves: Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue, written by the author of this blog.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Journey Journal... The Villages, Lady Lake, Florida

"SENSE-SATIONAL" Memorial Services

Never mind the funerary fare!  Even without encountering death management specialists, a visit to this community is enlivening in itself. 

A virginal jaunt through The Villages prompts child-like wonder and supposition that one has entered a Land of Oz.  Within a large shopping plaza along the main access road, golf carts parked in some of the spaces that usually accommodate cars set the stage.  Initially, the clueless newcomer is baffled. These abbreviated vehicles, though, are but a few of many to be seen in this expansive senior living mecca.

Though snow covers the ground floor of most states in the country, here people in early March are seen zooming around town in multi-styled, open-air conveyances, freely unencumbered by winter woolies.  A prominent sign along the road announces that this is “a golf cart community.” 

This town within Lady Lakes territory is purportedly the largest single site development in the United States and the largest gated over-55 community in the world.  In 2014 Forbes magazine ranked it the number one fastest-growing small city in the country.  All of the buildings are consistently fresh, appearing new and pristine.  Every amenity one could imagine is situated within accessible, yet widespread territory, including a golf course and polo field.  A modern high school building has a designated Lifelong Learning wing with a separate entrance; dozens of courses are conducted there as well as at other locations. 

When lifelong learning – and even living – come to a screeching halt, like all of the other local facilities, the building for Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services is conveniently located. 

Here, within a novel venue that’s duplicated in only four other countrywide facilities, a review of an individual’s unique life story can be accentuated by a ShareLife (registered trademark) experience that triggers the senses amid memorial sentiments. 

Expect to be awed once you've passed through the double doors into the gathering room where commemorative services are held in this funeral facility. 

With ceiling projectors activated and through the touch-screen application of an iPad program, a wide, wall-to-wall screen is festooned with a scene that could easily take your breath away… perhaps a state of affairs you’d ordinarily want to avoid in a funeral home!  In this context, though, breathlessness is refreshing. 

Mourners may actually be the ones resting in peace within the soothing environment here.  Senses are gently awakened through sights, sounds, and scents of therapeutically intoxicating stimulants.  Projected portrayals may simply be lovely to look at or they may symbolically showcase a feature of the decedent, thereby epitomizing the concept of a customized life celebration.

The immensity of the visual image alone is transformative.  It is apt to alleviate grievers’ emotional state of internal combustion characteristically ignited in the context of an end-of-life milieu.  Simply by focusing on the broad expanse of this provocative span, one is overtaken by a sense of calm.  Slow-moving transitions from one image to another augment the feeling of serenity.   

When families make arrangements for a service here, they can select from a list of sensory options within package plans.  The array of available video scenes is not included on the facility’s website because of ongoing variations in offerings.  A package for a particular theme may include a few coordinate pictures that change during the service.  

Depictions of autumnal splendor, a coastline, marshland, ocean waves, city landscape, garden, golf course, waterfalls, and forest are among the thematic possibilities. 

The presence of a casket or possibly an ark – a structure designed to carry and showcase an urn – can allude dramatically to the relevance of the captivating panorama as it relates to the individual's life.  

~ Above photos (5) excerpted from Hiers-Baxley promo video ~

Other backgrounds may include patriotic symbols, a sports motif such as fishing on a lake, a church interior, or a kitchen. As a basic alternative to an evocative scene, a mostly blank backdrop that meshes with the three walls in the room can be used instead.  A cross or Star of David may be overlaid as a central focal point.

Imagine being visually immersed in your recently deceased grandma’s typical surroundings, among kitchen appliances that simulate the place where she created her gourmet renderings.  To enhance the effect, a nearby device disseminates the aroma of a freshly baked apple pie, her specialty.  Meanwhile, the country music she always enjoyed while cooking accentuates the characterization of your beloved life companion. 

Like the images, sounds such as chirping birds, crashing waves, or seagulls, and scents such as kitchen aromas, flowers, or seaside salty air, also vary.  Instead of choosing a particular sound effect, folks may prefer to feature musical selections that relate to the deceased individual in some personalized way.  A large photo of the decedent may be superimposed over the scenic image, off to the side.  Alternatively, a tribute video using a family’s collection of photos can be shown there.

~ Photo from Hiers-Baxley promo video ~

The room itself may be altered to suit the desired tone.  When informality is an objective for a service, the chairs arranged in chapel-style straight rows can be moved out of the room and replaced by round tables, chairs, and couches.  These ordinarily are situated in an adjacent room where receptions are held, but they are readily available to heighten the aura of relaxation within the larger space.   

In the absence of clergy, a celebrant may officiate at a commemorative service and assist the family in arranging additional details tailored to exemplify a loved one’s persona.   

Funeral homes such as this one can evoke pleasant surprises in a dynamic setting.  Within this one-of-a-kind community known as The Villages, people may choose to arrange for a one-of-a-kind remembrance experience marked by sensuous interaction.  Like the ever-spinning tires on the prolific golf carts in this uncommon hamlet, here at this funeral home the wheels of innovation have been set in motion.  One has only to take a diversionary detour from conventional thoroughfares to discover the realization of a contemporary concept. 

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