Funeral

“So how’s the party going?” I ask Beth, one of our waitresses.

“Not bad considering,” she replies shrugging.

“So who was the deceased?” I ask. “Did you find out?”

“Their grandma,” Beth says. “She was like 90.”

“An old soul whose time had come,” I say. ( whose )

“I guess.”

“They’re lucky we were empty,” I say. “Usually we can’t take thirty people without a reservation.”

“Do we get a lot of business from the funeral home?” Beth asks.

“I’d say we get one funeral dinner a month.”

“But it’s always last minute scheduling.”

“Sometimes people die at the last minute.”

Beth chuckles. “That’s true.”

“Funny there’s a funeral dinner here tonight,” I say, “Did you see that article in today’s Times?”

“Which article?” Beth says.

“The one about funeral concierge services?”

“Huh?”
“They’re like event planners,” I say. “They help people arrange funerals, memorial service videos, stuff like that.”

“Gimme a break.”

“Some of the funerals are non-traditional,” I explain. “People want mountaintop disco parties, ice cream trucks graveside, memorial services in bars or restaurants – you call these guys.”

“What ever happened to a casket in a church?” Beth says.

“I guess that’s too low brow now.”

“What bullshit,” Beth says.

“People used to washed their loved ones bodies themselves,” I say. “Then they’d wake the corpse in the parlor or kitchen.”

“Those days are over, Beth says. “That’s what funeral homes are for.”

“Yeah,” I say, “But these days people don’t even want to see the body. We want to be insulated from death’s reality.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Beth says.

I grab my copy of The Times and find the article we’re discussing.

“Listen to this shit,” I say, quoting the article.

“….more families choose cremation — close to 70 percent in some parts of the West — services have become less somber because there is not a dead body present. “The body’s a downer, especially for boomers (a funeral planner) said. “If the body doesn’t have to be there, it frees us up to do what we want. They may want to have it in a country club or bar or their favorite restaurant. That’s where consumers want to go.”

“I think I’m going to be sick.” Beth says.

“If someone said my loved one’s body was a downer,” I growl, “There would be TWO bodies instead of one.”

“Consumers?” Beth says. “That’s what they’re calling dead people now? So death’s a business?”

“It’s been a business for a long time,” I reply. “But with millions of Yuppie Boomers heading for the grave – we’re talking about billions in profits.”

“So it’s all about money.”

“But it’s also about control,” I say, returning to the article. “Listen to this.”

“Baby boomers are all about being in control. This generation wants to control everything, from the food to the words to the order of the service. And this is one area where consumers feel out of control.”

“But you’re dead!” Beth exclaims. “What do you care?”

“Yuppies are gonna be the New Egyptians,” I reply. “They’re gonna want to be buried in their SUV’s so they can drive in the afterlife.”

“You can’t take it with you,” Beth says, shaking her head.

“I think someone helping you with a funeral is a good idea,” I say, “But I think a lot of this money could be better spent on the living.”

“Man,” Beth says. “Over the next twenty years a lot of Yuppies are going into the ground.”

“And it’s doesn’t matter if they have funeral concierge services, corpseless funerals, or the nicest plot in the cemetery,” I say, “Dead is still dead.”

“Yeah,” Beth says, “But even in death Yuppies want someone to kiss their ass.”

When they reach the Pearly Gates, I wouldn’t put it past my customers to ask God for the best table in the house. Hmm……they might be in for a small surprise.

“Some habits die hard Beth,” I say. “Some habits die hard.”


Comments

Funeral — 16 Comments

  1. Yuppies are so the New Egyptians. I can imagine in thousands of years archeoligists are opening Exhibits like “The SUV of Ted 1″ complete with his DVD player.

  2. Funerals have been big business for DECADES. Go read Jessica Mitford’s “The American Way of Death” to get an idea of just how big a business they are.

    Me, I like the idea of cremation because it doesn’t require a ton of lead-lined oak to be dropped into the earth. What I’d really like is to be dropped in a hole and allowed to decompose naturally, but that’s illegal in most states.

  3. I’m with you klg19. I do not want a $5000 casket to keep the worms from digging into me, just let me go. I’d rather rot naturally into the earth than be a noxious puddle in some dumb casket.

  4. I want to be cremated. I know it won’t matter at the time, but the thought of being buried and maggots feasting on me…bleh…

    Many people I have talked to have insisted they want their loved ones to celebrate their life instead of standing around crying. Maybe some families can’t handle the grief and do want to focus on the person’s life instead.

  5. “I think someone helping you with a funeral is a good idea,” I say, “But I think a lot of this money could be better spent on the living.”

