I participated in a fundraiser over the weekend. (I’m not sure how much I actually participated, to tell the truth — I just signed up for a table to display my books.) The event was to raise money for hospice and bereavement classes, which are causes I believe in. I’m all for helping people get through their final days as easily as possible and especially to offer comfort and support to those left behind. It’s not just that grief slams into the bereft, making it almost impossible to breathe, but they have to deal with all the horrendous “death” chores such as planning a funeral and filling out the required official and financial paperwork involved in “removing” someone from the world.
A couple of the participants in the fundraiser were businesses offering funeral and mortuary services, which fit with the purpose of the event since they were trying to make it easier for those left behind by getting people to “preplan” their funeral arrangements. (I’m restraining myself to keep from ranting about the silly jargon of the death business, such as the redundant “preplan” and the totally ridiculous “cremains.” One rant per post is enough.)
The only trouble with having representatives of the funeral business at the fundraiser is that this was not a serious event. It was a fun Halloween event geared toward children as well as adults. One of the mortuary booths played down their services, mostly providing pamphlets and pens for adults while offering various treats to the children, but the other funeral services participant went all out, decorating their booth with dancing skeletons, skulls, and cartoonish graves.
Perhaps the hushed and grave intonations of old-time funeral directors no longer have a place in our anything-goes society, but still, death deserves respect — for the sake of those left behind if for no other reason. Skeletons and skulls are one thing when they are used far from reality such as in Halloween festivities, but to mix such cartoonish symbols of death with the real thing just struck me as going way beyond taste and tact to downright tacky and insensitive.
They of all people should have known that for some people death is not fun, not a business, but an all too real horror.
(These photos show some of the decorations I’ve been referring to. The top photo came from the wide border of the tablecloth. The others were a couple of the tabletop decorations. Lest you think I am being too critical, I am the not the only one who found the decorations inappropriate.)
Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+