Families today opt for more meaningful and colorful funerals to celebrate the passing of their loved ones with a bang rather than a sad whimper. ”We have Norse Mythology and Heavy Metal fans contact us about Viking funeral arrangements. Surfers want us to organize the last ‘paddle out’ for their friends in style,” says Brendan Miller, co-owner of the Los Angeles-based company FRIENDS. “People want their choices in life reflected in the way they are remembered.”
Cool Funeral, Guys!
You might want to have a themed Viewing Room decorated as "Big Momma's Kitchen". You might want to lay out the deceased in the bed of a medieval king or inside a mysterious jungle set for people’s last visit. Or you might want to throw yourself one last party to say good-bye in person with a “Living Funeral”, before a progressing disease will make it impossible. Baby Boomers, who are used to customizing all aspects of their lives seek personalized end-of-life rituals, not “cookie-cutter”
Actors and celebrities have the creativity and financial means to envision and fulfill some very unusual last wishes – Johnny Depp arranged for his friend Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes to be shot out of a cannon for his memorial service.
Taking the Dead Home
Unlike conventional funeral homes, FRIENDS offers an all-inclusive approach in which their death midwives accompany the dying process. FRIENDS then offers to organize a wake at home or at a special location, involving the family’s direct participation as an opportunity for healing. Families can learn how to wash, anoint and dress their departed loved ones, all in the comfort of their homes. FRIENDS lays the body of the deceased in honor at home on dry ice for up to 4 days. This way, the families can say good bye in their own time. The toxic process of embalming the body with formaldehyde is not necessary nor legally required.
After the viewings, FRIENDS facilitates cremations or burials and arranges for personalized, event-like end-of-life celebrations (http://www.friendsaf.com/
On their website, www.friendsaf.com, clients can chose from 16 unusual funeral or memorial arrangements or design their funeral from scratch. “I arranged funerals and viewings in my native Germany where the families were much more involved”, says Rideaux. “Dealing directly with the body of a loved one tremendously shortens the grieving and letting-go process. It’s a great psychological step towards turning grief into healing. During the first three days after death, the family and the deceased are forming a new bond, beyond death. Once families embrace this possibility, continuity is established. Saying good-bye forever is just not necessary.”
FRIENDS also aims to provide their clients with the option of green burials – which currently does not exist in Los Angeles County. Green burials use no toxic embalming fluids, non-organic coffins nor concrete grave liners, which cemeteries currently require in order to keep their lawns even. Using these materials prevents exchange with the elements and natural decomposition. FRIENDS is lobbying for the establishment of a green burial site in Los Angeles, and currently offers green burials in a green cemetery near Joshua Tree.
The Art and Wisdom of Dying Well
A new consciousness is growing in regards to the entire dying process and funerals. The goal is to reclaim the ancient wisdom and art of dying well, to rediscover and embrace death as a natural part of life. “Most people are very uncomfortable talking about death, even when it is facing them head on”, says Miller. His hope is to open people up to the conversation before it becomes critical. FRIENDS and other advocates are currently forming the Association for Conscious Dying, hoping to educate people of their many options – before and when their time comes. Soon, death may be openly discussed year-roud, not just around Halloween.