Reflections on the 30 Funerals Challenge

Nov 29, 2010 | 7 comments

30 Funerals in 30 Days 2010 Conclusion

My 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge has come to a close. As the Grateful Dead song goes, what a long strange trip it’s been. Here are a few statistics about the 30 events:

The funeral for the oldest person was a 98-year-old woman; the youngest was a 24-year-old man.

I attended events for 16 males and 14 females.

Twelve of the events were funerals with the body present, 18 were memorial services with cremated remains or no body.

Of the places the events were held, 13 were at a house of worship, nine were at a funeral home, and eight were held in other settings, including two at graveside, two in community centers, one at a museum, one at a retreat center, and one at an American Legion hall.

Twelve of the events were celebrations of life which had no religious references or some religion but not a religious service. The religious services included Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, and Latter-Day Saints (Mormon).

I missed the one Jewish funeral that took place in town during the 30 Day Challenge because I was speaking to a group on funeral planning for those who don’t plan to die at the same time.

Some thoughts about what I witnessed:

The funeral really is for the family and friends closest to the person who died, to offer support to those who grieve. Whether it was a gathering of two dozen people or eight hundred, every event was an opportunity for the community to show their care and express condolences.

Funeral favors are a growing trend. In addition to a file of programs, I collected four rubber wrist bands, one bubble blowing vial, a recipe for lemon meringue pie, a DVD of a musical performance, and a prayer of Mother Teresa.

“Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art” were popular selections at the religious events. I got pretty good at singing them – not bad for a Jewish girl.

The funerals and memorial services covered were picked out of news and classified obituaries that announced the time and date of each event – they were all open to the public. There was one event that I wanted to attend that was held in a private home, but when I called to ask permission to attend and cover, the people there said no. Events were selected based on interesting elements in the obituaries, obtaining a good mix of religions and creative celebrations, trying to keep the male/female ratio even, and whatever event would fit into my schedule that day.

While this was a very worthwhile endeavor, I’ll be glad to reclaim the three hours a day it took to attend and write about each event. I’ll continue to read the obits and cover outstanding funerals or memorial services as they arise.

One thing is for sure: there is no shortage of people dying every day. Thank you for tuning in, and please keep coming back for other great adventures at The Family Plot Blog!

A Good Goodbye