    That money is spent on the living. It’s being spent to create a final memory of the deceased for the living loved ones. Can’t you just hear the attendees years later recounting the memory of that funeral?

    “Ah, I do miss Joe, but he went out the way he lived.”

  6. my husband wants to be cremated. he’s only 26 and he’s made up his mind for as long as I’ve been with him, which is 8 years. it saddens me that he wants that, but I see his point. No casket, no pricey procession, no HUGE deal funeral and all that. I might just agree with him in a few years, I just find it ungodly morbid to think of death and dying at 24 years old.
    Too much money goes into funerals anymore. Your surviving relatives end up biting the short end of the stick after you’re dead and buried in the priciest cemetery in the city, and they’re stuck paying for whatever your life insurance won’t cover because you only had $8000 to cover your funeral, but all you’re expensive “wants” costs them 15K.
    Pathetic selfish yuppies (this is my new favorite word by the way!)

  7. Well cremation doesn’t necessarily exclude the possibility of a casket. I’ve been also reading the blog of a German undertaker (www.bestatterweblog.de for those who are interested). There are a lot of stories where they have a “normal” service in church with casket and everything and then just drive it to the crematory and bury the urn later on in a smaller ceremony.

    He also talks about some of the more unconventional ideas for funeral services like the one time some guy died and his pals from the motorcycle club wanted to escort the casket with their convoy.

    I think in principle it is right to give people the chance to say their goodbyes the way the want to. It’s generally the last thing they can do for or together with their friend or relative. But there are always people who like to take things to the extreme just for the sake of it. And it’s no wonder that there are entrepreneurs who don’t care what someone’s motivation is as long as the money flows…

  8. I just had to quote on this one as I used to work at a funeral home a few years ago.

    Funerals are for the living. That’s something people don’t seem to get. A funeral is there for the living to get closure and celebrate a loved one if they want to. Of course they should respect the wishes of the one who died, if they have any, within reason. The best thing to do is to pre-arrange and pre-pay for what you want. That way there is so much less pressure on your family when the time comes and you get what you want.

    Personally I want to be cremated and made into a Diamond (google LifeGems) :P one way to be worth something dead ;)

    Waiter is right though as a society we don’t want to have to face death, including a loved ones body. It’s not a good thing if it hinders the grieving process.

    Oh boy do I have some stories from that time! Perhaps I should start my own blog with tales from those years..

  9. I have no desire whatsoever to be buried and take up space after I’m dead. Death happens to everyone, and it’s upsetting, but I think the thought of my loved one crammed into a funeral home, a space that has no meaning to any of them, all mourning my loss seems ridiculous.

    I think a funeral should be more of a celebration of life, remembering the good times you had with the person who is gone.

    My grandfather died when I was younger, and in lieu of a funeral, we had a memorial at home, catered with his favorite foods. We made up a book of memories people had with him, and people got up and spoke about him and their memories. It was much nicer than a funeral.

    Of course, we all joke in the family that funerals are the only time we get to see some family members, and we usually end up going out for some meal in honor of whoever died. It helps, I think.

  10. I don’t know. I think there’s something to be said for focusing on the good memories rather than the death. My mom, aunts, and uncles all have said repeatedly that they don’t want a funeral service–they say, just prop a picture of me next to a beer can and have a party.

  11. After observing my husbands family wrangle over the details of a funeral twice in the last decade I have to say, If you love your family and children Pre-Plan your funeral. Pre-pay it with a reputable company too so grieving kids and drama queens don’t have grind over every last detail of the service.

  12. Burial rites have been cashed in on since the Victorian times. Back then, if the relatives of the deceased did not purchase very precise funeral attire from the funeral directors, in addition to very particular housewares and other nonsense, they would be judged badly by the people around them. It calmed down a bit because the out of control funeral expenses would have caused bankruptcy given the death tolls of the two world wars, but now it’s gotten totally ridiculous again. Everyone seems to be trying to make up for not having made a mark on the world or their personal underachievement by planning a stupidly extravagant funeral, as a safety net for having failed to contribute anything interesting to the world. Apparently it’s no longer enough to have been a nice person who protested against nuclear war or who gave their last £10 to the church box when they lost their job.

  13. This is quite a late post.
    Anyways, I found your book, Waiter Rant at a local book store and I started reading it. Really enjoyed it. :)

    I’m actually doing something very different with my body. I’m donating my body to a school. For medical students to use. Not very many people do this anymore, and it’s great for the people who want to get into forensic pathology. I Think it would be so much better than putting myself in the ground or wasting a bunch of money on a funeral service.

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