It started simply enough. The Eterneva team had 500 surgical masks in their lab, and they didn’t need them.
Austin, Texas, where Eterneva is headquartered, was issuing a Shelter in Place order, and only two team members ever needed to be in the office to ship kits and to run our lab –– and those two areas of the office are more than 6 feet apart anyway.
So, Eterneva reached out to their partner, Schoedinger Funeral Homes and Cremation Services, based in Columbus, Ohio. Eterneva told them that they had these extra masks, and that they could send them to the funeral home if they needed some.
The response was at first surprising because it was such a resounding: “Yes, we need them!”
What the company soon learned was that most funeral homes and cremation services were considered essential businesses in Shelter in Place orders and other city lockdowns to protect residents from the pandemic and to flatten the curve. And yet, these same funeral homes and cremation services were not high on any list for getting the PPE supplies they needed.
So, while these essential last-line workers were continuing to take in and care for bodies, they were quickly running out of protective equipment –– and there was little to no information on how long the virus lasted in the deceased.
That is when the Eterneva team decided to do something drastic. They decided to figure out a way to raise money –– some $200,000 –– for PPE supplies for death care professionals.
It was no easy task, but soon they were on calls with the NFDA and their charitable arm, The Funeral Service Foundation. They chatted with CANA, were introduced to executives from ICCFA, and they even reached out to Mark Cuban who has a prior relationship as an Eterneva investor.
— Eterneva (@Eterneva) April 16, 2020
Soon, it was live! A GoFundMe campaign to raise the necessary funds to get critical PPE supplies to death care professionals in the most affected areas, but anywhere in the U.S. really. Here were just a few of the responses we received from funeral homes and crematoriums:
- “We are having difficulty ordering any supplies as we are not considered Frontline. It would be nice to have access to masks and hand sanitizer as we deal with Covid-19 patients on a regular basis now.”
- “This is us. You can see our need. We are used to serving about 40-60 families at one time. We are serving 300+ currently.”
- “We have not been able to restock through normal distribution companies. We appreciate any help.”
And then, Eterneva started getting word about something else entirely.
A Need for a Free Digital Arrangement Tool From Eterneva
Funeral homes and crematoriums were struggling to find viable tools to help their families make decisions from afar. They couldn’t host the typical kind of funeral or celebration of life. Grave-side services have still been allowed, of course, and gatherings in general, but all under 10 people. Many homes have also transitioned to virtual funerals or celebrations of life.
Yet, for homes, larger gatherings to celebrate the life of the deceased is the main revenue channel. Funerals and celebrations of life are also one of the only grief rituals that exist in the U.S. for families.
Instead of their typical face-to-face conversations during one of a family’s most challenging times, funeral directors were having to explain options over the phone, and couldn’t show families what they were talking about, their memorial options, their casket options –– anything really.
That’s when Adelle Archer, Eterneva co-founder, and CEO, spent a weekend putting together a digital arrangement tool for Schoedinger. The following Monday, she sent it off to their team and they were floored.
“Eterneva has really stepped up to help funeral professionals during this unprecedented time,” says Kevin Schoedinger, Senior Vice President & Head of Technology at Schoedinger Funeral Home and Cremation Services. “Our funeral directors could not be more pleased with how our digital arrangement tool has made our long-distance arrangements easier. We spent a lot of time and thousands of dollars trying to develop something like this tool and Eterneva was able to help us get this together in 5 days. Instead of spending time on figuring out technology with families, they can spend that time building a meaningful connection.”
It worked! Now, they are offering that service free to any and all funeral homes and crematoriums that want to use it.
Giving Grief an Action for Families Right Now
There is one last option that the company is talking to funeral homes and crematoriums about right now. And that is a partnership beyond the digital tool and the PPE supplies.
Memorial diamonds take 7-10 months to create, start to finish. Throughout that time, the company works closely with clients, updating them about exactly where their loved one is in the process, giving them grief coaching as needed, and helping them start legacy projects to actively honor their loved one.
By the time the diamond is ready for its homecoming, Eterneva hopes that this pandemic will be over, and funerals and celebrations of life can go back to normal. After all, gathering to honor the life of those you love is one of the oldest traditions we have, and one of the few left.
Eterneva is now working with funeral homes and crematoriums across the country to suggest a memorial diamond and grief journey that accompanies it for the time being. Then, they are scheduling a celebration of life to coincide with the memorial diamond homecoming.
This way, those who are deeply grieving can do something active with that grief right now, while also planning for a future in which everyone who loved, respected, and was touched by the life of their loved one can gather, tell stories, and marvel at their newest transformation into a diamond.
Gratitude in the Midst of Chaos
This pandemic has been a tragedy for so many. It has caused lives to be lost. It has caused economic insecurity for countless many. To find gratitude in it is grace, but also a privilege.
The Eterneva team has spent these last weeks in quarantine and Shelter in Place forging friendships and partnerships with those they consider heroes, doing the last line work that is so crucial for families.
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