October 2018

October 2018


Diversity in Funeral Customs

Just as religions and cultures around the world have different traditions for worship, there also can be varied funeral traditions for each. Many funeral customs are based on ancient ways, designed to honor one’s death in a spiritual context. With the advent of embalming and other more modern advances, some funeral traditions have been adapted. Despite these changes, many cultures and religions maintain the core of their traditions with small changes to suit modern day.

At Parthemore Funeral Home, we respect all religious and cultural practices. Our trained professional funeral directors and staff are able to make any accommodations needed to carry out the proper funeral, including traditions that take place before, during or after the service.

Before the ceremony, each religion or culture has their own way of preparing the body. Prior to a Buddhist ceremony, family members will dress the body in everyday, common clothing as soon as the death occurs. Before an Orthodox Jewish funeral, the body is washed and purified immediately through a process called “tararah,” and is not left unattended until burial. Similarly, prior to a Muslim funeral, the body is washed several times, shrouded, and situated according to meticulous traditional practices. In the Chinese culture, the funeral preparations began before the death. Once the person has passed the body is then cleaned and dusted with talc, before being placed inside the casket. Some religions also prohibit embalming or cosmetology. Those who worship in the Orthodox Jewish, Hindu and Muslim religions do not allow embalming and believe that the body should be buried as close to the time of death as possible, usually within 24-48 hours.

For most cultures and religions, the funeral service is conducted by a religious leader, whether it be a rabbi, monk, pastor or priest. In addition to who conducts the service, the funeral service traditions also differ. For a Catholic, Lutheran or Presbyterian service, a funeral mass is performed, in which a candle is lit to celebrate the departed and bring comfort to the mourners. Some cultures that share the same religion adapt the funeral service to their local customs. For example, Hispanic Catholic funerals might include mariachis, overnight visitations and a family feast. The type of prayers and participation at funeral services also varies by religion.

Funeral etiquette that is expected, can vary by the type of service. For a Hispanic funeral, personal items and gifts may be laid in the casket to help the deceased have a successful journey to the afterworld. Attendees at a Buddhist funeral should wear white or light color clothing. Similarly, for a Hindu funeral attendees wear all white and arrive empty-handed. No flowers or gifts should be brought. Guests should also not exchange greetings with the official mourners, but instead nod or hug in sympathy. Appropriate dress for a Samoan funeral is a lavalava (or skirt like wrap), white shirt, tie, jacket and leather sandals for men, and a pulu tasi (or muumuu) for women.

The final disposition of the body also varies across different religions. For those of the Orthodox Jewish and Muslim religion, cremation is not allowed. Bodies must be buried. In the Hindu religion, no burial takes place, the body must be cremated. In the Hindu religion, the body is cremated on a specially built outdoor pyre following prescribed funeral rites. In the United States, the traditional rites are carried out, but the actual cremation takes place in a crematorium. In Italy, grave space is a precious commodity, so interment usually takes place in a mausoleum. Before the body is buried, each person may walk up to the casket and throw a fistful of dirt or a flower on top. Following the service, traditionally flowers are planted around the burial site to purify the grounds. According to Chinese tradition, the body must be buried, but should never be dressed in red, because it could turn the deceased into a ghost. At an Orthodox Jewish funeral, the body is wrapped in a sheet and prayer shawl and interred in a simple wooden box.

Each religious or cultural group also have their own designated period for mourning. Some range from a several days to an entire year. In many instances, family and friends gather after the service and share food and drink. After an Orthodox Jewish funeral, the immediate family sits in mourning or “Shiva” in their home for the next seven days. It is customary for family, friends and coworkers to come by the home and pay their respects to the family. Ten days after a Hindu funeral, a ceremony is held at the home of the deceased in order to liberate the soul for its ascent into heaven. In the Chinese culture the funeral ceremony lasts 49 days, but the first 7 are the most important.

Funerals are an emotional time for loved ones, no matter what their religion or culture. Funeral traditions are meant to help memorialize those who have passed and make the grieving process easier for those who are affected.


