Sitting Up the Deceased at Visitations

Jun 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Miriam Burbank at her visitation.

Miriam Burbank at her visitation.

It was front page news in the Sunday New York Times: A funeral home in New Orleans posed a dead woman as she was often seen in life – sitting at a table, a cigarette in one hand, a beer near the other. My husband was surprised I already knew about funeral homes arranging the deceased in “natural” positions for visitations. He should know better – I’m the Doyenne of Death®!

The article was titled “Rite of the Sitting Dead: Funeral Poses Mimic Life” by Campbell Robertson and Frances Robles. Not only did they write about Miriam Burbank’s unique visitation arrangements, they covered other notable poses from recent years: the motorcyclist buried astride his Harley and the viewing for a boxer in San Juan, P.R. who was propped up in a faux boxing ring. From the article:

The phenomenon first appeared in Puerto Rico in 2008, four years before the first such funeral in New Orleans, with a 24-year-old murder victim whose viewing took place in his family’s living room, the body tethered against a wall. Angel Luis Pantojas’s funeral — called “muerto parao,” dead man standing — became an instant sensation.

Another murder victim, on a motorcycle, followed, along with the paramedic and the man dressed like [Che] Guevara. This year, a boxer’s body was arranged standing in a ring, and an elderly woman was propped up in her rocking chair.

The same funeral director, of the Marín Funeral Home in San Juan, arranged all of these.

“It’s been a real boom in Puerto Rico,” said Elsie Rodríguez, vice president of the funeral home. “People have requested every type of funeral that could possibly come to mind. We have only done six so far, because the people who have requested the funerals have not died yet.”

Steelers fan in loungerThe story didn’t mention the Pittsburgh Steelers fan who was placed in his favorite recliner in front of a TV playing video of Steelers football games. I understand this was put together by a funeral home in Alabama.

In ages past, the deceased were laid out on special beds for visitations, just looking like they’re taking a nap on the couch. There are some U.S. funeral homes that offer this service, such as the Heffner family’s Best Life Tributes Funeral & Cremation Care in York, Pennsylvania.

As the story says, it’s not for everyone. But it’s interesting that people are requesting these special arrangements before they die. And that’s the best time to make funeral arrangements, whether you want to be viewed sitting up, lying down, standing up, or viewed at all.

A Good Goodbye