A New Take On An Old Tradition

By: Daryl Berry
Friday, September 2, 2016

Change is ever present.  Just think of the devise that you are using to view this article.  You may be reading this on a handheld devise such as a cell phone or tablet.  Imagine that, a computer that you can hold in the palm of your hand and today we take that technology for granted.  We are not that far removed from desktop computers with dial up modems that cost four times what a cellphone cost today. 

Funeral service as a modern day practice tends to change much slower but over time we have seen change come to the way we memorialize ones life.  In the Christian culture in which I was raised a death in the family meant a time of visitation followed by a funeral and burial. Thirty some years ago when I began working in funeral service it was not all that uncommon to have two nights of visitation.  Today we see some looking to condense the visitation and funeral down to a single day. 

There are several reasons behind this trend that I commonly hear.  One thing has to do with folks living longer. Many people are now living into their late eighties and nineties are simply outliving their contemporaries.  They have outlived their friends or their friends are unable to attend because of their age.  In such cases, those attending are doing so on behalf of the survivors.  Today many  families are smaller.  In the fifties and sixties, the trend of parents having fewer children became the norm.  This carried over into the years that followed and families got even smaller.  Smaller families results in fewer visitors attending visitations today. 

Another thing that happened is that we became a much more mobile society.  Gone are the days in which the kids stayed around to work on the farm or in local factories. They took jobs in other cities or went away to school and never came back home.  When the kids moved away they lost touch with other kids they grew up with.  Some people will come to a visitations today to reconnect with friends that moved away years ago but are back in town for a few days for a funeral. 

Everything these days seems to move at a faster pace.  We want what we want when we want it and then move on.  Sometimes busy schedules necessitate a more condensed funeral service time frame.  Quite often we see cases where family members have been in town caring for a family member  that has been critically ill. They probably have devoted several days away from work or their business and need to get back. The death occurs and they feel they must get back to responsibilities at home so they want to hurry things up and condense things down. 

When we take all these factors into consideration we see less people attending visitations and funerals because there is simply less people to attend.  Of course that is not always the case as we regularly see large crowds attend visitations but for the reasons mentioned above we are seeing several smaller, more intimate gatherings.  Some families are beginning to have everything the same day, the funeral service preceded by a two or three hour visitation.  In some cases this makes perfect sense. 

There are some that are looking to do everything the same day to save money.   For our funeral home, this savings amounts to around $400.  Some of these savings may not end up being that much if you have to pay overtime fees at the cemetery because you want to have an afternoon funeral.  Unlike our local for profit cemetery, we do not charge more a funeral just because it is later in the day or on a weekend. 

While there are valid reasons to do everything the same day, there are some disadvantages.  The biggest problem is that it prevents some people from being able to attend the visitation due to work schedules.  I want to quote something I heard a minister say at a funeral the other day, “People don’t go to funerals because they love going to funerals, they go to funerals because they love people.”  If visitation is during a weekday, a lot of people that would like to attend cannot get off work to do so.  They miss out on the chance to share their condolences with the family in person.  While our website offers a way to leave online condolences, nothing shows your love and concern more than a personal visit.  Several times I have heard from people that totally missed a death because they said everything happened so fast.   

Friends want to be able to reach out to a family at the time of a death.  Whenever we have someone choose to not have any kind of visitation or service, our phones ring steadily with folks inquiring about the arrangements. They want to do something - visit, send flowers, bring food, anything to show their love and want to share in the grieving in some way. 

What we are open to doing for those wishing to have a same day visitation and funeral is to change the times from during the work day until evening. Typically  same day arrangements would consist of a two hour visitation followed by a funeral or memorial service.  To accommodate everyone wishing to have same day services we are going to offer to have the service in the evening, 7:00 p.m. for instance.  The family would come in for their usual family viewing at 4:00 p.m., friends would call after 5 p.m. until the funeral at 7.  But what about the burial you ask.  Surely you are not going to the cemetery after dark.  No, in such a case a private family committal service could take the next morning at the cemetery. We have done this on a couple occasions and it has worked out well.  Instead of processing to the cemetery in a motorcade, the family met at the cemetery the next day mid-morning for a private committal service which was casual in nature.  In fact the families showed up in their jeans with coffee mugs in hand.  The minister said a few words, had a prayer and the family dispersed just like a typical committal service. 

Visitations and funerals serve a purpose and we feel they are important.  We want to make them accessible to the most people that we can.  If we can do that by adjusting times so that more people can attend we are certainly willing to do so.  If you have any questions about how we can accomodate your wishes, we encourage you to come by and discuss your thoughts with us. Most of the best ideas I have seen at funerals come from requests that families bring to us. We will do our best to accomodate or facilitate your personal wishes.

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