Funerals, Death and the Positive Spin – Is Mainstream Funeral Culture a Good Thing?

We wrote about Thomas Lynch and the PBS documentary that came out of his writings in a previous post. We discussed the idea of becoming desensitized to death and hearses as a result of disconnecting ourselves from deceased loved ones in many ways. Today, I ask this question: Do people that search and buy hearses for sale for everyday use change our perception of death?

In some ways, people that buy funeral cars and hearses for sale for their own personal adventures can have an impact on our culture’s view of death. There was a time when the sight of a hearse would cause people to take a step back out of respect for the dead. People would pull over to the side of the road when they saw a procession of funeral cars. But that’s not the case today. It happens, but it’s much rarer than it used to be.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying people shouldn’t have the right to go to their local dealer and buy hearses for sale. These are great cars with a large amount of storage capacity. But do they desensitize us to the idea of death when we see people joyriding around in them? Maybe in some ways it’s a good thing to become desensitized to death as long as we still remember to respect both the living and the deceased.

And I’m not the only one.

In an interview, Thomas Lynch stated he, too, saw a change in the public attitude towards death.  “I think we’re among the first couplegenerations for whom the presence of the dead at their funerals has become optional, and I see that as probably not good news for the culture at large.” In the interview he says, “Sometime in the mid-60s, probably having a lot to do with Jessica Mitford’s book [The American Way of Death] and a lot to do with other social factors, there was sort of the triumphalist American sense that we didn’t have to deal with any discomforts. We saw people start organizing these commemorative events to which everyone was invited but the dead guy. The finger food was good, the talk was uplifting, the music was life-affirming; someone, usually the reverend clergy, could be counted on to declare closure, usually just before the Merlot ran out, and everyone was there but the one who had died.”

Lynch is, of course, absolutely correct. There has certainly been an increase in memorials that are touted as “Celebrations of Life” as opposed to traditional, somber funerals. Lynch states “And we come away from these memorial events, these celebrations of life, with the increasing sense that something is missing. And something is. What is missing is the corpse: the thing itself, not the idea of the thing.”

Is putting a positive spin on funerals a good thing?  Should we normalize hearses as simply just another vehicle on the secondhand market?  Should those cars and other funeral equipment or accessories be used for decoration or entertainment?  Is mainstream Funeral Culture a good thing?  Does it bring us closer to coping with death or simply work to disguise it?  Let us know your thoughts about death, hearses and anything else you have on your mind.