PDA

View Full Version : Funeral Facts



Caramia
05-23-2009, 03:48 AM
I need to include some funeral scenery and activities in the current chapter. Not sure of the 'class' this would be considered. Only experience I have with such things is TV and books. I've lead a sheltered life? (Not to say I haven't known folks that died, mother was cremated) Appreciate any tips :)

1: The church with the speakers, folks reading poems etc, audience full of grieving friends/family. Is the coffin generally open at this point or is that an entirely separate thing?

2: From this point, the group moves to the actual burial site. Is it usually a drive or walk? Do people usually speak again, or just the official?

3: How long does it generally take from start to finish? If I wish to skip over all the details 'cause I'm not confident in this and sum it up with 'The funeral took three long hours.' is there an average time?

4: If the person was mostly burned in a car catching fire, would they still have a funeral even?

Edited to add #4.

Ohhh yes, I realize how ignorant this is of me..but I can excuse it with knowing lotsa other stuff! :)

suki
05-23-2009, 04:27 AM
Kind of like graduations, weddings, church services and other kinds of ceremonies and events, it almost always depends... How old was the person? How well known? Very public death or very private? small town or big city? How religious? How wealthy? etc...

My experiences are with middle class, mostly non-catholic christians from small towns to small cities. One jewish service. A couple non-religious rememberances.

But, assuming that your dead person:
- is not well-known/famous
- not uber wealthy or the child of a well-known/famous family
- not a child/teen
- christian, but not overly religious (I say that because Jewish traditions I am less familiar with, and the very religious tend to have longer services and more religious stuff at the cemetery)
- did not die in some very public way, like murdered or after a long and courageous and publisized disease...

Then:


I need to include some funeral scenery and activities in the current chapter. Not sure of the 'class' this would be considered. Only experience I have with such things is TV and books. I've lead a sheltered life? (Not to say I haven't known folks that died, mother was cremated) Appreciate any tips :)

1: The church with the speakers, folks reading poems etc, audience full of grieving friends/family. Is the coffin generally open at this point or is that an entirely separate thing?

IN my experiences (always the caveat, see above), the family would have had a wake/viewing for 2 or 3 few-hour blocks for a couple days at the funeral home in the days before the service and burial (ie, if burial Tuesday morning, maybe Sunday afternoon, Sunday night and Monday night, the family held wake/viewing at the funeral home for people to come by and pay their respects). That is when the casket is open (if the body is viewable. If not, or if the family doesn't want it open, it stays closed - with a car fire and burns, I'm guessing closed casket).

Then there could also be a religious service at a church, at the funeral home or at the graveside, if the family chooses. Or a non-religious memorial of some kind - like with a eulogy and then others getting up to share their memories. So it can vary from something very much like a church service to something that feels more like a party.

The service can be of varying levels of religious versus spiritual content - ie, a minister with prayers and sermon and hymns, or less denominational prayers, or people remembering the person in other ways. But during the service, unless it is part of the wake/viewing at the funeral home, the casket is usually IME closed.

For example, for my grandfather, who was the first of my grandparents to die and very active in his church, we had three days of viewings, then a church service, then a prayer and hymn graveside, followed by a luncheon.

For his wife a few years later, less active in the church in her later years and less people to pay respects, we had two days of viewings and then a small religious service for close family and friends, but it was less a church service and more organized prayers and hymns, and then people sharing memories.

For my other grandmother, we had two days of viewings and then a small service at the funeral home itself, with no sharing of memories until a private luncheon with just family and close friends.

For both my in laws we had no viewings, but larger church services and then a more laid back reception in the church's rec room.

For a high-school classmate they had 3 days of viewings and then the family did a private burial, but there was a non-religious memorial gathering where kids sang songs and shared memories.

So, you really can make it what your characters would want.

You can also watch Six Feet Under for some ideas on funerals, but it will give you less info on the church end of things.


2: From this point, the group moves to the actual burial site. Is it usually a drive or walk? Do people usually speak again, or just the official?

Usually a drive in my experiences - casket is carried to the hearse by pall bearers, the rest of the family and mourners follow in a caravan of cars. Nowadays they issue these little funeral flags for the cars, but before cars had daytime running lights, the cars just all put on their headlights to alert passing cars to not interrupt the chain.

