Tyrades! by Danny Tyree
My cousin’s husband owns a funeral home, so I’m anxious to hear his take on a front-page article from the November 4 “Wall Street Journal.”
According to the article, morticians are innovating ways to put the “fun” in funeral (including burial plot raffles and “open house” family events featuring food, live music and bouncy houses) – or maybe it was putting the “monument” in monumentally screwed up ideas! I get those mixed up.
The article talked about undertakers enticing their potential customers to deal with the elephant in the room (their own mortality) and be more proactive about end-of-life planning. This will take the burden off your loved ones, so they will be tanned and rested and in a positively chipper mood as they fight over your estate. (“Step back from the Hummel figurines or I’m snatching you bald-headed…bless your heart…”)
A funeral industry convention workshop was titled “How to build your pre-need customer pipeline,” which, I’m sorry, dredges up too many memories of my dearly departed childhood goldfish.
Many undertakers report positive feedback for the laid-back attitude, but traditionalist customers are adamant that recent experiments in funeral marketing are disrespectful. (“We’ll talk more when I get back from the King Tut exhibit. Need any souvenirs?”)
Some of today’s off-the-wall customized services leave me with mixed emotions. I can handle a funeral sanctioned by the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers, but not one sanctioned by the Board of Ouija.
I suppose some ways of jazzing up the funeral experience are more tolerable than others. I could see a Grim Reaper with a tie-dyed robe, or a magician sawing someone’s ashes in half. I’m cool with a standup comedian whining, “Hey, I’m dying up here.”
Tequila is probably a counterproductive libation for promotional events. It’s a real buzzkill to think about the worms biding their time to get their revenge.
Whacking a pinata filled with organs some bozo failed to donate to medical science? Let’s not and say we did.
And a mime trapped in an invisible box is probably not going to sell many funeral packages – unless you get to nominate the mime as your “plus one.”
One of the wildest innovations is “living funerals.” You can attend a dry run of your own funeral, complete with casket, mourners, funeral procession, etc. You can witness the lavish proceedings without having an “out-of-body” experience, just an “out-of-disposable-income” experience.
This supposedly gives you peace of mind, but it sounds more anxiety-producing to me. (“I knew it – Ralph came just for the free calendars, not for me! And why isn’t Mike hitting on my ‘surviving spouse’? Does that conceited jerk think he’s too good for her?”)
Seriously, this is all artificial and skewed. Past performance is no guarantee of how your actual funeral will be in five, 10 or 20 years. A “living funeral” is like the “air guitar” of shuffling off this mortal coil, except the groupies are all hanging around the undertaker, who is raking in extra dough.
As my son noted, this is a brilliant way to get consumers to pay for a service twice. Maybe other professions will follow the funeral industry’s lead. (“Just drink this awful liquid and sit on the potty all day. Then come back when you’re 40 and we’ll do all that again PLUS run a scope inside you. Let’s put endless co-pays in colonoscopy!”