Headstones and History

QR Codes Link to Family Heritage on Cemetery Headstones by David Quiring

In her seminal book On Death and Dying Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about the 5 stages of grief which are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  She noted that not everyone goes through each of these stages and they are not necessarily experienced in any particular order.  In the funeral/memorial profession we have learned that permanent memorialization is one of the ways in which survivors experience acceptance. A meaningful headstone can help people move forward through their grief after losing a loved one.

As a third generation memorialist, I have always been looking for ways to make monuments more meaningful and valuable to my clients.  Since 1949, in Seattle, Washington, Quiring Monuments, Inc. has focused on developing cutting-edge carving technology so that graphic images could be of higher quality and require less maintenance.  Our solution involved computer stencil cutting programs and more detail oriented plotters, then expanded to photo stencils and laser engraving.

About 10 years ago we noticed that other new technologies were being introduced to cemeteries and memorial artists, including Near Field Communication chips (NFC) and solar powered video players. These 21st century inventions allowed memorials to provide more information for families who wanted to pass on their heritage to future generations.  These technologies were not quite what we were looking for because of battery, vandalism and other issues but were certainly cool new ways to package more information into the granite monuments we design.

In 1994, a subsidiary of Toyota created a new kind of bar code called the QR code (Quick Response code).  Because this new code holds a lot of data, it is perfect for storing a URL (or Uniform Resource Locator), which is the web page address that you normally type into your browser.  If you have a smart phone enabled with a QR Code reader application you can scan the code and it will open a web page on the smart phone.

Like most inventions, unique things come from combining two existing pieces into one new use.  Post-It Notes started with a chemist trying to make a particular kind of glue.  When I saw the QR Code and learned it could convert a web address into a QR code I figured we could create personal web pages for each one of our monument customers and link the different pieces together with a tag on the memorial.  Word got out and we got world wide publicity for our “Living Headstones® Internet Connected Memorials” so I knew I had the next best thing in tombstone technology.

We created a durable, weatherproof, scan-able tag to attach to a memorial.  Each personal webpage can be accessed by either typing a web address into a desktop computer or scanning the QR code into a smart phone from the cemetery.  Anyone who has the web address can view the memorial website but each site is password protected and has a family administrator to make sure only appropriate photos and messages are populated.  All those pieces came together and today we are selling our Living Headstones® tags to customers around the world for both new memorials or for attachment to existing public and private monuments.

Since our population is now more mobile than ever and families are dispersed all over the world these QR codes and their attached websites give extended families a chance to add their thoughts on birthdays, anniversaries and other family occasions no matter how far away they live.  They can add an obituary, a biography, up to 100 family photos, a memorial DVD and guest book messages.  This information is stored on several redundant servers in various places to ensure that it will remain accessible for future generations.

David Quiring is the owner of Quiring Monuments in Seattle, Washington. An industry leader in designing and creating quality custom headstones, memorials, and monuments in North America, Quiring Monuments brings over 100 years of family tradition, experience, and compassion to helping permanently preserve the memories of loved ones. For more information on the memorialization industry, please visit the Quiring Monuments blog at www.monuments.com/blog.

Memorializing A Loved One

Today we have the pleasure of welcoming David Quiring of Quiring Monuments. David’s family has been in the business of memorialization for over 100 years. If anyone can talk about the importance of memorialization in the grief process, it would be this man.

The Long Road of Grief by David Quiring

Several years ago, I was sitting in my office on a quiet Saturday morning when my front door opened. Jumping up, I found an elderly man standing in the doorway. Probably in his mid-70s, he was thin and bent—almost broken—at the waist. He didn’t look at me, and he kept his eyes on the floor. I asked him, “How can I help you, sir?”

After a few moments, he responded, shaking his head back and forth, “My mother died when I was 16 years old. My father was already deceased at the time so this left me responsible for my younger brother and sister. We didn’t have much money, but somehow I scraped together enough to bury Mother in the Catholic cemetery here in Seattle.  We couldn’t afford a marker.”

He continued, “I quit school and worked to support my brother and sister. Several years later, I still felt bad that I had never marked my mother’s grave. But there wasn’t much money and I couldn’t save up enough to put a memorial on her grave. Even in my 40s, I thought about buying a monument for Mom, but by then I felt guilty about going in to order one and having to explain why I had waited so long.”

He told me he had recently realized that if he didn’t do something soon, his mother would never have a memorial. So, that morning, we sat down for an hour or so while he told me all about her. I sketched a Latin cross with a rosary draped over it and added her favorite Bible verse.  When he saw the sketch, he smiled and seemed at peace. He had fulfilled his commitment. After completing the order process, he stood, shook my hand, and walked out of the office.

As I watched him leave, I noticed something about him was different, but couldn’t quite pin it down. Sometime later, it hit me. He had stood up straight and walked out the door without the hunched posture in which he first arrived.  What had he left in my office that had been such a burden?

For 60 years, this man had been the keeper of his mother’s memory. After he told me her story and we worked together to create a memorial to permanently preserve who she was and what she stood for, he was able to put down the weight of this responsibility.

I’ve often thought about this situation over the years, and have come to realize that many people go through life never being able to fully work through their grief. In the case of this man, simply sharing about his mother and creating a memorial in her honor gave him the ability to let go of a heavy burden and move forward. The memorial industry is about so much more than helping people pick out beautiful headstones or grave markers. Instead, it’s about helping them share the weight of their grief by preserving the memory of those they love.

David Quiring is the owner of Quiring Monuments in Seattle, Washington. An industry leader in designing and creating quality custom headstones, memorials, and monuments in North America, Quiring Monuments brings over 100 years of family tradition, experience, and compassion to helping permanently preserve the memories of loved ones. For more information, please visit www.monuments.com.