Extreme Wakes and Drive Through Viewings… Just in Time for Halloween

by admin on October 21, 2014

in Tyler Businesses

I often look for seasonal topics on which to write, particularly around Halloween. And while spooky or creepy stories can be difficult to choose from, I had no such difficulty this year. It seems every industry has its trends and the funerary industry is evidently no different.
This past weekend I came across a news article on a funeral home in Michigan that has announced an exciting new service: drive through viewings! Grieving families now have the option of setting their deceased loved ones in what resembles a bank teller window, for xenophobic friends and loved ones to gawk at, as they drive by and “pay their respects.” According to the article, when a vehicle pulls up to the window, curtains open automatically, and soft music plays for three minutes while attendees and look at the dead body until the allotted time expires.
I don’t even know where to begin to raise my objections. First off, the traditional viewing is not about the viewer or the dead; it’s about bringing comfort to the living. My other objection is a bit more macabre. What’s to stop the weird kids in town from stopping by the morgue on Halloween night to see if there are any corpses on display?
As weird as all this is, it can, and recently has gotten stranger. My cousin introduced me to two words I would never have thought to put together: extreme embalming. Welcome to the hottest thing mortality has to offer, stylized wakes! It seems death and burial just got a little more fashionable. Some quarters of the embalming and preparation industry now offer viewings with the bodies of the dead posed in various “lifelike positions,” where the diseased appear to be doing the things they most enjoyed in life. One New Orleans resident was seated at a table “drinking and smoking,” while friends and family partied around her, as though she’s a centerpiece designed to complete the festivities. Thanks but I think I’d prefer an ice sculpture. Another newly deceased socialite was dressed in a pink feather boa, holding a glass of champagne and sat reclining gently on a patio loveseat beneath some indoor trees.
Really the whole thing is so irreverent and undignified; it reminds me of a bad remake of Weekend at Bernie’s. What’s happening to our society?! What’s next hanging loved ones on the wall with a plaque? We seem to have lost the point of the two most important lessons death has to teach; like the importance of morning as a community. Viewings are about weeping with those who weep, not about trying to avoid the hassle of getting out of our cars and extending some genuine comfort to another human being. Nor are wakes about throwing the best send off for someone who can’t enjoy it. Want to party and live life now? Fine go to a bar afterwards. The wake is about commemorating a life well lived or hard lessons learned. It’s not about the narcissism that comes with throwing a great party.

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