Funeral directors are finding it increasingly challenging to meet consumer demands and competition is robust. Expectations for the final send-off are changing. The idea of a somber mood, serious reflections and the expression of emotions is passé. Funeral directors are becoming party planners.

There are 22,000 funeral homes in the United States alone. They are responsible for burying more than 2 million Americans each year at a cost of $13 billion. There’s a growing trend with baby boomers to add some customized novel features to the funeral program. Mark Duffy who operates Everest Funeral Package in Texas says: “Baby boomers are all about being in control. This generation wants to control everything from the food to the words, to the order of the service. And this is one area where consumers feel out of control.” (1)

Duffy said people want a program that reflects their lives and their tastes. One family asked for a memorial service on the 18th green of their father’s favorite golf course, “because that’s where dad was instead of church on Sunday mornings, so why are we going to church,” Mr. Duffy said. “Line up his buddies and hit balls.

Mr. Duffy the funeral planner believes that the trend to favor cremation will give greater the freedom in planning a unique memorial program. With the body absent, the mood is less somber. “The body’s a downer, especially for boomers. If the body doesn’t have to be there, it frees us up to do what we want. They may want to have it in a country club or bar or their favorite restaurant.

Baby boomers like to organize and control everything. They are great planners and they love agendas. They know how to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’. John Leland of the New York Times said people “hire coaches to guide their careers and retirements, tutors for their children, personal shoppers for their wardrobes, trainers for their abs, whisperers for their pets…”

Boomers have all the bases covered. Or do they? They may plan a lavish funeral party for themselves and meticulously detail it in a written funeral plan – but while the party is going on in a bar or a church hall or on a golf course, where is the deceased boomer? Did they plan for ‘beyond’ the death party? Did they cover the bases for eternity or decide to wing it or take the risk? Or did they just think about life on earth as if there was nothing else to worry about?

What a shock for those who meticulously planned their lives A through Y but neglected Z!

The Bible has something to say about the kind of funerals that are helpful in light of eternity. “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. ” (Ecc 7:2)  It is too late for the person who has died to change or reverse the decisions and choices they have made in life. They are no longer in control. They have entered the eternal realm owned and operated by God. The greatest good that can come out of a funeral is that those of us still alive will reflect on our own lives and prepare without further delay to meet God. Are you ready?

(1) New York Times, It’s My Funeral and I’ll Serve Ice Cream If I Want To, John Leland, July 20, 2006