You can learn a lot by attending 30 funerals in 30 days. Gail Rubin, author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, found an amazing range of creative services for people who died during the month of October.

Rubin didn’t personally know all these people, but met them through the local obituaries. She documented their goodbye services on The Family Plot Blog as the 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge.

She witnessed a memorial luncheon in a bowling alley bar, a funeral for a Dallas Cowboys fan, a memorial service for a young TV news reporter, and a celebration of life for a hot air balloon pioneer. There was “My Big Fat Italian Funeral” home celebration of life, a jazz quartet in a club, and a ceremony in a Japanese garden.

“Of the 30 events, almost half of these deaths were unexpected,” said Rubin. “Since we never know when our number will be up, it’s vital to have a conversation today about how you’d like your life celebrated.”

Some statistics about the 30 events:

  • Rubin attended memorial events for 17 males and 12 females, plus a September 11 memorial event.
  • The funeral for the oldest person was a 90-year-old man; the youngest was a 25-year-old man.
  • Sixteen of the deaths could be considered expected (illness, advanced age) and 14 were unexpected (heart attack, stroke, accidents, medical mishap).
  • There were 14 funerals with the body present or burial of cremated remains. Of the 12 funerals with a body in a casket, seven were open, five were closed.
  • After one funeral, the body was cremated.
  • Of the 16 memorial services, seven had cremated remains present, 10 had none (either body was buried elsewhere, donated to science, or cremated but simply not there).
  • Of the places the events were held, 10 were at a funeral home, six were at a house of worship, five were in a cemetery, and eight were held in other settings, including at a home, at Balloon Fiesta Park, the Japanese Garden at the Bio-Park, and the German American Club.
  • Thirteen of the events were creative celebrations of life with little or no religious references, or some religious readings but not a religious service.
  • The 17 religious services covered included Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jewish, and Latter-Day Saints (Mormon).
  • Almost half of the 30 services featured a video photomontage or photo board related to the deceased (14 total).

“Even though intellectually we know we will die, it’s always a surprise, whether the death was expected or unexpected,” said Rubin. “The funeral or memorial service plays a key role in processing grief, especially when the death is unexpected.”

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. Events were selected based on interesting elements in the obituaries, obtaining a good mix of religions and creative celebrations, keeping the male/female ratio even, and whatever event would fit into Rubin’s schedule on any given day.

Rubin is a Certified Celebrant who brings light to a dark subject and helps get funeral planning conversations started. Her award-winning book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die (Light Tree Press), was ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Award finalist in the Family & Relationships category. The book is available in print and ebook formats at and at

A Good Goodbye