Monday, January 30, 2012

Detroit Funeral Directors Provide Inspiration

Funeral directors have a unique view on our communities and many insights to share.  I take my black homburg hat off to these Detroit area funeral directors for coming together to protest the violence that leads to the death of so many young people.  If we wish to have their services and profession respected, we could take a lesson from Detroit.  If you are the expert on death in your community, get involved and share that expertise.   

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Space Constraints in Urban Asia Prompt a Shift in Ritual and Memorialization

Lily Kong, a geographer at the National University of Singapore, describes how commemorative practices in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China have changed in response to shrinking amounts of physical space for the dead. These shifts — from earthly graves to cremation, and now to scattered ashes and even online memorials — mark a graduation from "spatial competition to spatial compression and then to spatial transcendence," -The Challenges of Burying The Dead in Urban Asia, The Atlantic Cities, Eric Jaffe
What is evident from existing studies is that death practices and deathscapes have evolved over time in a number of Asian cities. ... As a consequence, sacred space and sacred time have been reconceptualised and rituals have been (re)invented to suit conditions of modernity while addressing abiding belief systems. -Urban Studies, Lily Kong
This change in rituals, moving  from the physical to the virtual through the use of memorial websites vividly demonstrates both the need for ritual and the ways that traditions adapt to new circumstances.  Visit Atlantic Cities for Mr. Jaffee's full piece, and if you have access to Sage Journals, please take a look at Ms. Kong's Article. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Everything You Wanted to Know; More Reasons to Go

In a previous post I mentioned some of the exciting events on hand at Death: Southbank Centre's Festival for the Living   which runs from January 27th through the 29th at the Southbank Centre in London.  As the festival approaches, I've heard that some of the most important voices involved in the transformation of contemporary funerals will be sharing their thoughts and work at the festival as well.

Charles Cowling, author of The Good Funeral Guide and writer of the Good Funeral Guide Blog  offers regular commentary on funeral issues with wisdom, passion, and humor.  He will speak as part of a panel of funeral professionals on the occasion of the anniversary of the death of Joshua Edmonds.

Jane Harris (center left), mother of Joshua, and her son Joe (far right), will join Charles and show a trailer of Remembering Josh,  a very important film that deals with the loss of  her son, and the moving memorial service the family created mark his passing.  The film is also the subject of a recent Daily Undertaker interview.

This event, 'Everything you wanted to know about funerals (but were afraid to ask)' will be held from 3-4pm at the Front Room of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank Centre in London on Saturday, January 28th,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sorrow for the lost 'Poe Toaster': No cognac, roses left at grave

For the third year in a row, the “Poe Toaster” -- who regularly marked the birth of Edgar Allan Poe with a tribute of three roses and cognac -- failed to make the  nocturnal trip to the writer’s original grave in Baltimore, thus apparently ending a tradition that lasted more than half a century.
-from LATimes

Charleston mortician, car buff restores rare 1959 Cadillac hearse

Rev. Marvin Pasley, funeral director at Pasley’s Mortuary west of the Ashley, shows off a classic 1959 Cadillac hearse acquired five years ago and recently restored. The mortuary has employed the rare hearse in a few burials.

Visit the Post and Courier for the full story and more photos

Varanasi Ghats

Sunrise boat cruise offers views of open air cremations in Varanasi
View more photos and read the article by Jim Luce on Daily Kos

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art"

"Pot with Skulls," a vase by artist Juan Jorge Wilmot Mason is shown at the Dallas Museum of Art. The piece was among 500 objects by 175 living artists featured in "Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art". -ArtDailyNews

Friday, January 13, 2012

Death: Southbank Centre's Festival for the Living

"The Ultimate Equalizer, The Grim Reaper, The Blessed Release. One thing is certain - we all have death in common and this January we defy taboos and take a look at this unknowable certainty from many angles."
Through a multitude of  performances, workshops, installations, and talking with everyone from philosophers to funeral workers, This festival examines our attitudes towards death and why we are so reticent to talk about it.  The festival runs from January 27th through the 29th at the Southbank Centre in London.  
Here are just a few of the many events and exhibitions featured in the festival:

'Boxed: Fabulous Coffins from UK and Ghana' collects bizarre bespoke coffins from the famous Paa Joe workshop in Ghana, and Crazy Coffins in Nottingham.

