Introducing New Guest Writer – Clare Keenan – Founder of Curtain CallFilm-making, portraiture, sourcing 144 bottles of Lagavulin ?98 whisky to put in storage in Singapore for a future wake, finding someone who can provide a lantern carriage and six black plumed horses at short notice for a funeral – this is all in a day?s work for me.
The initial concept of my company, Curtain Call, was a high-end funeral pre-planning and event management service. This has now grown to offer legacy-building services. I work with award-winning directors and writers to make biographical films and biographies and store mementos, letters and gifts in vaults and safety deposit boxes.
I am not a funeral director, but work very closely with funeral directors in the US, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean. I have the highest respect for the work they do. Initially, I noticed some reserve from funeral directors who thought that my services overlapped with theirs, but they have come to see that this is not the case at all.
I have learnt a lot from funeral directors, most importantly, that funerals are just as much for the living as for the dead. So where possible, I include family members in the planning process- specifically in talking through philanthropy and organ donation, and always ensure that family and friends still feel ?ownership? of the funeral or memorial service. My staff can unobtrusively handle the administrative issues of flying family in, organising accommodation, looking after pets, cancelling mail, subscriptions and electronic accounts. This allows family and friends more time to be together and relieves some stress.
I have noticed that planning for death has sometimes changed people?s lives and spurred them to action. For example, finding a philanthropic legacy that is really meaningful for my clientele has seen some members so enthused that they have travelled to visit their chosen project in Trinidad or Indonesia to see where their money will go- what is known as ?adventure philanthropy?. One of my clients also decided to finally speak to a family member who he hadn?t contacted in years, and another tracked down a child who had been adopted.
Nothing shocks me and I am non-judgmental – these are key attributes for this line of work. Most important for the people I deal with is that they are assured total discretion and the highest levels of attention. I am personally on call 24 hours a day, every day- and not just for emergency situations, but just for a chat or an update. And if they want face-to-face meeting I can guarantee them one anywhere in the world within 10 days. This may sound arduous, but it isn?t-because I have built a service that allows me to work only with people I really like- it?s always good to hear from them.
My members range in age from 42 to 73, and almost exactly a half male and half female split. On the younger end of the spectrum are people with high risk factors such as adventure sports, frequent travel to dangerous locations, possible targets for assassination, people who are far from their families and would require repatriation.
I have noticed much talk of the Baby Boomer generation and the idea the tailoring of funeral services is in some way egotistical and selfish. I find my members to be totally at odds with this description- they are people who really love and care for those they leave behind- they want to avoid arguments, confusion or for anyone to be out of pocket as a result of their death. They do not want to leave a big mess for everyone else to sort out, and they want everyone to be able to get on with their own lives after paying their respects.
My members are truly exceptional people- and under strict instructions not to die any time soon!
Clare Keenan was born in a remote copper-mining village in Africa. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Classical Civilization, studied French Literature at the Sorbonne and has a Masters degree in Public Policy. Working from Paris and Sydney, Clare has co-ordinated countless international medical and political evacuations. In 1999, Clare was awarded the Canadian Government?s inaugural ?Building a Better South Africa? award for her work to improve the way survivors of violence were treated by the authorities. She has more recently worked as an advisor and speechwriter to world leaders.
Clare is the founder of Curtain Call, an international members-only funeral pre-planning service working with a select clientele of celebrities and Ultra-High-Net-Worth individuals and families.