Funerals are starting to look very different. An article in the Washington Post predicts that “the funeral as we know it is becoming a relic.” Many of our time-honored rituals are being set aside.
One of the first books I wrote was on the subject of death and dying. I noted then that we were a death-denying culture. The elderly used to die in our homes, but now we’re dying in hospitals and care facilities. And we tried to cover the reality of death with euphemisms like “he passed on” or “she is in a better place.”
Four decades later we see that our secular society is changing the rules about dying. Americans are less likely to spend as much money on somber, embalmed-body funerals. Cost is part of the reason, which may also explain why more than half of all American deaths lead to cremations. That is nearly double the percentage less than two decades ago.
Some of the changes in funerals parallel other changes in major life events. There are more destination weddings than just a few decades ago. Some of the gender-reveal celebrations are becoming theatrical productions. So we shouldn’t be surprised that some funerals look more like retirement parties or even birthday parties.
Concern about the environment probably explains why many are opting for green funerals. The body is placed in a biodegradable coffin or shroud. One state has approved legislation that allows for human composting. There are even businesses to turn one’s ashes into vinyl or jewelry.
Each generation tries to make its peace with the inevitability of death, and we are seeing new trends in that regard. As Christians, we can take comfort that we will be raised from the dead just as Christ was raised from the dead. And we know that death will be the final enemy to be destroyed.