It seems I’ve been attending a lot of funerals lately. I’ve noticed they seem to come in spurts. For some reason, the fourth quarter seems to be the busiest season for me. Maybe there is something in the water after all. I don’t wish to make lite of funerals as it is an uncomfortable subject for people to discuss and something we don’t really like to attend, but I’ve noticed some subtle changes occurring in funerals recently.

At funerals, it used to be, bereaved family and friends would gather and try to console each other. A member of the clergy would say a few words from their book of faith, and someone would deliver a eulogy, either a relative or a close family friend. As a Freemason, I have attended several funerals where I’ve been asked to say a few words on behalf of the dearly departed’s fraternity, which is usually quite somber. Sometimes there is a wake afterwards featuring refreshments, sometimes there isn’t.

As I sat through the latest round of funerals recently I started to notice some changes. Yes, the family is still filled with sorrow, but there is more of a festive atmosphere to the occasion. In fact, the ceremonies looked as well rehearsed and choreographed as what you typically find at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah. For example, the immediate family now marches in procession down the middle aisle to the front of the room, usually with a soloist singing some operatic piece accompanied by a pianist. Had I closed my eyes, I could have easily imagined I was at a church wedding.

Members of the clergy still offer words of comfort, but I notice they are now more apt to sing a song as well. Music plays a much more significant role nowadays and it is not necessarily solemn or religious tunes anymore. As the family wants to celebrate the life of the dearly departed, it is not uncommon to hear more contemporary tunes which strikes me as unusual, even Broadway show tunes (e.g., “Bali Ha’i”). I’ll know it’s really getting weird when I finally hear “Whip It” by Devo. At my service, I hope somebody remembers “House Burning Down” by Jimi Hendrix.

Eulogies are still a natural part of the service, but they are now very well scripted and rehearsed. I’ve discovered there are a lot of resources on the Internet for writing eulogies and I’m told some people will write one for you, for a price.

Perhaps the centerpiece of the funeral service experience is a MS PowerPoint slide show featuring touching photos of the deceased along with quotations and various other trivialities about the person. Such a presentation used to be nothing more than a curiosity for playback on laptops. However, now it is professionally produced and broadcast on big screens. I can’t wait for them to develop a “Sensaround” version.

Instead of cold cuts and whatever else the family could offer to drink, wakes are turning into lavish affairs with caterers, servers, and bartenders all being paid big bucks, not to mention hotels, restaurants, and other establishments who now host such affairs. To me, it’s a little scary when a funeral reception can become more opulent than your wedding reception.

It’s interesting to see a cottage industry springing up around funerals. “Funeral planners” are becoming as intricate to funerals as “wedding planners” are to weddings. Funeral homes are none too happy about this as they believed they had a monopoly on the business.

As for me, when I’m gone, keep it short and simple and split up anything left over. I don’t need a lavish funeral. I wasn’t exactly a head of state.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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