Telling stories from the grave

John Paige Watkinson's qRIP, with memories and stories all stored in one place. Image: Contributed

Katrina Brandon

DURING the saddest time of your life, when a loved one dies, one of the hardest things is picking the words on the headstone that best represent that person.

In 2020, Jeff Watkinson, born and raised a Morwell citizen, lost his brother, suddenly putting him in the position of trying to figure out what suited the late John Paige Watkinson. Like many, he had trouble trying to figure out what to say until he got an idea.

QR codes for gravestones: qRIP – a place for you to write all the things you wanted to say, all the blessed memories, favourite music and many photos or videos that represent the one you have lost. A story from the grave, you could say.

“To be able to put that there, it lives on. You can keep adding to it and you don’t have to come here to see it,” Mr Watkinson said.

“The hardest thing is going through the emotional process of the loss, but knowing that you can capture that and be able to put things that represent that person, being able to do that is totally unique. When I thought of the QR code and put it on John’s tombstone, it was the first time I had smiled in a while. We went everywhere together, to be able to add when you’d like and for other generations to come makes it feel like he is still with me.”

Mr Watkinson has always known about QR codes as he used to do graphic design work to go onto product packaging, as well as some work in commercial work where John used to ‘voice act’. He mentioned that it takes a bit to set the QR code up but once it is done, it is there for ever and is able to be bought up on a phone whenever. He said that once you scan it, you can bring it up whenever and share the link with people.

“To hear his voice is so much a part of him and couldn’t imagine it not being here. It would be such a lonely, isolated thing,” Mr Watkinson said.

“I still come here often and scan it and listen.”

The QR codes come in a few sizes, making the personalised tombstones easier to design for each specific person. In the future, the hope is that it can be on pretty much anything that represents the person the best.

Right now, the QR code is featured at Hazelwood Cemetery where, according to the groundskeeper, lots of people have already admired, scanned and attempted to take a photo of the product.

“It’s hard to take a photo of it without it wanting to take you to the web page,” said Mr Watkinson.

The idea is to keep the person alive by keeping their story available for generations to see later on. Rather than the memory of their death, it is the memory of their story keeping on going.