It's possible it could be a walk, if, for example, there was a small town cemetery right behind the church, but I've never actually seen that and every funeral I've been to has been a drive - sometimes a half hour or more - from funeral home or church to cemetery.

The only exception was my father and mother in law. They were cremated and their ashes scattered in the courtyard of their church. So in that case, we had no wake/viewing and after the church service, we did just walk in a procession out to the courtyard, said a few additional words and scattered the ashes.

In all cases where I attended the graveside, the minister or rabbi or person who gave the eulogy said something and there was some kind of prayer, but it varied in length from about 10 minutes up to about an hour. Then sometimes people put flowers on the casket, or it is lowered and people symbolically toss dirt on it...

3: How long does it generally take from start to finish? If I wish to skip over all the details 'cause I'm not confident in this and sum it up with 'The funeral took three long hours.' is there an average time?

Oh, this could really depend - how long the service, whether there was more said at the graveside, the drive in between church/funeral home and cemetery. I'd say average funeral day is about 2-4 hours from arriving at funeral home/church to leaving graveside, but it could really vary in tons of ways.

And it would be a longer day for family, who would be there earlier than non-family mourners. Like, if the service started at 10:00am, I'd expect the family to arrive at the place where the service was taking place by no later than 9:15am.

4: If the person was mostly burned in a car catching fire, would they still have a funeral even?

Yes to funeral or service of some kind (depending on family and otehr circumstances) but not open casket.

And remember that the funeral and what it entails is always planned by the surviving family/friends and costs money. So, if, for instance, the person had no family and few friends, who would plan it? But if the person was the child of a wealthy family, or the matriarch of a wealthy family, the funeral might be lavish and well-attended.

Edited to add #4.

Ohhh yes, I realize how ignorant this is of me..but I can excuse it with knowing lotsa other stuff! :)


So, depending on what kinds of person you are dealing with, and the circumstances, there's a lot of variations.

Maybe add some more details and others can offer insights. OR post what you think you want the circumstances to be, and see if anyone sees any logistical problems.

~suki

hammerklavier
05-23-2009, 04:28 AM
1. Generally the coffin is in place and open before the guests arrive. It is closed late in the service. I've never been to a funeral where people were openly grieving, this is an exageration. Many tears, but not much wailing if you know what I mean (although wailing is the norm in some cultures).

2. Most of the time you would have to drive to the burial site unless it was at the church, which is rare. Usually no more speaking except by the priest or minister.

3. It depends of course. At least forty five minutes to maybe an hour and a half for a long one, even longer if there are a large number of guests and speakers. This is just the church time, of course.

4. Yes, it would be closed casket.

Puma
05-23-2009, 04:52 AM
The drive from the funeral home/church to the gravesite can vary greatly. For one of my aunts, it was close to 100 miles (long funeral trip). It all depends on where the individual or family has purchased a burial plot and sometimes when the first spouse has died, there's been a remarriage and relocation. In the latter case, if there's been a fair amount of time for the remarriage and relocation, the funeral would most likely be in the town where the individual was currently living prior to death, but the burial might be beside the first spouse in the original town.

In most cases a motorcycle policeman escorts the funeral procession from the funeral home or church to the burial site to allow all of the procession through on the same light (even if it turns red), etc. Puma

Caramia
05-23-2009, 05:03 AM
So appreciate this, I feel much more prepared for tackling the situation - Thank you!

The departed is a college age girl and she is the only one that perished (out of 3) in a car accident, though one of the others was close to death but survived. One of the attending survivors had a sibling die and would likely recall that funeral at this one, so kinda needing the set-up on two (main reason for the open-casket part of the questions).

Again thanks so much :)

Jersey Chick
05-23-2009, 05:27 AM
1: The church with the speakers, folks reading poems etc, audience full of grieving friends/family. Is the coffin generally open at this point or is that an entirely separate thing? In all the funerals I've been to (99% Irish Catholic) I've never attended a funeral with a eulogy. The ones I've been to (and there are a lot, unfortunately), there is a service at the funeral home, where the coffin is still open. It's usually very short. Then, guests who aren't immediate family usually leave to go to the church, if they plan to attend the Mass. Immediate family is then invited up to the coffin for final goodbyes. Once upon a time, the coffin would be closed at that point. But, nowadays, the family leaves before the undertaker closes the coffin. I think it's to make it easier on the family.

