Funeral customs vary from place to place, depending on the era, culture and area. I have always been fascinated by the practices in other states.
One of my earliest funeral memories was being a flower girl at the funeral of a great aunt in southern Illinois. The flower girls were often nieces or great nieces and carried flowers from the church to the burying ground nearby. Dressed in my best dress and mary jane shoes, that vase of flowers was clutched tightly to my chest. That must have been sometime in the early 1950s.
Years later while living in Michigan, I mentioned that memory to friends and they had never heard of having flower girls at funerals. I know it was common in western Kentucky as well as southern Illinois, but that custom must not have spread to other parts of the country.
Another custom that has fallen out of favor is having the viewing of the decedent in the home. When my grandmother died in the late 1950s, her casket was placed in a corner of the dining room. A family member sat next to the casket day and night and visitors came and went at will, with the remains not being moved to the funeral home until shortly before the funeral service. The smell of carnations was so strong in that room of my grandfather’s house and it made such an impression on me that, for years later, I could not be in that room without catching the scent of the funeral flowers.
Another thing that has changed in western Kentucky is the use of music at funeral home services. When my father died in 1975, a lady from his church sang his favorite hymns. I can remember her voice just soaring through that room - a truly beautiful version of "How Great Thou Art." Today, recorded music is often used and it doesn't have the same personal touch that a live person provides.
Customs and times change. Were funeral things done differently in your area? Would you share them with us?