The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The final goodbye

Death and taxes are constant, but funerals are changing

Death and taxes remain life’s certainties, but in this new century it appears there’s nothing certain about the send-off that follows death.

Whether it be making a loved one’s cremains into fine jewelry or showing a high-tech photo montage as a eulogy, funerals—they area-changing. The operative word for all things funeral is “personal.” Some folks are even hiring a “funeral celebrant,” a certified emcee and manager much like a wedding planner. More than 550 certified funeral celebrants in the U.S. and Canada will make sure you or your loved one’s funeral is personal—they’ve been through a 17-hour class that teaches them how to do it.

Those in the funeral industry blame the baby boomers, who, as the largest generation in U.S. history, don’t want to leave funeral plans to families but would rather orchestrate their own goodbyes.

This trend might make Sue Edison-Swift’s dearly departed mother shake her head.

Edison-Swift, a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Park Ridge, Ill., and the daughter of funeral directors, has a few opinions about funerals. She was one of a dozen Lutheran readers who responsed to the magazine’s “Tell us!” questions regarding “The big goodbye.”

Edison-Swift’s opinions were shaped at an early age. When the woman who cut her hair tried having some fun with young Sue by saying: “I told my daughters that when I die I want to be wrapped in a sheet and burned,” a spunky 9-year-old Sue replied, “Just remember, when you die what you want doesn’t matter.”

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Embracing diversity