Seems like funerals or memorial services are either getting simpler or more complex these days. Green burials and simple home rituals are gaining momentum, but so are high end funeral extravaganzas that spare no expense. In an article that appeared in yesterday’s U.K.-based Independent newspaper, “the rise of the distinctly unconventional celebrity send-off is proof of a distinct shift in British attitudes to the final journey of the dead.”
Enter Lori MacKellar, who has been labeled a “celebrity undertaker”. Ms. MacKellar, a former contemporary art publicist, has been responsible for some of the recent funerary fetes of British celebs and luminaries such as Malcolm McLaren (punk rock visionary) and Michael Wojas (legendary barman). While she takes umbrage with such a title, Ms. MacKellar sees herself as performing a very important role in the the creation of lasting memories for the deceased family and friends. As she puts it:
“The departure point is always what the family want to do. In the case of Malcolm McLaren, the family had very clear ideas about what sort of funeral they wanted and we helped to arrange it. The bus was provided by a friend and there were so many ways that people were able to express themselves. We were a little bit worried that at one point some fans might give the ‘punk salute’ by spitting towards the hearse. Of course, that never happened and people were also very respectful. I think the family were pleased with how it went.
If Michael Jackson’s memorial service here stateside is any indication of the lengths the rich and famous will go to to ensure a lasting legacy for time immemorial, then I’m not sure what is. The entire city of Los Angeles was practically shut down last July on the day of the memorial service at the Staples Center. The city racked up (and was criticized for) $1.3 million dollars in expenses on that day to pay all the associated costs of such a large event, including but not limited to, police officers, sanitation workers and traffic control. A few weeks ago, nearing the one year anniversary of MJ’s death, Anschutz Entertainment Group and the estate of Michael Jackson have agreed to provide $1.3 million to the city of Los Angeles to help cover the cost of last year’s memorial.
Ultimately, a funeral or memorial service is a reflection of the life of the deceased. So whether plain or fancy, the ways in which we honor, celebrate and remember the dead is really a mirror on our collective values and ideologies. What will YOUR memorial or funeral say about you?