New York State Funeral Directors Association

If I told my Catholic mother I wanted my casket strapped to a mechanical bull so I could take “one last ride” at my funeral, she’d probably start crying.

I won't suggest she stay up to catch “Best Funeral Ever” on TV because then she’d have to watch the light blue casket spinning and jolting about on top of the mechanical bull it was strapped to.

Right or wrong, it’s just one of the sights cable channel TLC is serving up to viewers in a video promoting its TV show that started its 3rd season this week.

A dead person was involved in a pretend shootout at a Dude Ranch -- while inside his casket -- as part of one of the elaborate funeral services coordinated by a Texas-based funeral home.

In another funeral, guests pump a person’s cremation ashes into a football. A female relative then kicks that football over a set of goal posts in honor of the sports-loving, dead relative.

The show is a perfect example of what can happen to you if you don’t specify, ahead of time, how you want your body treated at your funeral.

According to the website, 26-year funeral director John Beckwith, Jr. is in charge of the funeral home founded by his father and he specializes in expensive, theme-based remembrance ceremonies called “Home Goings.”

Beckwith on the website says he does about 125 of these Home-Goings and the other 95 percent of his work consists of traditional funerals.

Family members meet with funeral home staff and discuss what their dead loved-one used to like or talk about often, what their favorite activities were and what they imagine that dead person would appreciate in a funeral.

Then they plan a funeral that none of them will ever forget.

These funerals are all coordinated with the help of approving family members who seem to have no problem letting their dead brother, aunt, father or other family member get tossed around in a most-vulnerable state.

There’s heartfelt drama in the program. This week, a man planning his mom’s funeral began to cry recounting how he never got around to giving her the vacation she’d always wanted – a trip to Hawaii.

But no worries – with the help of the Texas funeral home, they put Mom on a plane along with a couple dozen family members and funeral home staff and headed to the tiny island to put on a beachfront funeral.

There’s some technical funeral expertise at work. It clearly takes several days to plan out these events and the planning all starts after somebody has already died.

In one scene, subtitles alert viewers there’s 48 hours until the funeral at a point where funeral home staff members were seeking a suitable location for the event.

Then there’s the planning and time involved in bringing somebody from Texas all the way to Hawaii – there’s definitely some technical mortuary science at work here. There’s more than just good embalming and refrigeration skills involved.

Funeral home workers take on an engineering challenge when the Hawaii funeral plans call for a Viking-like departure. The lady’s casket was to be cast into the water.

They used a test model, I expect, to see if caskets float.

The test model didn't float.

In the end, they affixed the woman’s casketed remains to a catamaran and gently tugged her out to sea using a boat it was all tied to.

The funeral home workers also compose lyrics for their personalized funeral songs.

The events are like other funerals, in a way. Family members are seen crying, others are shouting and raising their hands in joy.

It seems to show how people can more-easily endure the death of a love-one when they focus on celebrating that person’s life.

And it probably fits with many of the themes of a “Good Funeral” in which grieving friends and relatives stick close to the body of their beloved deceased.

Close is an understatement when you see the funeral service for a man everybody said loved breakfast food and ate breakfast at any time of the day.

They laid out a spread of colorful fruits atop the man’s casket and cooked up pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage for a breakfast feast alongside the casket while singing his praises.

The show isn't for everybody, especially tradition-minded folk accustomed to a solemn, quiet service in which the deceased is treated with the utmost of reverence.

But talk among family members and funeral workers makes me wonder if these people didn’t visit their friend or relative often enough, or didn’t bring their loved-one to that place they always wanted to go.

Beware of Funeral Ideas from Family
As for pre-planning your funeral arrangements: Those seeking the traditional funeral should consider it because here’s what family members let happen to their dead relatives on Best Funeral Ever:

  • One deceased was sent down the lane at a bowling alley so they could hit one final “strike” before their burial
  • The funeral home set up six-gun holsters on the casket of a clergyman who loved Western movies – he was engaged in a pretend gunfight with a funeral worker while at a Dude Ranch the service was held at
  • Friends and family carried a dead boxer’s casket into a boxing ring and they joined in unison to give him a 10-count for his final trip to the ring
  • A casket was spun around on a big game-show wheel that looks like a “Wheel of Fortune” prop as family and friends pretended they were on a game show
  • Another dead man did his final 100-yard dash on the athletic track, while inside his casket, and took his place on the winners’ platform afterward.

I won’t judge these folks, I know they’re working through the pain of grief. Some are likely reeling from that dark guilt you feel when you realize you’ll never get to bring that loved-one to the show they liked or to that vacation hotspot they always talked about.

Perhaps the show might prompt more people to do just that, while their loved-one is still alive.

And maybe it will encourage others to get their funeral plans set before their family members find out they really enjoyed feeding great white sharks by the reef.

EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association