The upswing of creative funeral services
By Elizabeth Fournier

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Funeral service consumers are seeking a service that is as unique as the person who died. The idea of personalization has resulted in an explosion of unique and meaningful services being held. Families want the funeral ceremony to no longer focus on death, but rather the celebration of life.

With the rise of the baby boomers, funeral service consumers are making decisions based on different values than the previous generation. Boomers and seniors have a strong commitment to and appreciation for the value of funeral service and are seeking a meaningful service that provides a connection to their loved one, and a celebration of the life that was lived.

Has your funeral home received requests for creative or unique funerals?
  • 1. Yes
  • 2. No

Wanda's service pops right to mind. Her friends and family played drums, chanted and spoke of her kindness. We all held hands to form a circle around her newly dug resting place, and stood in silence as her three sons lowered her gently into the ground. Her tiny frame was cloaked with a quilt she had made as a teenager. Soon the plain grave was covered with earth, with a knoll of dirt on top to compensate for the settling that will happen over time. There was no marker, just native foliage. After a closing prayer we feasted on fish caught in the local Clackamas River.

Home funerals are taking off here in Oregon. Some people even keep the body at home and then bury on their own land. I've attended several funerals and memorial services held at home, and I found the familiar surroundings to be more comforting than the often impersonal and commercial setting of a funeral home.

Other creative ideas include having guests bring food for a potluck, and have potted plants rather than cut and arranged flowers. A traditional casket spray or grave blanket will cost hundreds of dollars. Try a nontraditional arrangement such as roses or other favorite flowers just laid on the casket in water tubes or even without a water source for single-day visitations. Or even skip the flowers entirely.

Who is embracing and driving this movement? The baby boomers. Those 78 million Americans born in the two decades following the end of World War II ushered in the first Earth Day and natural childbirth; they wrote their own wedding vows and nurtured the organic food revolution. This is the age demographic calling me to chat, request information and choose creative and personalized funeral and memorial services, rather than the traditional methods.

Elizabeth Fournier is affectionately known as The Green Reaper in her tiny community of Boring, Ore. She is the owner of Cornerstone Funeral Services and works as a green mortician, educator and advocate who is always ready to lend a hand or a shovel. She is the voice of the autopsy exhibit in the forensic wing at the United States National Museum of Medicine, and is the author of "All Men Are Cremated Equal."