Then the immediate family goes to the church for the actual funeral. There's a funeral Mass offered (again, I've never been to a funeral with a eulogy, but I can't say that it never happens, either.)

After the funeral, the coffin is brought back to the hearse and everyone who's attending the graveside service follows it to the graveyard. I've been to cemeteries 5 minutes from where I live and up to 2 hours from where I live - it all depends on where the deceased's plot is.


2: From this point, the group moves to the actual burial site. Is it usually a drive or walk? Do people usually speak again, or just the official? I've only driven to cemeteries - all the mourners (in their own cars) follow the hearse and the immediate family (usually in a limousine.) In theory, regular traffic is not supposed to break into a funeral procession (there's always someone who does, though). I've been in processions with police escorts, I've been in them on toll roads where the tolls are waived, I've been in ones that were literally a mile long (which was a sight to see, really.)

Again, at the gravesides I've been to, the priest who officiated the funeral mass is there (it's always been a priest, but I can't swear it was the same one who did the funeral - I generally don't pay that much attention, sad to say) and says a few words - sometimes the family is given flowers and invited to come up and place them on the coffin. Flowers can vary - I've placed roses and carnations mostly.


3: How long does it generally take from start to finish? If I wish to skip over all the details 'cause I'm not confident in this and sum it up with 'The funeral took three long hours.' is there an average time? It all depends on mass, travel time, if there's eulogies or not. My guess is anywhere from 2 hours to all day (Two funerals on my husband's side had masses here in NJ, but interment in NY - makes for a loooooong day.)

ETA - Oh, and at the graveside, it used to be that the coffin was lowered into the grave at the end, but they don't do that any longer, again to ease the stress on the family. This has been my experience, I don't know if it's still done anywhere else.


4: If the person was mostly burned in a car catching fire, would they still have a funeral even? I would assume so, but most likely not open casket. If the family chose not to have a funeral, there could always be a memorial service.



Edited to add #4.

Ohhh yes, I realize how ignorant this is of me..but I can excuse it with knowing lotsa other stuff! :) :D No prob

jclarkdawe
05-23-2009, 05:34 AM
Religious and cultural differences make a lot of difference here. And not all groups support open caskets, regardless of how good the corpse looks. Further, Louisiana, especially in the southern portions, would probably be French catholic, so you need to factor this in.

Crispy critters are next to impossible to make presentable. Beyond the obvious factor of the burns, some other factors add to the difficulty (you really don't want the details). Further, car fires are hot because of the chemicals and confinement, adding to the problems. I doubt whether the family would even be allowed to review the remains, never mind have an open casket. (Visual ID is impossible -- their own mother won't recognize them.)

I'd talk to some of the local funeral homes. Among other things is in Louisiana, in bayou country, people are not buried, but interned above ground.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Cranky
05-23-2009, 05:52 AM
The only funeral I've attended for a young person (who was seven when he died), the entire service lasted about two hours, and the wake part took about an hour and a half to two hours...I can't remember now.

It was sort of a non-denominational service in the church, with his favorite music and photos showing D at various stages of his life, up to and including his time in the hospital in place of verbal remembrances. Obviously, no one was in any kind of shape to be doing that...everyone (literally) was sobbing their eyes out. There was a viewing for a couple of days previously, and he was in his coffin just outside the sanctuary, since there were people attending from out of state and only just been able to make the service (he'd been sick for quite some time, but took a sudden turn and died unexpectedly). Beside him was a display showing some of D's favorite things and a picture. The funeral procession in this case was fairly long as I recall, but the drive itself wasn't. The graveside service was brief, and then we all returned to the church for a wake/luncheon.

His casket was closed during the service, I almost forgot to mention.

EFCollins
05-23-2009, 06:22 AM
My father's services were spread out over two days. Wake took two or three hours, as did the funeral. But... there were several hundred people in attendance and many got up to speak. My dad was a good man and well liked. Most funeral homes will do whatever the family wishes, or, if the deceased left behind instructions, whatever their wishes were. Most do their best to make it as painless as it can be for the family.

