Is The Cookie Cutter Funeral Dead?


It’s hard to believe, but it wasn’t that long ago all weddings looked pretty much the same. Grooms sported a grey morning suit with a white flower in the buttonhole. Brides were frocked in various shades of ivory fashioned in the prevailing style of the day. He waited at the alter with his groomsmen. She made the slow march up the church aisle to Wagners bridal chorus on Dad’s arm. Cakes were iced in white (we have a theme Houston), and unless you opted for the registry office service you headed to church where the nuptials were solemnly officiated by a reverend (insert your clergy of choice). All vows pretty much said the same thing and yes, there was the promise to honour and obey.

Then one day a handful of couples decided this rinse and repeat wedding format didn’t reflect who they were. All of a sudden the hip and fashionable ditched church and eloped to the beach. White satin pumps were swapped for bare feet, and the church aisle traded for a sandy path winding to a makeshift altar of driftwood and flowers. Shunning the virginal symbolism of white (and favouring colours that suited them better) some brides opted for apricot, blush, or green. Heck a friend of mine turned up gloriously in Jessica Rabbit red! Even the cake got a makeover. We discovered cupcake towers made a stunning wedding cake, all the more meaningful when made from the groom’s favourite recipe. Wagners eponymous tune barely gets a look in anymore and instead it’s Elton John, Ed Sheeran or Emmy Lou Harris as the couple brings all the threads together for a unique day that makes a statement about who they are and how they want others to experience their relationship.

While contemporary weddings have gone full blown bespoke, funerals seem mired in a cookie cutter format that has dogged them for years, and too often there is little in the service to reflect the special life that is now gone. But ever so slowly we’re shaking off the shackles of convention and creating end of life celebrations that sincerely and honestly tell it like it is.

That’s what happened when Monique wrote the incredible obituary for her father Joe. What began as a heartfelt and humorous obituary in her local paper went off around the world as people expressed their admiration for the incredible funeral Monique and her sisters created.  Every single touch point on the day spoke to the man Joe was, annoying foibles and all. From the loud tee shirts to the vintage Plymouth, they unashamedly celebrated his peculiarities and passions.  Everyone who went to Joe’s funeral that day would know two things; what a character the man was, and how much he was loved.

Odds on, many people went the extra distance after reading about Joe’s funeral. Some shared with Monique how they found permission to break from tradition to do their own version of Joe’s Great Goodbye. Sometimes, when it comes to shaking up the establishment there’s comfort in seeing someone break the rules first.

Here’s a taste of Joe’s obituary. If you’d like to read the whole article the link is below.

The best obituary ever, and the wacky funeral that followed

Joe Heller always wanted to have the last laugh.

So when he died at 82 on September 8, his daughter Monique Heller sought to provide it by writing a paid obituary in the local paper describing her father’s inimitably irreverent and preposterous personality. Her humorous tribute was published — online and in print — last week in the Hartford Courant and immediately caught digital fire.

Readers loved the infectious account of this small town Everyman who embodied the tight-knit nature of this hamlet near the Connecticut River, between New Haven and New London.

The obituary listed achievements such as being a “consummate napper” and a regular browser of collectibles at the local dump. “There wasn’t a road, restaurant or friend’s house in Essex that he didn’t fall asleep on or in,” Heller wrote, adding that her father “left his family with a house full of crap, 300 pounds of birdseed and dead houseplants that they have no idea what to do with.”

On Friday morning, Heller’s body, in a coffin draped with a US flag, was placed on the 1941 Mack fire truck he helped restore and taken to Centerbrook Cemetery to be buried next to his wife, Irene, who died in 2015, and whom he embarrassed daily “with his mouth and choice of clothing,” according to the obituary.

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