I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and I have feared no evil. After attending and writing about 30 funerals and memorial services in 30 days, I have made it through to the other side. It has been a journey of tears and laughter, of rituals and symbols, of love and loss.
This was the third year doing my 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge. As in years past, my goals were three-fold:
- Illustrate the many creative ways people celebrate the lives of those they love.
- Help reduce a fear of talking about death – something that will happen to all of us.
- Show that funerals are a life cycle event much like a wedding, best planned more than a few days ahead of time.
There were so many creative, personalized ways people celebrated the lives of those they love. Some of this year’s services that were especially memorable include:
- The motorcycle funeral for Freddie Drake
- The Albuquerque Art Museum memorial service for Ernest Garcia
- The home funeral and burial for Kent Gormley
- The memorial service for Charles and Claire Fenolio, who died within 20 hours of each other
- The webcast of the funeral of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, seen in Unification Churches around the world
One of the memorial services focused on the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. September 9 was National Pet Memorial Day, when I wrote about pet funerals in honor of my cat Caesar who disappeared on September 7. Outside of those two non-specific memorial events, here are the statistics:
- The services honored 20 men and 10 women
- There were 11 funerals with the body present and 22 services with cremated remains
- One funeral was followed by cremation and a rental casket was used
- One funeral took place in Mexico and the service in Albuquerque was a memorial service
- One funeral was webcast around the world from Korea
- Religions for the services included Catholic, Anglican, Latter Day Saints (Mormon), Unitarian Universalist, Seventh Day Adventist, Jewish, Evangelical Christian, Church of Christ, Buddhist and Unification Church
- The youngest was 15, Connor Porter who died in an airplane crash, the oldest was 92, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, from pneumonia complications
- Causes of death: cancer (8), age-related illnesses (8), organ failure (4), accidents (3), Alzheimers (3), heart attack (2), and suicide (2)
- Out of the 30 events covered, only about six people had planned their funerals in advance – four were women
A few other things I observed:
- As technology becomes more integrated into services with music and video tributes, funeral homes and their clients need to coordinate on AV formatting. At several services there were glitches due to incompatible media.
- QR codes on prayer cards and memorial folders offer an innovative way for family and friends to access tribute videos outside the memorial service through smart phone technology and YouTube.
- Memorial services are taking place in settings other than funeral homes, cemeteries and houses of worship: assisted living facilities, nursing homes and at private homes – wherever the deceased or their close family members live(d).
- In some cases, obituaries in the newspaper are as short as possible, directing readers to the funeral home’s website for service information and more about the person. This is utilized to save money on the per-line fees the newspaper charges.
- Some obituaries indicate there will be no service, or the service is listed as a private event. Perhaps that’s to keep folks like me from crashing the party.
It has been an awesome trip. My thanks to the families who allowed me to cover the services for their loved ones. I hope these stories will help them remember and continue to celebrate the lives they lived.
If you missed last week’s story about the 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge in the Albuquerque Journal, you can read Leslie Linthicum’s column online. Many thanks to Leslie for her great story.
I will be glad to reclaim the three to four hours a day it took to attend and write about all of these stories. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you challenge yourself and put yourself to the test.