Online to the Afterlife

A stroll through Père-Lachaise Cemetery, where many famous people are buried, ranks among the classic things to do in Paris: But Mademoiselle Lili was still greeted with a surprise – digital eternity. 

I have no idea how often I’ve visited, what is probably, Paris’s most famous cemetery: The first time as a tourist myself, many, many years ago, to visit the graves of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde. And now I go there every now and again when family and friends are visiting, – after all, the cemetery is practically round the corner from where I live. Recently, however, I couldn’t believe my eyes: between all the magnificent weathered graves, where, since the 19th century, many famous people have found their final resting place Generation Web 2.0 has now moved in. 

If you pay attention as you walk through the shady labyrinth of alleyways and pathways, you will come across some QR codes, those little black and white pixel patterns, which are discreetly stuck on to the gravestones as little plaques.

A white grave from a woman named Laura Hilden, which is positioned a little away from the other graves, catches my attention. It looks like a bus stop: It has a roof and glass walls to protect it from the wind and weather. I hold my smartphone camera up to the code and end up on an esoteric website where you can see the deceased and listen to her singing. In addition, I discover that this is an “energetic grave of eternal love”, which can be felt by everyone who stands on the cabbalistic-looking circular ornament on the ground and stretches their arms to the skies – the roof overhead depicts astrological symbols. As instructed, we stand on the circle and lift our arms, as if we were going through one of the security scanners in modern airports. We don’t feel anything, but if we did we find out that we could book an initiation course with a spiritual healer for EUR 495. For God’s sake, even the Afterlife is peppered with adverts these days. 

Whilst we can’t stop laughing, we continue on and consider founding a start-up. How could you put all the graves here to commercial use? Download songs at the grave of Jim Morrison, or order a fridge at the graves of the Darty family, the founders of France’s big electronics and household appliances chain? Allow the many wannabe VIPS, who compete in today’s TV talent shows, one last big performance? For today’s Instagrammers who are glued to their smartphone screens, you could arrange that final and eternal selfie. 

It exists already. From about EUR 200, as I read later, a simple online package for the Afterlife, including QR plaque, can be programmed for you: With photos, videos or audio files. Of course, professional speakers who narrate the life stories of the deceased cost a little more. In the USA, Japan or Spain, this business is a dead certainty – at Père Lachaise places where you can communicate with the dead are few and far between. Which is quite a shame really. The graves would be so much more entertaining that way.