Jersey Chick
05-23-2009, 07:05 AM
Oh, we do the two-viewing wake - usually the day before the burial. The viewing here is usually 2-4 pm and then 7-9 pm. And the family always ends up in a restaurant after the last session, ordering stiff drinks. We're Irish, we deal by getting tanked. ;)

Maiden
05-23-2009, 10:14 AM
Really it all depends on what the family wishes and the background of the person. When a person dies you go over what you wish with the funeral home and the cemetery you wish them to be buried in. My brother and I made all the arrangements for my father. We opted out of anything but a small ceremony at the interment site (he was cremated.) My second cousin (who is a pastor and knew my father since he was young) officiated and said prayer. A few friends spoke of their memories of my father. That was it. All done at the grave sight.

My grandmother I had some of my poetry read, there was prayer, choir singing, lots of tears and we were all invited to view the body. Then we drove to the cemetery. After my entire family (which is HUGE) gathered to share memories and companionship.

I attended a now-exes mothers funeral and everything was silent. Just scripture, and a viewing. Then more scripture as the body was lowered into the grave. It was all very uptight and tense. Nothing personal about it.

So really funerals are what they are. If the deceased did not leave instructions or demands then it falls to the family to decide what they want done.

RJK
05-23-2009, 06:46 PM
Another issue, in northern climates, in winter, the ground is frozen and they can't dig a grave. The "Burial" service is held in a chapel at the cemetery, and the people leave. the casket is stored until a grave can be dug.

Caramia
05-23-2009, 08:44 PM
'Bout to begin the scene. Seriously grateful for all of the tips. One more thing I should likely touch on. If I have a specific burial spot in mind and it is a real one but the story is fictional, (rather fantasy but some of the scenes are in the real world) is it best not to use the name/location of the cemetery? I started looking for contact info but haven't had any luck yet.

Thanks! :)

Edit: Never mind! Worked that out - just desc'ing it without an actual name :)

Ol' Fashioned Girl
05-23-2009, 09:04 PM
Three comments:

I've been to funerals where the casket was open at both the memorial service and the graveside - we had to keep picking leaves out of the open casket.

I've had the sad task of supporting a father who had to ID his 16 year old son who'd been burned to death in a car wreck. There was little left of him besides part of his shirt, but they had to ID him anyway.

A funeral service can pretty much be as traditional as you want it... or as wacky as the deceased may have left instructions for. A colleague of Ol' Boy's was a Jimmy Buffet fan. The song playing as we all entered the service was 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' and as we left it was 'Wastin' Away Again in Margaritaville'. The service in between was just as crazy.

Kathleen42
05-24-2009, 06:48 AM
My experiences attending protestant (Some Unite Church of Canada, some Anglican) services for relatives:



1: The church with the speakers, folks reading poems etc, audience full of grieving friends/family. Is the coffin generally open at this point or is that an entirely separate thing?

Sometimes: Visitation(s) a day or two before the service where the casket was open for a few hours and the public can attend. On the day of the funeral, the casket was open for a brief period for the family to say their final goodbyes, the family was taken out of the room, and the casket was closed. The family came back in and the funeral began.

Visitation and whether or not it is public is optional. One of my grandmother's requested visitation that was closed to the public. Another requested no visitation at all.

2: From this point, the group moves to the actual burial site. Is it usually a drive or walk? Do people usually speak again, or just the official?

It depends on the location and the climate/season. In most cases, I would imagine they would drive. In any funeral I've attended, it's been much too far to walk.

3: How long does it generally take from start to finish? If I wish to skip over all the details 'cause I'm not confident in this and sum it up with 'The funeral took three long hours.' is there an average time?

There is not an average time.

4: If the person was mostly burned in a car catching fire, would they still have a funeral even?

Yes though they might be cremated and would almost definitely have a closed casket.

Edited to add #4.

Ohhh yes, I realize how ignorant this is of me..but I can excuse it with knowing lotsa other stuff! :)

Leva
05-24-2009, 07:59 AM
What's done really depends on the family.

My grandmother and her sister had purchased crypts in a large mausoleum. They'd purchased the crypts decades in advance, actually. The services were very small (both had outlived the majority of their family) and held inside the mausoleum. We had small, private services and left before they were interred.

*Shrug* I've said I'd like to be cremated, stuck in a container of the family's choice, and chucked off the top of a mountain when die. I've suggested using a trebuchet for maximum loft and distance for said chucking. Then everyone should have a big party and/or go on a vacation with the money saved from not paying for a traditional funeral.

