For generations, a funeral director’s job changed little because families typically wanted the service to be a solemn, predictable ritual, rooted in religious practices and long-established customs. However, "this is no longer the case," said Larry Phillips of Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service.
Personalized celebrations of life
Many traditional funeral methods and procedures have stemmed from religious practices and now are beginning to evolve without a religious tradition as a reference point, due to the changing values and perspectives of our society. Philips has found that many of the families he works with are not affiliated with a specific religious background and do not belong to a church.
"It's a perspective shift on the purpose of a funeral service," explained Phillips. "The focus is on the person's life, not his death." This shift began when the baby boomer generation began to plan funerals. Baby boomers are still rocking their parents' world, discarding more traditional arrangements and incorporating informality and an approach that makes the funeral service as unique as the person who died.
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Today, “funeral directors join the family in co-designing a service that illustrates the uniqueness of who their loved one was and what they were passionate about,” said Phillips. “Every life tells a story.” Visitations and services include items and props that engage the senses – even small takeaways – that all help bring that story to life.
The millennial contribution
“Technology has drastically changed the modern-day funeral experience,” Phillips said, and has been the millennials’ contribution to funeral service. Video tributes compiled from treasured family photographs capturing significant moments in the life of the deceased and those who love him are set to music chosen by the family and then played during the visitation and funeral service.
To enhance service to families and communities, many funeral homes now have websites, which allow them to easily display their products and services. Often times, obituaries posted on the funeral home’s site are never taken down, and links to the video tribute as well as a recording of the funeral service can be accessed with the click of a mouse. Some funeral homes have the capability to webcast the service, which allows family members who live too far away or are too ill to travel to watch the service by logging in with a secure password via a link on the decedent’s webpage. This service is especially appreciated by soldiers overseas and elderly shut-ins, who can honor the deceased with their virtual presence.
The use of technology for funeral services doesn’t stop there. Innovative funeral professionals take personalization for families seriously and are constantly looking for ways to provide original service options.
“With this in mind, Envision® was created,” Phillips said. This is a graphics interface device that allows the funeral home to transform their walls into digital canvases and paint customized masterpieces that immerse and engage the family. Envision® combines tradition with innovation to promote an astounding, truly unique experience.”
Personalizing graveside services
Personalization is also making its way to the graveside service. Traditionally, a short committal service was followed by the lowering of the casket. In recent years, funeral directors have experienced an increase in requests for ways to add symbolic significance to this service and help facilitate closure.
White dove and butterfly releases, for example, signifying the spiritual flight home, have become very popular and offer a beautiful and meaningful close to a service. The mournful strains of “Amazing Grace” fading away as a bagpiper walks over the hill at the cemetery, give expression to grief and sadness in a powerful way.
These and other innovations can help tailor a funeral to the needs of a family while honoring and celebrating the uniqueness of the life that has been lived.
Funeral services will always be changing, and Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service is at the forefront. The oldest continuously-operated business in South Richmond since 1870, Morrissett is the only Virginia Funeral Home to be awarded the National Funeral Directors Association’s prestigious “Pursuit of Excellence” award each year since 2013 and is the first funeral home in Central Virginia to have trained therapy dogs available on staff.