Paying Final Respects

Paying Final Respects

Dr. Steven J. Callis


Does progress always improve society?  Is it possible that some scientific or technological advances actually hinder societal growth?  Is it always to our advantage that developers are accommodating us with easier and more convenient ways to accomplish our daily tasks?

Paradise Funeral Home in Saginaw, Michigan has opened a new door in their field of service, now providing drive-thru funeral visitations.  The owner admits that he wanted to “bring something to Saginaw that we have never had before.”  Well, he certainly accomplished that goal!

Never leaving their vehicle, persons can sign the guest book, drop a memorial into a memorial box, and then drive forward to a window where they can spend up to 3 minutes viewing the deceased.  As the viewer approaches the window, the weight of the vehicle triggers a mechanism that opens the curtain.

The manager of the funeral home is quoted as saying, “We wanted to provide convenience and accessibility for our customers for the times and days they don’t want to get out of their vehicle.” They confessed their surprise at receiving so much negative feedback from people in the community.  The drive-thru system was installed at the cost of $300,000, but there is no additional charge in funeral costs for the drive-thru service.

Admittedly, this new-fangled visitation service is convenient, time saving, and the visitors who use it do not even have to dress up for the occasion.  It also avoids what might be awkward moments for some people who do not know what to say to the family or wonder how long they should stand at the casket and stare at the deceased.  But what message does that send to the family?

What concerns me is not so much the idea itself, but the indicated mindset of our society that it suggests.  From their earliest years we seek to protect our children from hurt, disappointment, and difficulty.  I am certainly not opposed to rewards and encouragement and a positive environment, but an easy life that is sheltered from all negative impetus is not healthy.  In fact, the current trend to make everything easy and convenient and accommodating is not always best for our society.

I am reminded of the little boy who found a cocoon and noticed that the creature inside was trying to break through the covering to escape.  Being kind hearted and helpful, the boy carefully took his scissors and cut the cocoon open to free the newborn butterfly.  Its wings were shriveled and small, and it could not, and never did, fly.  The boy did not realize that the butterfly’s struggle to break through the cocoon was an instinctive necessity that would strengthen its wings and prepare it to soar through the sky.

We will have reached a sad state when we become so careless that finding the time, energy and heart to get out of the car in order to express our support and sympathy to a grieving friend or loved one is more than we are willing to do.  No matter how far we advance in technology, human beings will never outgrow the instinctive need to know that someone cares.

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