The Traditional Funeral Is on its Death-Bed

There was a recent story in the newspaper that the man who invented throat lozenges, who died.  And the article ended with this line, “Of course, there was no coffin!”

The “no coffin” line is not a laughing matter for funeral homes, as more and more individuals are bypassing the traditional death format (funeral-home viewing, church-building service, cemetery-vault interment) for an immediate cremation and else-while memorial time.

There are three main reasons given for this change:

Cost – In the year 2012 in Ontario, the average traditional funeral ran about $7,500 for services, casket and vault (not including plot, burial and headstone expenses).  By comparison, a no-frills cremation was around $1,750.  Then add in the fact that the place where family and friends meet to remember the person is usually for free or donation (club, hall, auditorium etc.) since often the deceased was associated with that site.

Convenience – There was a day when the town that family and friends grew up in was the same place they  both remained and died; so funeral arrangements could be done immediately and the service held quickly.  But today, family/friends often live at great distances from one another and it’s not easy to rapidly get everyone together.  So it’s a lot less hassle  to cremate the remains now and take time to plan a memorial for later.

Celebration – As society becomes more secular and less spiritual, it is the deceased one’s life, not death, that people want to center their thoughts on.  Funeral homes and church buildings are viewed as symbols of mourning, while legion halls and country clubs are seen as emblems of rejoicing.  There is even a name for an individual (if so desired) who will lead such a gathering. It’s a celebrant, and Huron County even has its own.

All of the above is why in 1970 (just 4% of people chose cremation at death) while in 2012 (over 60% chose to be put in an urn).  It’s also why there is such an increase in celebration service notices over funeral service ones.

And as the full-service funeral has fallen out of favour, so too have traditional church hymns compared to more contemporary secular songs.  The Toronto Star reports that in a 2014 study of 30,000 funerals, pop music was played twice as much as sacred selections.  And the top ten secular songs, in order of popularity, were:

My Way, Time To Say Goodbye, Wind Beneath My Wings, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Angels, You Raise Me Up, You’ll Never Walk Alone, We’ll Meet Again, My Heart Will Go On, and Unforgettable

The bottom line?  I’‘ve often said you can tell a gospel funeral by one simple test – who is the person most talked about.  If it’s the deceased, then you most likely are not at a gospel gathering.  If it’s the Lord, then you  most likely are.  And it is important to have the latter, for as Solomon so wisely put it in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4,

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to heart…for the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.