(09/15/2021)
By Bob Weaver

During the past few weeks, several folks with which I was acquainted passed on with nary a published obituary, most cremated, their ashes unceremoniously buried or scattered.

Dozens have had nary a public mention in the last year or so.

During the past 25 years, the Herald has published full obituaries and photo, free of charge, while most newspapers charge $200 or more to have them published.

The pattern of no public notice of a death has been growing for several years, certainly made worse by COVID-19.

The lack on an obituary will create a nightmare for genealogists.

We are moving toward immediate disposal with less observance of Christian or religious traditions.

The long time tradition of Memorial Day, families returning to cemeteries to honor their deceased family members is also fading.

There is a dramatic switch in the USA from what was called a traditional funeral to a less expensive and ceremoniously absent cremation.

The cremation rate in the United States has been increasing steadily with the national average rate rising from 3.56% in 1960 to 53.1% in 2018. In the next 20 years it will likely rise to 90%.

West Virginia's cremation rate, like most southern states, remains lower, but ever increasing.

The funeral of the deceased up through the 1950s was a multi-layered event, with the mortician often returning the embalmed and casketed body to the family home for a viewing and a wake, with a large number of neighbors coming to the house to "sit with the dead," followed by taking the remains to a community church for a Christian funeral.

The neighbors would would bring lots of food and spend hours in conversation on porches and yards.

Up through the 1950s the participation of community members was extensive, including the opening and closing of the grave. In the Village of Hur that would likely involve folks within a 10 mile radius.

The community would actually stop their labor to participate.

Well over a hundred participated in my grandfather John Ira McCoy's funeral in 1950.

It was a time to support, grieve and accept the loss of the person.

Then the transition was made to have all things connected with the funeral at a funeral home, and sometimes taking the remains to a church for a service.

Church funerals have nearly disappeared.

Early on families wanted long visitation hours at the funeral home, then dropping to a few hours, and now in some cases no visitation or no funeral at all, just graveside services or a private scattering of the ashes.

Occasionally, there is a memorial service.

The reasons given for the change include the high costs of funerals, time constraints, a disconnect from organized religion and families scattered all over the USA. Funerals could be more disruptive to the busy, high-tech driven world.

I still cling to the former ways of letting go of the deceased, bringing people close to the event and allowing support and time to grieve.

These thoughts are shared, being a former West Virginia mortician for about 18 years during my early life.


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