Author Topic: A question about funerals...  (Read 2014 times)

Offline Jazmin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 499
    • View Profile
A question about funerals...
« on: March 29, 2010, 08:54:40 AM »
Hi guys.

I hope this is an okay question to ask--I've tried to research it, but haven't had much luck.

It might be a little too vague, but here goes:

What is the general process for funerals?

I ask this in terms of where the people attending meet, where the body is taken from/to, where the eulogy is spoken?

I am dealing with the death of a character in my book, and I was wondering if it is normal to have the entire funeral at the cemetery... If it is, is there any form of conduct for when people arrive, how people might be grouped/seated(?) and when the gravesite is prepared/dug?

I have only been to a few, and each time the funeral was held in a hall. Afterward the hearse took the coffin to the cemetery, where only close family and friends attended the burial. When my grandmother was cremated, only my brother went with her in the hearse to the crematorium, while all others stayed back at the hall.

Please forgive my naivety on this subject (I suppose I am lucky in this regard), and I hope I don't offend.

Thanks,

Jazmin
« Last Edit: March 29, 2010, 09:27:51 AM by Jazmin »
The correct usage of an ellipsis...is for the removal of greenfly from a rosebush.

Offline A.J.B

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1802
  • Enjoying bouts of moderate insanity
    • View Profile
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2010, 09:12:06 AM »
My uncles body was taken to a church first where a ceremony was held. His body was then taken to the cemetary where it was buried. If it is a christian funeral then I am certain you go through a church first.

Other cultures do different things. I can't remember where (I think it is along the river Gangees...I think I may have misspelt that) but I know that one culture burns their dead and the eldest son cracks the skull open with bamboo to let the spirit out. The ashes are then thrown into the river.

So given the two contrasting funeral rites (and the dozen or more others that exist) you will need to be a tad bit more specific.
My debut novel 'Life Eternal' is now available to buy on Amazon in both paperback and kindle.

Please search 'Aaron J Booth' on Amazon to find the product.

Offline Jazmin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 499
    • View Profile
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2010, 09:23:28 AM »
Oh thanks AJB... I'm sorry, of course I should have been more specific.

They are a middle-class family in 21st century America. It is the youngest daughter that has died. While the family comes from a Christian background, their religion does not play a central part in their lives.

One of the christian funerals I went to was held in the local school hall. For this reason I wondered whether the religious setting was a necessity.

Perhaps it would be better to just have the service in the church and have them move to the cemetery afterwards.

Thanks for your help, it's much appreciated :)
The correct usage of an ellipsis...is for the removal of greenfly from a rosebush.

Offline bonitakale

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 497
    • View Profile
    • BKEdits: Manuscript Line Editing Service
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2010, 09:49:54 AM »
In the US, a lot of people who don't have a strong church affiliation have the funeral in the funeral home, with chairs set up in the room that was used for viewing. The coffin is closed before the service, and some people go to the graveyard afterward, but most don't. For people who don't go to church, or whose church is far away, this is by far the simplest way. A hall would only be needed for a big public funeral--six high school students killed in an accident, and the whole school turns out, that kind of thing.

When my Dad died, we had a church funeral. Afterward, the coffin was taken away for cremation, and we planted him a week or so later, with the (Episcopal) priest at the graveyard, and just family.

But really, in the situation you describe, they'd probably do everything in the funeral home, and then drive to the graveyard in procession. (BTW, in Ohio, at least, it's illegal to break into a funeral procession, so usually no one gets lost. There are police cars, and the procession gets to keep going even after the traffic light changes.)


<a href="http://www.BKEdits.com/">Manuscript Line Editing at BKEdits</a>

Offline Jazmin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 499
    • View Profile
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2010, 10:02:01 AM »
Leah, I think that singing and dancing sounds like a perfect and beautiful way to celebrate a young girl's life.

Thank you for sharing your story with me. You have answered questions that I didn't even know I had... I didn't really take the time to consider how different a child's funeral might be to an adult's or the elderly's. I was so caught up with making sure I was following the guidelines.

The character that dies is seven years old, and she is my main character's little sister. I am a little apprehensive to write about the service and its conduct, which is why I hoped to have the entire scene at the cemetery, where I could focus on the girl's burial. Now I think I will have to attempt the church scene, and see how I go.

Thank you.

The correct usage of an ellipsis...is for the removal of greenfly from a rosebush.

