Hey Dead Dude: Can You Hear Me Now?

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With four billion of them in use, few things on Earth are as ubiquitous as the cell phone.

We take them everywhere, to dinner and a movie, to the bedroom, and yes, to the bathroom. And now, in increasing numbers, people are taking them to their grave.

Ed Defort, publisher of the New Jersey-based American Funeral Director magazine, tells me that being buried with one's cell phone has become a top funeral rite request, right up there with being cremated with a pet's ashes.

"I know one woman, in fact, a widow, who keeps her dead husband's account alive and still pays the monthly bill so that she and his friends can still call him and hear his voice," recounts Defort.

Weird? Bizarre? Perhaps. But not at all surprising to many in the death industry.

"This doesn't shock me at all," says Noelle Potvin, a family counselor at Hollywood Forever funeral home in California. "People see it as a security blanket. They want that phone with them at all times -- even when they're dead."

Potvin predicts the next burial gadgets of choice will be Bluetooth headsets and Wii control sticks.

Bob Biggins, past president of the National Funeral Directors Association and now a funeral director in Rockland, Massachusetts, recalls a time not that long ago when a number of clients asked that a parent, usually the father, be buried with the TV clicker.

"A couple of years ago, I had a family ask that their father be buried with his PalmPilot," Biggins remembers. "He was in the insurance industry and this was his Bible, so we put it in his coat pocket and off he went."

Defort, meanwhile, says the ring tone has become today's version of playing Taps for a loved one. "I know about a funeral where the family made it a point to turn the ringer all the way up, and then the sound got fainter and fainter as the lowered the body into the ground. It's like a final tribute, like a 21-gun salute."

Whatever the case, it appears that bidding farewell to this veil of tears does not yet include the placement of a cellphone in one's casket -- at least not in the Heartland. I talked with more than a dozen funeral home directors in the St. Louis area, and not one of them knew of a cell phone burial.

"I've buried a lot of strange stuff, but never that," Bob Reynolds, funeral director at Buchholz Mortuaries in Chesterfield, told me yesterday. "I've buried a man with two bottles of Johnny Walker Scotch, one placed under each arm. I've buried someone with a pound of pot and another with $100 bills from a guy paying off on a drug deal.

"And I also buried two two large photo albums with pictures of the dead man's girlfriend. Seems his wife found out about the girlfriend right after he died, and said, 'The bitch deserves to be in there with him.'"

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