From working in an industry that fears death to one that embraces it
March 13, 2014 9:27 AM   Subscribe

What do you get when your funeral director is a former women's magazine writer who describes herself as "a Kundalini-yoga-practicing Buddhist Presbyterian on the board of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue"? It's Amy Cunningham's blog The Inspired Funeral, chronicling trends, products, history, music and ideas related to all sorts of grieving traditions. (From this NYT article about boomers gravitating towards greener burials and funerals.)

Some highlights:
Famous funerals:
Five-minute montage of Sir Winston Churchill's funeral, in 1965.
Travis Tritt at George Jones' funeral, at the Opry
Lee Strasberg eulogizes Marilyn Monroe

Biodegradable wool caskets
Buckley's Urn, a beautiful handcrafted piece for a dog that incorporates a favorite piece of driftwood
Burial shrouds, plain and fancy

Good Funeral Music (and many versions of each):
Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do?"
A mammoth hymn of faith and contentment: "It Is Well With My Soul"
Tchaikovsky's "Andante Cantabile"
From the 1960s: "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?"

Outside the funeral home:
An Unforgettable Home Funeral (for a stillborn baby)
The Home-Decorated Cremation Box
posted by Madamina (15 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Very interesting!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:32 AM on March 13, 2014

Just put me in a trash bag and leave me out on the curb.
posted by briank at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Can't wait to read all of these links.

I did my thesis on the innovation of memorials for people who died of AIDS-related causes. It focused specifically on memorials among people who had no biological family (and traditions) to mourn them (due to nullification/abandonment) and the newly fabricated or assembled memorials given by their chosen families. It's become so much more common in the last 3 decades to have a celebration of life/memorial celebration/party, but this was not the case in most places (New Orleans traditions aside) at that time.

Also, losing someone in their 20's was such a shock prior to AIDS. It was usually either a terrible accident or a rare disease. When it became less rare, so that some people were attending a memorial every weekend and deaths were expected, even "good" and "wished for" for someone in their 20's or 30's, memorial services took on so many other tones. While some were certainly still somber and spiritual, others were completely irreverent and quite fun.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:51 AM on March 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Cool. I love this kind of stuff.

My favorite funeral is probably Edward Abbey's. His friends took his body from the hospital, absconded with it to the desert where they put him in his favorite sleeping bag and buried him, then proceeded to have a bonfire and drink a bunch of whiskey. Pretty much the ideal situation. Not legal, unfortunately.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:11 AM on March 13, 2014

We threw my husband's lover over a cliff (long story). My husband will be going over the same cliff if I outlive him. If he outlives me, I'm going over the cliff. It's a really nice cliff.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:23 AM on March 13, 2014 [12 favorites]

I strongly suggest, if this is something that interests you, to check out the death episode of The Moaning of Life with Karl Pilkington. It is incredibly fascinating.

Some preview clips:
posted by ruthsarian at 10:58 AM on March 13, 2014

We threw my husband's lover over a cliff (long story). My husband will be going over the same cliff if I outlive him. If he outlives me, I'm going over the cliff. It's a really nice cliff.

If he outlives you, who is throwing him over the cliff?
posted by sweetkid at 11:23 AM on March 13, 2014

Really? $1600 for a shroud? It must be hand-woven from the pubic hair of angels and dyed with unicorn tears.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2014

Came for coldchef tag, was not disappointed.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:48 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

My heart (when I am done using it) belongs to Caitlin.

I was going to add that I mean that in a non-creepy way, but that's not actually remotely true. I do however mean it in a fan-but-not-a-stalker sort of way.
posted by Lou Stuells at 12:46 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is timely; I just watched Departures. As for New Orleans rituals, I want my ashes to go in the St. Anne parade.
posted by Anitanola at 2:51 PM on March 13, 2014

I... sophie's post had me in tears.

I had been to over 250 HIV-related funerals/memorials by the time I could no longer count. I have been the sole mourner at more than two dozen - because the deceased were abandoned by their bio family and the rest of their chosen family had all ready died, or were too ill to attend. All by the time I was 34 years old. The multi-anti-retroviral cocktail did not arrive early enough.

I say Kaddish every week of the year but three.
posted by Dreidl at 12:26 AM on March 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh yeah, one other thing - whatever age you are, plan your damn disposition. Funerals are for those who are still alive, but the body has to go somewhere. This costs serious money, and no, the city/county/state won't just take care of it if they can stick someone else with the bill.

I joined a synagogue to insure I would have somewhere to be put, where my friends would know where to look.
posted by Dreidl at 12:46 AM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dreidl - I am so sorry. I know I lost count around 1994. I still have a large file of memorial books that I save...for something or another. I guess just to go through every so often to remember all of my friends.

May every one of their memories be a blessing to you Dreidl.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:37 AM on March 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hey Sophie, about that long story: if you're willing to share it, I've got the time...
posted by Madamina at 10:32 AM on March 14, 2014

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