Offline Jazmin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 499
    • View Profile
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2010, 10:15:20 AM »
Bonitakale (is it kale?), thank you so much for your reply :)

In the US, a lot of people who don't have a strong church affiliation have the funeral in the funeral home, with chairs set up in the room that was used for viewing. The coffin is closed before the service, and some people go to the graveyard afterward, but most don't. For people who don't go to church, or whose church is far away, this is by far the simplest way.

This is very helpful. I have been to a funeral in a funeral home before and it fitted the picture and situation you describe here, in that it was held there because the family didn't have a strong church affiliation. The prayer was present, but kept quite minimal. If I have my scene in a funeral home rather than a church, there will be less pressure as I write the scene for the religious aspect of the service.

Interesting about the funeral procession--I might have to incorporate that if I can...

Thanks again for taking the time to help me out :)
« Last Edit: March 29, 2010, 10:20:19 AM by Jazmin »
The correct usage of an ellipsis...is for the removal of greenfly from a rosebush.

Offline ma100

  • Esteemed Contributor
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30536
  • I don't need kinky boots, nothing will beat me.
    • View Profile
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2010, 10:26:55 AM »
In England Funerals are either held at places of worship or crematoriums. Sometimes the deceased is taken to the house overnight before the funeral or to the church. However normally the deceased arrives at the family home in a hearse followed by limosines for the family.
A child that young would normally have a white coffin and be carried by two possibly one bearer. It could be the father or relatives that carry it if that is the family wishes.

A grave would be dug the day before usually and green matting placed in mucky areas. It can be just family and then again it could be the whole funeral party. This again is down to the family.

If it is a crematorium for non religious, a quick service is available by the undertakers where they say a few words.

Though I don't know why I'm rambling. You want American funerals. ;D
« Last Edit: March 29, 2010, 10:32:54 AM by ma100 »

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

  • http://www.writestreet.com/writestree
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 31219
  • Hello from Texas
    • View Profile
    • Alice's Hide Away
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2010, 11:23:15 AM »
When I was in the second grade (ages ago), a school mate died and the funeral was held in the church next door. This was in a very rural area, lots of farms - few houses that were very scattered.

Our entire school turned out for the funeral of the young girl and after the service only the family and close friends that went to the burial. But like Ma said, of the funerals of young children that I have knowledge of, a white casket has been chosen. I believe it is intended to denote innocence.

I honestly don't remember much about the whole thing, partly because I was so young and didn't know what to expect - was rather awed by the whole thing.
MWC Charity Publications.
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight>
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline Maimi

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3537
    • View Profile
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2010, 12:22:34 PM »
Hi Jazmin,

I grew up in Mississippi and the funerals I attended, or helped arrange, there pretty much followed the same practice (christian).

Visitation at the funeral home the evening before the funeral: The casket (open or close is up to the family) was in a large room w/couches and chairs scattered about.  Those closest to the deceased spend most of their time in that room.  People filter in, then make their way to hang out in the break room to drink coffee and reminisce (this is where you'd find a high concentration of men), while others fill the hallway and spill out into a large foyer.

The day of the funeral: Close family of the deceased arrive up to an hour early for a private viewing (same room visitation took place the previous night).  As friends arrive, they too file through for another viewing, then seat themselves in the chapel area (looks like the inside of a church, with pews and a podium).  Once friends and distant family members are seat and it's time to begin, close family walks down the aisle and fills the reserved pews at the front to their right.  Pallbearers, friends and/or family members chosen by the immediate family, distinguished by boutonnières, escort the casket down the aisle to rest below the podium, then sit down on the first pew across from the family.  What follows is very similar to a church service (singing, prayer, plus words about the deceased).

Funeral Procession: The hearse leads the funeral procession (the closer your relation w/the deceased, the closer your car is to the hearse).  Everyone in the procession has their headlights on and police block intersections to allow safe passage in the city.  When traveling to a gravesite in the country, traffic pulls onto the shoulder of the road, including oncoming traffic.  Although you don't see it as much, men used to get out, stand by their cars/trucks, and remove their hats out of respect.

Gravesite: The funeral home already has a tent erected over the open grave w/folding chairs covered in something like crushed velvet for the immediate family.  Pallbearers remove the casket from the hearse and set it down onto the contraption outlining the grave, then stand to the side for the rest of the service.  After the family is seated, everyone else stands (not as many attend the graveside service, mainly very close relatives and friends, even fewer for a child).  Most don't have a full service at the graveside if one's already been done.  The preacher says a few words and a prayer.  Then the switch is flicked and the casket is lowered into the ground.  Usually the funeral home handles the digging and covering of the grave.  Although, I know of one family where it's tradition for the men of the family to stay behind and cover the grave.  Very touching.

