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Jul 11 2014

A funeral innovation I can do without

Funerals are not fun events. One goes to them to show one’s sympathy for the loved ones of the deceased and they are usually events that have a certain solemn decorum with the body in a casket and people filing past to pay their respects. If the casket is open, the body looks composed and at rest.

A recent feature (at least it was new to me after I came to the US) that I like is to have photographs of the life of the deceased in happier times, either posted on a board or projected on a screen and this is actually a nice thing, giving one a broader look at that person’s life.

But now I read of funeral parlors that have introduced a new thing and that is instead of the body lying in a casket, it is posed in a way that is supposed to be characteristic of the life of the person, such as cooking at a stove.

I am not a fan of this, though I cannot quite put my finger on the reasons for my discomfort. After all, if it was the wish of the deceased person and the family members are comfortable with it, there is no reason that I should be bothered. But it just seems a little off to me.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    raven

    One goes to them to show one’s sympathy for the loved ones of the deceased and they are usually events that have a certain solemn decorum with the body in a casket and people filing past to pay their respects. If the casket is open, the body looks composed and at rest.

    You need to get out more.

    Here on the coast, a lot of funerals like that have been replaced by “Celebrations of Life” instead. Even among xians, even in churches. They are far better and more on topic.

    As a sometimes Pagan, I’ve been to mostly Pagan funerals lately. They are even better. It’s usually a bonfire party outdoors crossed with a Celebration of Life.

    I have notified my heirs that a church funeral is right out like my friend’s parents just did. As a future dead person, I won’t have any say, and know or care. But who wants to go to a church anyway these days?

  2. 2
    Frank

    “I am not a fan of this, though I cannot quite put my finger on the reasons for my discomfort.”

    To me, it seems too much like a wax museum exhibit, but without the wax. Then again, wax museums also seem a bit off to me.

    But if that’s what the deceased and the family want, OK. I much prefer raven’s “Celebration of Life” idea.

  3. 3
    lorn

    A body in formal repose, in a casket, is one thing. Stuffed and posed in a lifelike tableau is quite another. It smacks of people having their dog stuffed or, crossing the line into parody, converted into a lamp.

    I’m not squeamish, bodies are just meat, but I’m not sure I’m ready for the next logical step, a relative converted into a side table, reading lamp, hat rack, or toilet paper holder.

    Picture this made out of your uncle:
    http://www.bombaycompany.com/store/living-character-tables/henri-the-butler-side-table/BBFU0668

    Entertaining, whimsical, and spooky.

  4. 4
    moarscienceplz

    Jeremy Bentham liked the idea. That’s his body, with a wax head. His real head is between his feet.

  5. 5
    steve oberski

    Just wait until they start burying faithful retainers with them.

    Oh wait, that’s already been done, hasn’t it ?

    Or sending them out to sea in a burning boat.

    Or letting the vultures strip the meat from their elevated carcasses.

    Curse those boring xtians for turning funerals into the tedious religious circle jerks that they are today.

  6. 6
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    No funeral for me, my meatsuit goes to organs or medical donation, as is most useful.

    A nice wake, with some folk having a big party and telling each other funny things I did or said. That’s my hope for how people remember me. But I’ll be dead, so I don’t really care much.

  7. 7
    Ed

    Some of these events take it too far and disrespect the dead and the survivors by being corny. But I generally like the idea of at least part of the funeral celebrating the life of the deceased and the enduring positive influence of the good they did in life.

    At the same time, I don’t want this taken so far that loved ones who might be understandably overwhelmed with sorrow feel like they can’t mourn and have to put on a happy face because the funeral is supposed to be a celebration and nothing else.

    It’s important for the bereaved to come together as much as possible beforehand and agree on what type of event most suits their needs. But I would personally advise against both compulsive New Age-like Pollyannaism AND morbid despair.

    Also, I use the word “funeral” loosely to mean any event where people gather in an organized manner to honor the memory of a dead person and/or emotionally support one another.

    Whether the body is present, how it was disposed of, where the event is held, who speaks, etc. are issues related to religious or traditionalist criteria which are meaningless to me, except for the desires of those closest to the deceased.

  8. 8
    Trebuchet

    Having bodies on display for funerals is nothing short of disgusting. Posing them — I just don’t have words. If I have a service at all, I certainly hope I’ll already be reduced to ashes, or maybe just be planted nude directly into the soil somewhere, with my metal bits removed.

    If they’re going to put me on display, there’d better be a catapult involved!

  9. 9
    readysf

    Seems like the right 3-d solution….why depend on aging pictures and fading memories when you can have the real thing?

    If fact, this could give rise to a new industry. The head literally sits at the head of the table. You can have upto 10 heirs, one for each stuffed finger, for example, and with toes this doubles. Even after your useful insides go to science or for transplants, the superficial externals still endure.

    You can show your kids grandpa and grandma, in the flesh. In the future, their DNA could be used to recreate them. The possibilities are endless!

    Why be such a spoilsport?

  10. 10
    lanir

    I think that would be somewhat offputting. How would you know what the right sort of pose was for that? Just because you knew them in a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the sum of who they are. I was recently at an aunt’s funeral where a few people she had worked with at one point came up to give a short prayer service of their own. It lasted several minutes and involved them saying all the usual things but repeatedly refering to her quite heavily and obviously as their “coworker”. I kept thinking it was nice that they knew her that way but it was somewhat alienating for anyone else. I think a pose as described would quickly run into a similar problem.

    What is it about people that there seems such a pervasive desire to define how everyone else who knew someone should handle their death? I understand you want to be there for people and you want to have enough contact that people aren’t able to slink away and be depressed and hurt without someone around who can call for help. Btu that doesn’t excuse some of the more authoritarian and self-serving nonsense.

  11. 11
    thebookofdave

    it is posed in a way that is supposed to be characteristic of the life of the person

    Why put up with the extravagant expense of a funeral home, when the job is easily within a good taxidermist’s ability? As a bonus, with care and maintenance, your loved one will last a lifetime.

  12. 12
    Marius

    Reminds me of Victorian post-mortem photography.
    It seems a bit off to me too but I can’t see any reason why other than prejudice.

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