The 21rst century in urban America has been a decade in which we have seen daily life grow more problematic for most people. In addition to the macro problems of security against terrorism, economic distress, unemployment, downturn in the housing market, overcrowding in public schools, rising cost of college tuition and health care, there have been numerous “smaller” problems, only in the sense that they don’t affect as large a swath of the population. These include the rapid growth in the rate of autism and learning disabilities, ADHD in the adult population, bullying and obesity as problems serious enough for presidential attention, sexting, harassment and other cyber/abuses achieving levels of criminality and the proliferation of support groups to include almost all imaginable deviations or afflictions. Though this last item may not be a problem in itself, it reflects how many types of behavior are now classified as meriting help. In other words, our lives have been framed in terms of dysfunction and distress. Selfish people are narcissists; promiscuous people are sex addicts; moody people are bi-polar and sadness has become depression. These are not easy times to be alive.
The good news is that dying has become happier as funerals are no longer occasions for grieving and weeping. The new trend, according to the Wall Street Journal, is to add humor and levity to the occasion. Eulogies are upbeat and recount the wisecracks and idiosyncrasies of the deceased. You may have been to some of the current trendy funerals and have discovered for yourself that many of the dead were not as funny as their family and friends think they were and worse, the eulogists aren’t either. In fact, this latest fad is the downside of people watching a show like Seinfeld and thinking that they are at least as clever as the unsuccessful characters they’re laughing at. An example that is cited in the Journal article is that of a woman whose mother called everyone banana head; it seems that this was never mentioned at her funeral which led the daughter to create a memorial service titled “Where is my coffee, banana head?” Even Kramer or George Costanza could not really get a laugh out of that. Worse, the audience at these stand-up funerals think it’s appropriate to offer their critical comments about the ceremony as one woman sent her objections to the funeral director who forwarded them to the daughter of the deceased. If the death of her mother wasn’t an occasion for crying, perhaps the rotten review was.
We are just a short step away from the final fillip that is missing from an erstwhile solemn occasion and that is something which will make a funeral as much fun as formerly boring museums have become. You guessed it - the funeral gift shop where you’ll be able to buy embarrassing photos of the deceased, colorful happy-face rocks for children to place at Jewish graves and talking floral bouquets with grandma and granpa’s most memoral quips for mourners of the Christian faith. For spiritualists of all faiths, a ouija board so that perhaps the laughs can keep coming and who knows - hopefully improve?
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