Before I die....What's the one thing you'll do before you die?  This free event allows attendees to share their new year's resolutions, pledges and life-long dreams and on a giant chalkboard as part of an ongoing international participatory project by artist Candy Chang.

An Instinct for Kindness:   In November 2010, Chris Larner accompanied his chronically ill ex-wife to Switzerland's Dignitas clinic. He came home with an empty wheelchair and a story to tell. This moving, bittersweet show reflects on the circumstances, morality and humanity surrounding the journey. In a candid, poignant and sometimes comic performance, Chris explores both the profound personal implications and the wider ethical considerations of the contentious issue of assisted dying.

From Blue to Joy- The New Orleans Funeral: Drawing influence from New Orleans funeral parades, the Mexican Day of the Dead and other rituals, over 100 young people from Kids Company process across the site with a specially decorated coffin, accompanied by Abram Wilson and band, culminating at The Clore Ballroom at 5pm with a speech and a party.
The National Death Centre Salon: The Natural Death Centre run salons on subjects as diverse as funeral pyres and funeral choices in the 21st century, to the advantages of green burial.  The charity was founded 20 years ago to inform and empower the public in all death related issues, a taboo area steeped in myth and misconception.
For more information about this very interesting festival, visit the Southbank Centre site

Record number of unclaimed dead in Oregon last year

 Erin Phelps of Omega Cremation & Burial Service in Portland looks over boxes of remains of unclaimed bodies

Funeral providers say a lack of state oversight and possible misuse contributed to a nearly 30 percent spike in the number of Oregonians cremated last year through the Indigent Burial Fund

The state offset the cremation costs for a record 358 people, about 1 percent of the estimated 31,000 people who died in Oregon in 2011. The fund paid for 278 cremations in 2010. 

The weak economy did contribute to the increased demand on the fund, said Tim Lancaster, president of the Oregon Funeral Directors Association. But a bigger factor is families who refuse to pay for dispositions because they believe the state will pay the bill. 

Read the full story at The Oregonian

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Upright Casket Created for Late Wanga King

"According to Wanga customs, kings are buried while seated, wrapped in animal skin with a stool, the symbol power, placed on their head.  Wambani’s burial will be done in the modern way but still uphold the tradition.The coffin that will be used to bury the king has been built like a chair to comply with the tradition."
for the full story, visit The Daily Nation

"Going to the Funeral is not enough"

"My point here is this …. I didn’t just attend the funerals. These men are thought and spoke of often in my house. They are not forgotten!"

"What happens after the funeral? Who looks after the family and loved ones left behind? If you simply attend the services to let everyone see you were there and think you’ve done your duty …YOU’RE WRONG.....
....Randy  knew or worked with or  for neither of these men yet he understood why we were there, doing what we were doing. At least I hope he understood.  He has heard us tell the stories and talk about these members ( and others ). In Rhett’s article, he spoke of  ”paying his respects” … Randy paid his today and it wasn’t by going to the funerals.  Could this be how at least part of  ”The Brotherhood”  is passed along? I think it is.
These men were a part of our Department, our “family”, OUR “Brotherhood” . They are a part of our history … our traditions…. the subjects of great stories,  unbelievable acts and even some good firehouse pranks.
You don’t “owe” it to them to go to the funeral or to even remember their names and stories …. THEY’VE EARNED IT !"
-Captain Wines, IronFiremen

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Snowdrop In Her Glass Coffin

"We Cannot lay her in the dark earth"
said the dwarfs and so they had a transparent glass coffin made
 so that she could be seen from every side
Laid her in it and wrote on it her name and that she was a king's daughter
Then they carried the coffin into the wood and some of them always watched her
And the birds also came and bewailed Snowdrop
First and owl then a raven and lastly a dove
So Snowdrop lay a long long time in her coffin 
looking as thought she were asleep

Enameled Gold Mourning Ring on 'The Ornamented Being'

This enamelled gold mourning ring commemorates the death of Samuel Nicholets of Hertfordshire who died on 7th July 1661, as is recorded in the inscription inside the ring. The ring is hollow, and a lock of hair curls around within it, visible through the openwork of the enamelled decoration of skulls and coats of arms.”
visit The Ornamented Being
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Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization.


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