|By Bob Weaver |
During the past few years, several folks with which I was acquainted passed on with nary a published obituary, most cremated, their ashes unceremoniously buried or scattered.
While newspaper obits could cost $200, funeral homes publish them free.
In the past year, a least a dozen Calhoun citizens had nary a mention of their demise.
We are moving toward immediate disposal with less observance of Christian or religious traditions.
The long time tradition of Memorial Day, families returning to cemeteries to honor their deceased family members is also fading.
There is a dramatic switch in the USA from what was called a traditional funeral to a less expensive and ceremoniously absent cremation.
The cremation rate in the United States has been increasing steadily with the national average rate rising from 3.56% in 1960 to
53.1% in 2018. In the next 30 years it will likely rise to 90%.
West Virginia's cremation rate, like most southern states, remains lower, but ever increasing.
The funeral of the deceased up through the 1950s was a multi-layered event, with the mortician often returning the embalmed and casketed body to the family home for a viewing and a wake, with a large number of neighbors coming to the house to "sit with the dead," followed by taking the remains to a community church for a Christian funeral.
The neighbors would would bring lots of food and spend hours in conversation on porches and yards.
Up through the 1950s the participation of community members was extensive, including the opening and closing of the grave. In the Village of Hur that would likely involve crowds folks within a 10 mile radius.
The community would actually stop their labor to participate.
Well over a hundred participated in my grandfather John Ira McCoy's funeral in 1950.
It was a time to support, grieve and accept the loss of the person.
Then the transition was made to have all things connected with the funeral at a funeral home, and sometimes taking the remains to a church for a service.
Early on families wanted long visitation hours at the funeral home, then dropping to a few hours, and now in some cases no visitation or no funeral at all, just graveside services or a private scattering of the ashes.
Occasionally, there is a memorial service.
The reasons given for the change include the high costs of funerals, time constraints, a disconnect from organized religion and families scattered all over the USA. Funerals could be more disruptive to the busy, high-tech world.
It has all be made worse by the COVID-19 outbreak.
I still cling to the former ways of letting go of the deceased, bringing people close to the event and allowing time to grieve.
Now, in the 21st Century, it is looking like quick disposal, absent of ceremony.
These thoughts are shared, being a former West Virginia mortician for about 18 years during my early life.