Last week, I was doing a story on funeral homes and the various services they offer. As you can surmise, it was not my most uplifting piece, but hey, death happens to everyone, so you might as well know your options. I have to admit that I learned a great deal doing the research for this article—including the fact that death has become the latest victim in the need for convenience for those who live the suburban lifestyle.
What gave one of my editors the idea for this article was a story her sister told her about a funeral she attended in California or Nevada, somewhere out west. As she entered the chapel of the funeral home, she noticed that it was an open casket, and the deceased’s head was raised in the casket, so it looked as if he was sitting up. Behind the casket was a window. She thought it an odd place for a window until one of her fellow mourners informed her that it was a drive-thru. Yep, people were driving up, signing a guest book, bowing their heads in respect for a moment, and taking off to get to the dry cleaners before they closed.
Now, I understand that we are all busy, and I also get that many of us hate to get out of our cars unless it is absolutely necessary, but is a wake or funeral really the event to bring together our desire for speedy service with our distaste for parking our cars and walking into a building? If this is a trend, I think funeral homes should take it one step further and incorporate fast food franchises into their services. People can drive up, order a happy meal, and salute the departed in one quick stop before heading back to their normal routines.
I have to say that I was put off by the drive-thru funeral. Come on, if you can’t take your foot off the gas pedal to say your goodbyes to someone, you have to wonder if that person was really that important to you. I guess I shouldn’t judge. There are probably good reasons for drive-thru wakes. Maybe you have a cold and don’t want to pass it around; maybe the deceased’s family and you never got along and violence might occur if you are all in the same room together; or maybe you are just going to the wake to make sure the person is dead so you can make a low-ball offer on his house, or perhaps, his spouse. I guess those could be legitimate reasons.
I was reminded of this funeral story again over the weekend as I passed by a local funeral home or rather the new PC term, “life affirmation center” or “life celebration center.” Yep, no longer do we mourn those who passed; now we don party hats and have theme wake services. This is true. I interviewed a family who put Dear Departed Dad in a Santa suit while the rest of his kin dressed up as elves. Why? Because the guy loved Christmas!
Anyway, outside the Life Celebration Center, I saw the hearse sitting in front of the building. It wasn’t the usual big, black, station wagon that screams “Dead body on board” hearse. No, it was a light silver customized Chrysler minivan that looked just like the ones you would see at soccer practice.
This pisses me off. My last ride on this earth is NOT going to be in the back of a freaking minivan. That is such a suburban way to go, and I am not a big fan of suburbia. I am a city lover, but I have tolerated the suburban existence because, let’s face it, if you have kids and big dogs, it’s the easiest place to live. .
I admit I even owned a minivan. I fought it for years, but I got tired of being the social pariah of the parents’ carpool, and since I was the only mother who worked from home, I needed the extra passenger space to schlep everyone’s kids around. But I vowed to myself that once my chauffer days were done, a minivan would never sit in my driveway again.
As soon as my daughter hit high school and got her own license, I dumped that minivan, and I have not experienced a single regret. So, I am saying loudly and for the record that I will not spend my last moments in this world in the back of that light silver Chrysler Town & Country.
Since we are on this topic, and I am telling you what I don’t want, I guess I should tell you what I do want, in case my family gets bullied into the traditional funeral options. I want to be strapped to the top of a corvette or that cute little two-seater that BMW makes. I know it might be tough to fit a casket on those small cars, so I am willing to go au natural, which in this case means without the coffin—or without clothes. Just tie me to the top of the roof. I guarantee that there will be no traffic slowing down my funeral. Once other drivers on the road realize that what they see is not a dead deer on top of that car, I am pretty sure they will swerve out of the way to avoid my procession—if there is a procession.
Note: they do have rent-a-mourner companies now, so if anyone thinks that the turnout for my goodbye is going to be an embarrassment, I will have money put aside so you can hire a few faux weepers. You don’t have to get the expensive “wow, look at those people wailing!” package. I don’t need that …just a few people emitting sighs of anguish would do.
Anyway, back to my procession. It occurs to me that strapping me to the top of the car might violate some abuse of corpse laws. So, to avoid being pulled over, which might be uncomfortable for whoever is driving me around, maybe I can be strapped into the passenger seat of a spiffy convertible, and the driver can put the top down. That would be a pretty good last earthly ride for me. I could live with that—so to speak.