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Jacqueline Kennedy once famously wrote that her aim was to be the “art director of the twentieth century.” Little did she know that some of the most enduring images she would help create would come from her husband’s funeral ceremonies after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. These images were so striking that they are etched in people’s minds as vividly today as they were 50 years ago. Those who have only seen photographs—many who weren’t born yet–feel as though they witnessed the proceedings: Black Jack the riderless horse with boots positioned backwards in the stirrups; six white horses pulling the caisson upon which the President’s flag-draped casket rested; John, Jr., donned in blue coat and shorts on his third birthday, saluting his father’s casket on its way to burial.
Mrs. Kennedy wanted to send a clear message to the world that her husband deserved to be remembered. She wanted people to come together to grieve a lost life. Drawing upon her art background, she recognized that people would be more likely to follow a path of healing and remember the President longer if visual images relating to his death stayed with them. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ll avoid the obvious pun, but has anyone else noticed signs that more people are interested in having fun while planning their funerals? Okay, maybe fun is overstating the trend, but instead of avoiding final planning at any cost, it appears that more people are recognizing that death is, in fact, a part of life, and you might as well make the best of it.
Case in point: two professional baseball teams featured “funeral night” at games. Who saw THAT one coming? In both instances, “funeral night” featured drawing the name of a “lucky” fan to receive an all-expenses-paid funeral. The marketing masterminds behind these promotions were undoubtedly interested in drawing attention to their baseball games rather than promote the value of funerals. The interesting thing is that scores of people entered these contests with the sincere hope of winning. The two men who won funerals seemed genuinely grateful to have won something of value.
That’s where we’ve gone wrong in funeral service. We assumed that each generation explained to the next why funerals are important. They didn’t. Most Gen Xers and younger folks will tell you they want to be put in a shoebox while their friends have a blow-out party. They don’t see any value in having a “funeral.”
Back to fun. An Australian funeral home has had great success promoting advanced cremation planning through whimsical ads and billboards showing a naked elderly man sitting on a log by a campfire. The underlying message is that no one should feel uncomfortable with final planning because it’s our opportunity to plan a memorial service that reflects your life, your personality and your character. The same funeral home continues to push boundaries by creating marketing that communicates the reward funerals can offer to the person planning his or her own funeral. I won’t say it’s putting the fun back in funerals so much as putting the celebration back in funerals.
Not a bad concept.
By Mark Allen, OGR Executive Director
You’ve probably heard about the over-the-top funeral that comedienne Joan Rivers described as her ideal funeral in her 2012 book, I Hate Everyone…Starting with Me. She wrote:
I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action … I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don’t want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing ‘Mr. Lonely.’ I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce’s.
And she wasn’t kidding. So how did her real service on Sept. 7 at Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side of New York City stack up against her fantasy funeral?
Pretty well, actually. One attendee told USA Today, “It was like a Broadway show with tons of humor, lots of tears, and ended with a standing ovation.” The celebrity guest list included Howard Stern, who gave the eulogy, Donald Trump, Sarah Jessica Parker, Whoopi Goldberg and Diane Sawyer, to name just a few. Hugh Jackman, Audra McDonald and the New York City Gay Men’s Choir sang during the service. At its conclusion, bagpipers burst out of the temple playing songs for hundreds of fans who yearned to be included in the ceremony in some small way.
Granted, Joan Rivers was not an ordinary person. Read the rest of this entry »