paper on Historical Variations of death

Funeral rites are as old as human race itself (“The History of Funerals – Funeral History – The Funeral Source”, 2020) every culture has three common threads for the dead and disposition of their dead 1) Some type of ceremony 2) a sacred place for the dead, and 3) memorials for the dead. Home funerals were the practice everywhere in early America. There were a group of women in each community that would come to the home and assist with “Laying of the bed “ (“U.S. Funeral History- North American Funerals: The Funeral Source”, 2017) there would be a visitation followed by a procession to the church and cemetery.

Most families care for their own dead until the mid-1800s. Caring for consisted of preparing, dressing, and displaying their loved ones in their own home. They will often have a quite formal room that remains closed off. They will place the body in a casket that was made or purchased from the General Store. Proper families would fill the rooms with their finest possessions: quality furniture, portraits, sterling silver, and often a piano. Grander homes in the 19th century often had a “ death door” (U.S. Funeral History- North American Funerals: The Funeral Source”, 2017) leading from the closed-off room. It will lead outside and was used to remove the body. It was considered improper for the body to be removed by the door the living used to enter. It was also considered bad to remove the body feet first. After removal, a grave would be dug in the family cemetery. Eventually, funeral homes replace the closed-off room in the home. At this point, the room had been turned into the modern living room.

During the Civil War, caring for your own dead begin to drastically change. Families wanted the soldiers who died on the battlefield to be sent home for burial. the United States established National military cemeteries for members of the Armed Forces to be varied, which they continue to be today. Shortly afterward this became the normal way for families to take care of their loved ones. Over time, the people who took care of the Dead became known as morticians and funeral directors.

Today a standard American, usually Christian, the funeral takes place at a funeral home with attendees and dressed in all black (Garden et al., 2018) the body rests in an open casket in front of the crowd. Following the service, a hearse takes the casket to a cemetery for burial. The most significant change is probably the popularity of cremation. Jessica Midford’s best-selling book, “ the American way of death” reveals abuses in the United States Funeral Home industry, such as how they worked hard to convince people it was important to preserve their loved ones. The funeral industry stressed this to keep burials prevalent.

Mitford’s book provided alternative ideas to Consumers. The cremation rate was only 3% in the 1960s, whereas cremations now outright burials. The Cremation rate was 51.6% in 2017 (Garden et al., 2018) and is expected to increase more than 6 percentage points by 2022. Following this time they were major shifts and how people experience death and what they do with the remaining. Funerals have now gotten personalized. For example, sometimes mourners request to wear non-black clothing and tombstones pay homage to the person’s Hobbies. This brings to mind a funeral I attended a few years ago. A family friend was a truck driver, and following the service, his truck along with others was lined up out front. In the 1960s people may have included funeral recommendations in their will, whereas now people have gotten comfortable enough to plan their own funeral. Today funerals are viewed as not dwelling on the loss or grief, but instead a celebration of life. Additionally, the terminology of funerals has changed over the decades. It morphed from “ funeral service” into “ memorial service”, and now “celebration of life”.


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