With a quick Google search for “nontraditional funerals,” you’re likely to see images from an actual funeral of blaster-toting Imperial Stormtroopers from “Star Wars” marching dutifully behind a horse-drawn, glass-encased carriage with a casket inside, followed by a procession of ordinarily dressed mourners.
It is not as if there is some massive trend toward outlandish funeral ceremonies where all things traditional are eschewed. But if the deceased happened to be a fan of George Lucas’ classic space saga, then why not honor that ardent support with an appearance by troops from the galactic empire?
Online news reports discuss recent surveys of younger Americans under 35 as well as Baby Boomers who are fully onboard with the idea of funerals as upbeat celebrations, complete with music, food and even alcohol. If the point of a funeral is to honor the life of the deceased, then any display, ritual or format – if done with heartfelt love and respect – is fair game.
Nontraditional Answers Nonreligious
Funerals need not have a religious component to honor the personality, interests and contributions of the deceased.
In surveys conducted in recent years by the National Funeral Directors Association, the decline in Americans who identify as religious has played a part in the rise of funerals that are not traditional, if traditional is defined as religious. A December 2015 story in The Washington Post reported that NFDA surveys conducted over the preceding three years found that the percentage of Americans 40 and older who thought that it was “not at all important” to include a religious component in the funeral of a loved one increased from 10 percent to 21 percent.
In addition, the increase in Americans who don’t identify as religious has played a role in the number of people who choose cremation over burial. In fact, the number of cremations surpassed the number of burials for the first time in 2015. While cremation is sometimes chosen simply because it is a more affordable option, some choose it because they view burial as too closely associated with religiosity.
Respectful Doesn’t Have To Be Solemn
In a nation steeped in Judeo-Christian values and customs, traditional funeral services have typically included a solemn recitation of scripture, the singing of hymns and a sermon or words of encouragement from a rabbi, priest or pastor. And for those who aren’t religious, a similar solemn service featuring eulogies, nonreligious music and readings, and moments of silence also has been the norm. While traditionally solemn services will always be appropriate, adding light-hearted touches to celebrate some aspect of the life of the deceased has gained acceptance.
Such nontraditional tributes to the life of the deceased might include special musical selections – from jazz to classic rock – either from recorded tracks or a live performance by friends of the deceased. If the deceased was an artist, his artwork might be displayed to fill the room where the service takes place. If the deceased was a member of a motorcycle club, then the members of the club might park their bikes all together at the service or take a memorial ride as a salute.
Officiants Don’t Have To Be Official
As with modern weddings, funerals need not be officiated by ordained religious leaders. If they’re up for it, a family member or close friend of the deceased can shoulder the responsibility of guiding the service to bring an air of familiarity to the proceedings.
It’s Easy Being Green
For the environmentally conscious, green funerals go the extra mile in ensuring that the things used to bury the deceased won’t harm the planet, including the decision not to embalm or using formaldehyde-free products to embalm. Families also can choose to bury their loved ones in biodegradable clothing and in a biodegradable shroud or casket.
Funeral Services in Unusual Places
In a 2017 story from Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, the family of a deceased 46-year-old woman learned that they did not have to release her body to a funeral home to be prepared for cremation, but that they would be allowed to care for her body in their home until the cremation. They chose to bring her body home and personally dress her in her favorite clothes and do her hair and nails. The family reported that having the visitation at home lessened the shock of her death in the cold environment of a hospital and was a “beautiful way to process the loss.”
In addition to a service in the home, some people choose to hold services at a place that was meaningful to the deceased, such as a bowling alley, beach or on a university campus, or at the deceased’s civic club, lodge or nursing home/long-term care facility.
No Service at All
Sometimes the wish of the deceased is that no funeral arrangements be made. Known as immediate or direct disposition, this is a request for cremation with no ceremony, although a scattering of ashes or other memorial service could always be arranged at a later date. Such no-frills funerals have gained popularity in the United Kingdom, according to that nation’s largest funeral provider, because of their affordability.
In an online blog about nontraditional funerals from 2017, a blogger discussed a different aspect of the no-frills funeral – namely, a request from the deceased that no recognition be made of his passing. The blogger discussed how one of his family members had made such a request. The request did not appear to be tied to affordability, but based on a desire to simply bow out of life with no fanfare. This puzzled the blogger, who though a service would have been an opportunity to find out more about the life of his lost loved one and would have provided closure for the entire family. In cases such as this, respecting the wishes of the deceased can leave family and friends wondering why this type of directive would be made.
Even so, nothing can stop family and friends from sharing fond memories of their lost loved one thereafter.
For more ideas on nontraditional funerals, call Bevis Funeral Home today at (850) 385-2193.