Thinking Outside the Casket Box

Posted on June 7, 2013



If your life is a drag, don’t worry. It is entirely possible now to have fun after death. Some funeral homes, perturbed by feedback that mourners dreaded going to funerals, and perturbed even more that people weren’t having fun at their own funerals, have decided to make funerals something everyone can look forward to.

According to USA Today, “a catchphrase like “We Put the Fun in Funeral” is hard to live up to, but Williams Lombardo Funeral Home in Clifton Heights, PA does so with verve and reverence, excited to throw someone the party of their afterlife — no matter the theme.”

Only 13 percent of adults surveyed by the National Funeral Directors Association said they’d want a traditional funeral service. About 62 percent said they’d like to customize the event.

“We’re willing to go as far as they want to go,” says George Polgar, marketing representative of Williams Lombardo.

“As far as they want to go” includes displaying meaningful objects from someone’s life, like golf shoes or a horse. Or a grill enclosed with a plastic lobster.

The funeral home can also conduct “fantasy funerals,” on-site locations that are either meaningful to the deceased or places that the deceased always wanted to go, but never quite made it.

This could bring a new twist to what goes on around the deathbed. Instead of the hackneyed blubberings of red rim-eyed family, declaring that they would see the deceased eventually in heaven, now the soon-to-be-mourners can ask the soon-to-be-departed what their plans are. And the gleeful response can be “I’m going to Disney World!”

And let’s no longer assume that death is all about lauding the deceased as the best husband/father/whatever. Comedy roasts are also available, in which the deceased is made fun of by close friends and family. This could give new meaning to the term Italian Roast or French Roast.

In a seriously unfortunate quote from the article, USA Today said, “For a mock funeral at Williams Lombardo Funeral Home in September, comedian Joe Conklin showed how one could roast someone already cremated.”

We’ll leave USA Today to ponder their poor choice of words and move on to how we currently stack up against other cultures in the death department.

Aziz Atweh, a psychology professor at Camden County College says that death in America, along with the difficulty in getting a good cheesesteak, is a real bummer. “Death in America seems to be rarely celebrated. We are typically so uncomfortable with even the words ‘death,’ ‘died’ or ‘dying’ that we try to find alternatives that almost re-brand death.”

Atwah explains that in other countries around the world, the deceased continues to be a part of everyday life, even to the point of being able to get married. A lot of Americans see the advantage in this other way of thinking. In a survey of divorced people, 93 percent said they would have preferred to marry their former spouses after death than before.

So, stop worrying about your present fun quotient. Concentrate instead on whatever props or themes or locations you want for your big event. Then, you can relax and not worry about being the, uh, life of the party.