Thanks to a Facebook friend, I came across the Avenidas Funeral Chapel‘s information page on the social networking site.
This post caught my eye:
“DID YOU KNOW! – You can have a visitation at home if you like? Yes you can. Many in the Hispanic tradition remember back to the time when the visitation was set up in the livingroom and friends and family came the night. The men usually stood out back around the fire and the ladies were in the kitchen and once every hour or two a rosary was done. NOW! this is still a VERY acceptable practice in the Hispanic community. We have done MANY home velorios (visitations) for our families. Unfortunatly many have been lead to believe that this was now illegal because the funeral home was losing the charges it would apply to use the chapel. Also, The delivery charge for the deceased should be minimal and there is no reason to use the hearse for delivery. Consider a home visitation if you are trying to follow your customs and traditions or families wishes. Oh, and if you are being charged to use YOUR OWN HOUSE for a visitation by the funeral home, move on to another location.”
Up until the early 20th century (and even mid-20th century around here, in rural parts of Minnesota), wakes were always held at home. The reasons for the transition to the funeral “home” are long and complex, touching on issues of health, sociology, and changing attitudes toward death. An entire book could be written about this alone. (Hmmmm, maybe my next project?!).
In We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down, I write about the story of one family waked at a home in rural Waseca in 1959. It’s an amazing story, and I can vividly picture that scene. This was one of the first stories I wrote for the book, probably around 2001 or 2002, and even after proofing my galley pages recently, it still brought tears to my eyes.
Tracy Lee Karner said:
There’s a lot of dying going on around me right now, which causes me to think about the sociology and the economics of death. It’s kind of creepy to me, that grieving people are a target-market. But, of course, it’s inevitable because the reality of living is that it takes money, and the laws of capitalism dictate that each person must figure out how to get enough of it to live and thrive and maybe get rich, and the one thing that never goes out of style is dying. (And I’m not inferring that I think there’s a better system than capitalism; it works fairly well–it’s not the system, but human nature, that leads to the creepy abuses of the system).
Don’t know where I’m going with this–but I wanted to comment because I like your posts–they make me think. Coincidentally, just last night we were talking about funeral homes and the gritty details of what happens immediately after death, and Ken was telling me about an early television commercial in the Chicago area in the early 1950’s, a jingle that went: “Casey’s Coffins clean and comfy…. remember, when death comes to your door phone Columbus 604.”
That was in the days when you’d pick up the phone and the operator said, “What number please?” And the grieving person had that jingle stuck in his head and was thinking “death comes to your door…” then said robotically, “Columbus 604.” Rhymes work to help people remember, that’s for certain.
Wow, a coffin jingle! I’m going to have to look into that. It would be cool to see old-fashioned advertisements of funeral homes, etc.
The only sure things are death and taxes, right? It’s no wonder that businesses have sprung up around those two things.
Tracy Lee Karner said:
Have you heard the one about the runaway coffin that rolled into a drugstore? To ask the pharmacist… Do you have anything to stop this “coffin”?
Amy Kortuem said:
Oh, I love it that you said “my next project.” I can’t wait to hear about (and read) what that turns out to be.
I suppose there will be a next project out there somewhere–just don’t know when!
Buying your book!
Thank you so much!