Lifelike Poses for the Dead

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Extreme Embalming Really Nothing New

I have to admit, I was a bit shocked when I saw the ABC News article on the recent funeral trend; posing the deceased in a vignette of their life. I tried to imagine what it would be like, walking into a funeral parlor and seeing my friend or loved one frozen in time like one of those Twilight Zone moments.You can create a memorable (very memorable) scene of yourself engaged in what you love, be it boxing, riding a motorcycle, or just sitting in your favorite chair. Your loved ones can have one last moment together with you, just as you were.

miriam+burbankIf I’d known the late Miriam Burbank of New Orleans, I’d have had the chance to sit with her corpse in a familiar setting; at her table with a beer and cigarette in hand.From well known jazz musicians and  socialites to just plain old “MawMaw,” New Orleans is one spot where the trend is catching on. Apparently, it started around 2008 in Puerto Rico when the body of a murder victim was posed standing at a viewing. Featured in a recent New York Times article, Puerto Rico Funeral Director, Louis Charbonnet, has prepared a few of these lifelike ‘scenes’ for the dead and has several more scheduled. Directors say that these events are no joke. The families are in as much pain and grief as anyone and being able to see their loved ones in a familiar setting is a comfort for them.

Know as “Extreme Embalming,” the practice is “on the fringe” of funeral practice, says Caleb Wilde, Funeral Director and popular blogger.He also states that it would take special materials to create a vignette with the corpse posed, and a lot of cash. Funerals like this are rare in the US but they are appearing now and then. Not long ago, a biker was posed riding his Harley and later buried with it.

DeadgirlwmomsnpopsIt may seem odd or even creepy, but popular Memento Mori in Victorian times were photographs of the dead. Because of the high cost of photographs in those days, this type of memento was often the only image the family had of their loved one. Children, parents, entire families were posed and preserved in memory with these photographs. So, maybe posing the actual body for viewing is not so far from practices our ancestors valued.

There is a profound sense of closure and a grasp of my own mortality when I see a body at a visitation or at a funeral. For some people, it’s important to have a body present in order to say goodbye.It often feels to me that something is missing when only a cremation urn is present. Never-the-less, I’m not sure I’m ready to walk into a memorial gathering to see a dead friend or family member propped up in their favorite activity.

If I were to have myself posed……hmm, maybe writing at my laptop would be the most typical, but a bit sorry!How would you pose yourself?  I’m dying to know!  😉