I read an article this morning on one of the newest things in the funeral industry. Always looking to update things and bring new value to clients, a funeral director in New Orleans recently made headlines when he “posed” Miriam Burbank, deceased at age 53, in a chair at a table with a can of beer at one hand and a cigarette in the other hand. Her friends and family were able to “greet” her in the environment they had become used to seeing her during life and in fact, Miriam “watched” her own service from her seat at the table – sunglasses and all.
This is not the first wake of its kind. Apparently, in Chicago during a funeral service in 1984, a gambler was “seated” behind his casket, driving it as if it were a Cadillac Seville. And there have been several funerals in Puerto Rico; including an ambulance driver who was sitting behind the wheel, a boxer who was “standing” in a mock boxing ring; and several others who have been placed in more “natural” positions – supposedly posed to look like they are carrying on the daily activities that their friends and relatives have become accustomed to seeing. One person, a murder victim, was tethered against the wall, standing throughout the visitation. This whole idea brings a new dimension to the phrase “out of the box!”
Calls from funeral directors across the world are coming into New Orleans to find out more about how to do these creative funerals. Certainly Miriam’s funeral has upped the ante in making sure your funeral is something to talk about. Hundreds of people who didn’t even know her flocked to see her “sitting” with the beer and the cigarette for her own service. What will they think of next?
Funeral directors and others are deeply divided on this increasingly popular way to do funerals. While some of them believe “posing” cadavers is sacrilegious, others maintain that seeing deceased loved ones in more natural settings, outside the casket, provides a more stress free environment for those who are left behind. I imagine there are quite a few pictures being taken for posterity. Personally, I find it a little creepy…
I remember years ago, a young woman died and wanted to be buried in her Porsche. And there are numerous examples of people being buried with their motorcycles or other beloved possessions, but this posing thing is catching on as the new rage. It seems to me, and is confirmed by funeral directors, that people like seeing their loved ones staged in normal positions as a way of pretending the person is still alive – just taking a nap or something. But that’s not the reality, is it?
God created us, back in the Garden of Eden, to commune with Him forever. But after the Fall of Adam and Eve, God devised a way for us to be able to “return” to Him – having been separated by the sin in the Garden. And that method of spending eternity with God started when God allowed the dying process to start. Now it’s true that Adam and Eve didn’t die immediately, but they did begin to die. That’s why we age and become infirm and eventually wind up in heaven with God – assuming we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. After all, that was the mission of Jesus – to die for the sins of everyone so as to create a way for us to spend eternity with Him.
So when I read things about these unusual funeral customs, I can’t help but wonder about the faith of the mourners. It really doesn’t make any difference how people are positioned after death – although I do find it humorous that funeral directors have drawn the line at posing people in bathing suits or in lewd or “immoral” positions. I guess the industry backlash did provide some overall governance of the issue – and by the way, the funeral director in New Orleans did have the blessing of a priest to “pose” his clients.
Without the Spirit, the body is nothing more than a shell. Whether it is buried, or cremated, doesn’t impact the soul and our eternal security in heaven. We are even told that we will have new bodies and we can’t even imagine all that will change in heaven. The verse for this evening is John 14:28-29, “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.”
My encouragement this evening is that when loved ones who have professed a belief in Jesus Christ pass away, they head to heaven. There is no longer a need for a physical body. My prayer is that when the time comes for the Lord to return, or for us to enter heaven, we’ll be too busy rejoicing to worry about whether we are being “posed” for some phony photo op here on earth. And may the Lord grant our loved ones peace and assurance about the future as they mourn the loss of loved ones. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…