It really is what the family (and the deceased) wants ...

johnnysannie
05-27-2009, 05:18 AM
Religious and cultural differences make a lot of difference here. And not all groups support open caskets, regardless of how good the corpse looks. Further, Louisiana, especially in the southern portions, would probably be French catholic, so you need to factor this in.

Crispy critters are next to impossible to make presentable. Beyond the obvious factor of the burns, some other factors add to the difficulty (you really don't want the details). Further, car fires are hot because of the chemicals and confinement, adding to the problems. I doubt whether the family would even be allowed to review the remains, never mind have an open casket. (Visual ID is impossible -- their own mother won't recognize them.)

I'd talk to some of the local funeral homes. Among other things is in Louisiana, in bayou country, people are not buried, but interned above ground.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Actually a fair portion of Louisiana's Catholics are of Irish descent; they came over to build New Orleans because they were cheap labor and expendable (unlike slaves) so if they died of yellow jack or malaria, no one cared. My husband's family was among them!

CoriSCapnSkip
05-27-2009, 09:53 AM
1: The church with the speakers, folks reading poems etc, audience full of grieving friends/family. Is the coffin generally open at this point or is that an entirely separate thing?

People from countries other than the USA please help me here. As I understand, this is largely an American thing. Some cultures in America will have the coffin (which you are supposed to call a casket if you call it anything) open the whole time, as will some other cultures, have the body on display the whole time, and possibly more of a Catholic than a Protestant thing. (Done for Mother Teresa, popes, Princess Grace, to name a few.) I've been to funerals like this, and understand that it is quite common at black funerals. One guy had himself reposing in an armchair at the funeral home watching his favorite shows on TV, another had himself propped standing against the wall at home, but that's downright weird. At some services, they NEVER open the coffin (this was the case at the most recent one I attended, where the deceased had been dead for weeks), at others, they either have a viewing beforehand, open it at the end of the service with fair warning given (so those not into it can vacate), or both, at others coffin is opened only for the family after all others have left.


2: From this point, the group moves to the actual burial site. Is it usually a drive or walk? Do people usually speak again, or just the official?

Well, in the OLD DAYS, if you were David Copperfield where they just bury people out in the churchyard, walk, but in most modern places it's a drive. Cemeteries tend to be large and not *too* near residential sections. They are always, if at all possible, on high ground! (I don't know when the custom of showing the deceased ended in Britain. David Copperfield had the chance to see his mother, but declined. By the 1960s the custom seemed to have "died" entirely. Again, help me here.)


3: How long does it generally take from start to finish? If I wish to skip over all the details 'cause I'm not confident in this and sum it up with 'The funeral took three long hours.' is there an average time?

Varies. If no one knew or liked the person or had anything to say and no one shows up, not much time. At one funeral I know of, only one person was allowed to speak because if everyone who had a story had told it, they'd have been there all day! Most fall in between this. The only speaking I've seen at graveside is by a minister (who should try to keep it mercifully brief) or perhaps a special ceremony such as military or Masonic services.


4: If the person was mostly burned in a car catching fire, would they still have a funeral even?

If the remains of the deceased (all or ANY) are present, it's a funeral, if not, it's technically a memorial service, but some people use the word funeral anyway, or just service. So, yes, they could have a funeral. In this circumstance, for God's sake, CLOSED CASKET PLEASE, but there's no accounting for what some people will do! :crazy:

Priene
05-27-2009, 03:21 PM
People from countries other than the USA please help me here. As I understand, this is largely an American thing.

I've never heard of an UK funeral with an open coffin, and I would have been horrified if someone had suggested displaying my father like that. We, the immediate family, died view Dad's body in a room next to the morgue at the hospital, but it was an uncomfortable experience for everyone concerned, and one that in retrospect I'd have been happy to skip. No-one else saw Dad's body, and no-one requested to see it.

My mother says that when she was young in the 1940s, the dead would sometimes be displayed in people's homes the night before, but I can't imagine doing that now.

Jersey Chick
05-27-2009, 03:47 PM
I've never been to a funeral with an open coffin. It's always been at the wake, in the funeral home.