Afterward: The main family of the deceased returns home to find dishes upon dishes of food (this is Mississippi we're talking about, food is the center of every gathering) and a full house of friends and family.  People come and go, usually until evening.  A few stay and clean-up to let the family go to bed.

And that's about it in a big ol' nutshell.  Hope it helps.

-Maimi

P.S. If a family is like some of my relatives, a funeral is never boring or completely sad.  A heated argument is inevitable.  Not that I condone such, but hearing one aunt call the other a white fuzzyheaded <insert whatever crude name and I'm sure you'll come close to the real thing here> temporarily disperses some of the sorrow.  Ah, the joys of family. ::)

Offline Skip Slocum

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12387
  • Writers are dreamers with pens
    • View Profile
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2010, 04:34:09 PM »
When I was in high school, one of the summer jobs I got was digging graves. what I know happens before anyone comes to the cemetery.
MWC Glossary --> http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=41276.0

Offline WordBird

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7129
    • View Profile
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2010, 04:57:59 PM »
Hi Jazmin,

Maimi pretty much wrapped up my experiences. My family has been dropping like flies, so I've been to more funerals than I care to even think about. Not because I was necessarily close to every person that died, but because one of my loved ones (usually my daddy) was deeply touched by the death. It is extremely painful to see your daddy cry, I don't care what the circumstances are.

I have a couple of additions to the Maimi's very well thought out process. Maybe it is because my family is never short of, ahem, differences. And I say that with the lightest of hearts, no disrespect intended.

1) After the funeral service has concluded, the funeral home staff usually start releasing those present from the last row toward the front row. Those people generally walk up to the casket, say their final respects and goodbyes, and then hug and offer each of the family members in the front row their respect and condolences. This was only difficult for me at one funeral. My uncle had passed, my daddy's oldest brother. Daddy was in the second row behind my aunt and cousins. When I went up to the casket and then hugged my aunt, I glanced at daddy and there were tears streaming down his face.......Someone just rip my heart the rest of the way out.

2) When my grandmother passed (my mom's mom) she had very little for the preacher to talk about during the service. In order to "fill the gap" of respectable time allowed for the service, the preacher simply asked for those present to talk about certain memories they had. It was an interactive service.

3) When my grandfather passed (my mom's step-dad) again, there was little for the preacher to discuss. But this time, the closest family members wrote letters to papaw that the preacher read aloud. Being the bitch that my mom is she failed to tell me that I could write a letter. So in the middle of the funeral after he had read everyone else's as though I didn't exist, being the bitch that I am, I simply raised my hand and told him that I had something to say. I stood up and told the people that I did not have a letter, but I proceeded to talk about some of my own favorite memories.

4) When my other grandfather passed (my dad's dad), all 8 kids were still alive. Part of that service included the kids all placing a piece of material over my papaw's closed coffin. Again, seeing daddy cry was not easy, but I have never forgotten how neat it was to see all the kids together doing that in respect to their father.

5) At the graveside, it is a common practice for my daddy's family for each of us take a flower from the arrangements for happy memories and respect when the final service is over.

Finally, I guess this shows that all funeral services can vary depending on the family and the circumstances. Feel free to PM me if you would like any further clarification or guidance.

D

Offline Jazmin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 499
    • View Profile
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2010, 07:28:16 PM »
There is nothing better than waking up to supportive and helpful MWC friends :)

I can't thank you all enough for your help. The details of events and emotion (and quirks) are invaluable.

I can map out my scene much more confidently now. I didn't realise how little I really knew.

Thanks again for taking the time from your own writing to help me with mine :)

Jazmin
The correct usage of an ellipsis...is for the removal of greenfly from a rosebush.

Offline bonitakale

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 497
    • View Profile
    • BKEdits: Manuscript Line Editing Service
Re: A question about funerals...
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2010, 09:18:01 PM »
Our family's favorite remark at a viewing: My husband's grandfather was in his coffin, looking -- ahem -- dead. Of cancer.

Sister of the deceased to widow: "He looks good: he's lost weight!"


<a href="http://www.BKEdits.com/">Manuscript Line Editing at BKEdits</a>