Parthemore’s Reflect on Growing Up Around a Funeral Home

Growing up in and around a funeral home allows for many unique experiences not everyone can relate to. The Parthemore’s shed some light on their childhood growing up in a funeral home.

“When Dad opened the funeral home and we moved from 9th St. to Bridge St. I had to leave Hillside Elementary and start 4th grade at Manor Elementary School. It only took a few months until some of the kids started calling me Mort (short for Mortician) when they found out I was the new kid who’s dad just started a funeral home. It carried through high school with some of them and to this day a couple of them will still greet me as “Mort” after a period of time of not seeing each other.” ~ Gib Parthemore

“Of course there are a million memories, but the something that definitely stands out is that we had our own parking lot to ride our bikes. Actually, not sure if this considered normal or not, but as FDK’s (funeral director’s kids), we would tie the red wagon to the bicycle. One of us would ride the bike and the other one would lie in the wagon and we would pretend that it was a hearse in funeral procession!” ~ Bruce Parthemore

“Growing up at the funeral home, I recall, more than once, a friend that intended to sleep over, calling his parents to pick him up because it was too scary sleeping above a funeral home. I won’t name names. I also recall my parents being on a date and watching scary movies on Prism when the babysitter fell asleep. Watching a scary movie above a funeral home intensifies the effect. I remember having very little trick or treaters. I remember having to be quiet during evening viewings and after the viewings, setting up the chairs for the next day’s funeral service. I remember that despite the unusual environment, it was a great place to grow up, and all my friends enjoyed visiting because my parents were so warm and welcoming." ~Steve Parthemore

“I can remember having to be quiet at Pap and Grandma’s house (above the funeral home) when there was a viewing or service taking place on the first floor. I also enjoyed having wheel-chair races down the long corridor against my brother and cousins. I can also remember looking forward to the New Cumberland parades because we’d have friends and family join us on the front porch of the funeral home to watch.” ~ Gibby Parthemore


The Mourner’s Bill of Rights

Though you should reach out to others as your work through you grief, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one can take away from you.

The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and show how others can help. It is important to reach out to others, but to also to distinguish useful responses from hurtful ones.

  1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief. No one else will grieve in the exact same way as you. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell you how you should be feeling.

  2. You have the right to talk about your grief. Talking about your grief can help you heal. But you also, have the right to not talk at times when you don’t feel like talking.

  3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your journey. Others may tell you that feeling a certain way is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Find someone who will listen and accept your feeling without conditions.

  4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave your feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind is telling you. Get your daily rest and be sure to eat balanced meals.

  5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.” Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural.

  6. You have the right to make use of ritual. The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone. It helps provide you with the support from the ones you love. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. Do what you think is right in helping you grief.

  7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality. If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs.

  8. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking questions revolving around the death of a loved one. Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not.

  9. You have the right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them with.

  10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid those who are not patient and tolerant with you.

Everyone’s journey with grief is unique. You will find people who support you and others that don’t. It’s important to recognize those who are supportive and allow them to help you throughout your journey.


Expressing Your Sense of Humor in Stone

The term headstone comes from the Jewish custom of placing a rock or stone at the head of a grave as a sign of respect. For many years now, almost all cultures and religions have practiced the tradition of marking a grave where a loved one is buried. During the 19th century, when public cemeteries began to emerge, Victorians began adding artwork and symbols to headstones, such as swords, flowers and doves. People also began expanding headstones to include details about the deceased, along with their name and lifespan.

Over time inscriptions on tombstones have evolved. Some people are even using their tombstones to express their sense of humor. Their intentions are to give visitors a good laugh and to ensure their sense of humor lives on. Below are some examples.

A man who raised four daughters

The man who is best known as the voice of Bugs Bunny.

A life poem

Permanent parking spot

A beloved stand-up comedian best known for his self-deprecating one-liners.

Well-known game show host and creator of Jeopardy!

Three things you want people to remember.

Secret family recipe

Famous actor and comedian leaves his final tribute to his love of fart jokes.

“I told you I was sick.”

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