In the church itself, (again, this is based on the many funerals I've been to)the coffin is closed and draped with a cloth (I'm sure there's a significance to it, but I couldn't tell you what it is. I'm beyond a lapsed Catholic) or possibly a funeral spray of flowers.

rhymegirl
05-27-2009, 04:44 PM
1: The church with the speakers, folks reading poems etc, audience full of grieving friends/family. Is the coffin generally open at this point or is that an entirely separate thing?

Since I've been to 2 funerals recently, I think I can answer some of these questions. For one thing, it might make a difference depending on which religion the person followed. One I went to was in the Episcopal church, the other a Catholic church.

The coffin was open during the calling hours (wake), but closed at the church. And at the church, they had a special cloth covering the coffin.



2: From this point, the group moves to the actual burial site. Is it usually a drive or walk? Do people usually speak again, or just the official?

After the church service, we drove to the burial site. Our cars were lined up in a row following the hearse. The only person who spoke at the cemetery was the priest. (the part about ashes to ashes, dust to dust)



3: How long does it generally take from start to finish? If I wish to skip over all the details 'cause I'm not confident in this and sum it up with 'The funeral took three long hours.' is there an average time?

It depends. For one funeral I went to we skipped the funeral parlor part and went right to the church. The service took about one hour, then it was another 20 minutes or so drive to the cemetery, maybe fifteen minutes or so at the burial site and then it was over. So all together, maybe an hour and 35 minutes.

The other funeral, we started at the funeral parlor, drove to the church in a procession, the service lasted about an hour, then we drove in a procession to the cemetery and had a very short service there. For that one, the whole thing took about 3 hours.



4: If the person was mostly burned in a car catching fire, would they still have a funeral even?

I'd have to guess on this one. I would say yes, they could be placed in a casket, but it would be a closed casket for the wake and funeral.

johnnysannie
05-28-2009, 03:40 AM
I've never been to a funeral with an open coffin. It's always been at the wake, in the funeral home.

In the church itself, (again, this is based on the many funerals I've been to)the coffin is closed and draped with a cloth (I'm sure there's a significance to it, but I couldn't tell you what it is. I'm beyond a lapsed Catholic) or possibly a funeral spray of flowers.

As a lifelong and current Catholic, I agree. In the church, the caskets I have seen are always closed. That is standard for a funeral or Requiem Mass. Some Catholics have a shorter service that is NOT a Mass at the funeral home. During the service, it is closed although it may be re-opened for a final viewing by the family afterward.

I am unfortunately "up" on this since my dad passed away unexpectedly in January. The priest said that the casket must be closed during the service and it was but the funeral home staff reopened it for a last private family viewing before going to the cemetery.

As for reading, my son (8 years old) and I did the two Liturgy readings at my dad's service; the priest (of course) read the Gospel.

Although a eulogy of sorts is not common in a Catholic service, I know of at least two instances where one took place. One was at my uncle's funeral in the 1970's when the Monsignor - who was a boyhood and lifelong friend of my uncle's - gave a very moving eulogy. A few years ago (2005) at my aunt's funeral, the priest - who did not know her well at all because she was a shut-in in the last years of her life - read something personal I had written about her as part of the non-Mass service.

Aschenbach
05-28-2009, 07:44 AM
My mother says that when she was young in the 1940s, the dead would sometimes be displayed in people's homes the night before, but I can't imagine doing that now.

Yes, the body would be kept in the parlour for a limited time. The family, neighbours, friends etc, could come round and mourn. Also known as a vigil, which would turn into a wake, a celebraton of the departed. I think it is a good way to remember the deceased, lubricated by lots of booze and sentimentality and love. It is a good way to accept bereavment as part of life.

rhymegirl
05-28-2009, 07:55 PM
Although a eulogy of sorts is not common in a Catholic service, I know of at least two instances where one took place. One was at my uncle's funeral in the 1970's when the Monsignor - who was a boyhood and lifelong friend of my uncle's - gave a very moving eulogy. A few years ago (2005) at my aunt's funeral, the priest - who did not know her well at all because she was a shut-in in the last years of her life - read something personal I had written about her as part of the non-Mass service.

I agree that a eulogy is not common in a Catholic service. My mother-in-law's funeral took place in a Catholic church and they did not allow a eulogy.

But my mother's funeral took place in an Episcopal church and they allowed me to read the eulogy I wrote for her.