TGB reader Christi Fries sent a link to a Washington Post feature about how funerals are changing. Although there is discussion of green funerals and alternative burial choices, I've written about those at some length and will again at some point.
What I was most interested in is the information on how funeral rituals are changing.
”...end-of-life ceremonies are being personalized,” writes reporter Karen Heller, “golf-course cocktail send-offs, backyard potluck memorials, more Sinatra and Clapton, less Ave Maria, more Hawaiian shirts, fewer dark suits. Families want to put the 'fun' in funerals.”
”Funeral homes have hired event planners, remodeled drab parlors to include dance floors and lounge areas, acquired liquor licenses to replace the traditional vat of industrial-strength coffee.
Katrina Spade of Recompose in Seattle, "considers herself part of the 'alternative death-care movement'”:
"Spade questions why death should be a one-event moment, rather than an opportunity to create an enduring tradition, a deathday, to honor the deceased: 'I want to force my family to choose a ritual that they do every year.'"
One interviewee wants her “'personal possessions...auctioned off,' the proceeds benefiting a children’s charity. Why can’t a memorial serve as a fundraiser?”
So: Put the fun in funerals, event planners, force my family.
Certainly everyone should celebrate their life passages and those of loved ones any way they want but the lengths many Americans go to deny and ignore the monumental nature of death and its sorrows appears to grow year by year.
At about the same time I received this WaPo story from Christi, I ran across a TED video from a man named Bob Stein. At age 71, he had been searching for a way to mark the passage into old age.
He settled on a ritual of giving away his stuff (he confesses to having 250 boxes of it collected through his lifetime!), wanting to make the observance “less about dying and more about opening a door to whatever comes next.”
Here is Stein's six-minute video:
As I wrote in these pages a few years ago,
”The big rituals of life – you know, religious, social, community, rites of passage, family, even some political events - serve to initiate, transform or reaffirm the philosophies and values by which we live.”
As years come and go, and the care and feeding of our culture passes to the next generations, old rituals may not apply comfortably anymore. I, as a member of the oldest generation, may feel a bit queasy at “putting the fun in funerals” and “end-of-life event planners” but that doesn't mean they are wrong for a different world than I have lived through.
None of this means that I haven't found need for a new ritual or two. Way back in 2006, I created a rite of passage for myself: signing up for Social Security. I turned what might otherwise have been a boring chore in a drab government office into a celebration of my official entry into old age. You can read it here.
What rituals do you observe?