A Personal Reflection: The Unnatural Commercialization of Funerals in America

I stepped into the funeral home and walked across the pale green carpeting to the coat rack with hangers you can't remove and struggled briefly to put my coat away. The shuffle of my mother and sister sounded deafening as the funeral director waited patiently for us to go through the motions. No doubt he's seen this play out many times before. In his office, binders full of options and details are laid out. White or red roses? Oak or cherry casket? This or that options are repeated ad nauseam until there are no more decisions to be made. The smell of embalming agents rounds out the whole experience so that by the time we leave, I'm as numb as the untold number of bodies two floors down.

Is this how death plays out? Is this how my father is finally honored and remembered? My father's body preserved, fussed over by strangers, until he can be revealed at the viewing? I never felt more ashamed as his son than in the moment I realized I wasn't the one physically taking care of him before his burial. I gave that responsibility away, because that's just what we do. It's how it is done.

As an Orthodox Christian looking back on my experience, I say with 100% conviction that it was the most unnatural, Godless process I've ever gone through.

I certainly understand the need to pay for a cemetery plot and internment, but please, let us dispense with the distinctly commercial aspects of our funeral customs here in America.

My regret is strong; if I could do it all again, my wish would be: Let me bury my father in an involved, hands-on way, with humility, in a simple casket, trading all those worldly "this or thats" for a vigil and prayer instead.

Written by Andrew Schwark.



Thank you for reading! Our friend Andrew Schwark wrote this piece reflecting on his father’s passing, which was a few years ago. Andrew wants to share his story and emphasize the importance of an Orthodox burial. Feel free to share his message.


God Bless,

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