Wake Up

Odd and Strange Ways
of Dispatching the Dead

Death and ritual go hand and hand since records are kept and bodies are buried. The more we grieve the loss of our loved ones, the less we’ll morn them in the future.
Seeing them peacefully at rest is still an effective way to get through the pain of their departure and how it happened.
Today, though, most western societies seem averse to such an acknowledgment of life’s finality. Many prefer to do away with ritual altogether and to avoid marking that particular moment of dread at all costs.
Our daily routine can’t be broken or bothered with negligible details of someone’s passing. We’d like to focus instead, in “celebrating their life,” which is more in line with the undercurrent sentiment that the world is for the living.
That’s why those early 1900s pictures of dead children nested on their moms’ laps have such a chilling effect on our psyche. In fact, ancient depictions of the dead can spook us and throw us into a tailspin, and the vision of a corpse has almost the same haunting effect of seeing a ghost for a contemporary grownup.
More reason then to give it to the Taiwanese. Perhaps deeming the wake proceedings a bit dreary, the ritual of mourning the dead has been enhanced there with the hiring of strippers and pole dancers. Yeah, you heard it right.
The practice used to be widespread some two decades ago, when the Taiwan mafia controlled the funerary houses and stripper clubs businesses. The combination of both can be seen either as a strike of entrepreneurial genius, or sacrilegious bad taste.
But it’s still common, albeit now it’s officially illegal.
Ritual in Asian cultures, of course, is still an integral part of everyday life, and just a few weeks ago, we told you about Thai monks who created a special one for those who want to “experience rebirth.”
People would lay in coffins and, well, read all about it here.
We should say, death and religiosity also like to walk around together, but it’d be more accurate to say that one of religion’s biggest powers is its ability to use death as part of its allure. That, though, is another issue.
Exacerbated faith is also part of the “carpideiras” phenomenon, an old costume in Latin cultures to hire professional mourners, to help out the grieving during wake and burial. It’s kind of out there but it can be disturbingly contagious.
In a smaller scale, all such rituals are also present within the most multicultural and biggest immigrant nation of the world, the U.S. So no one would be surprised if a lot of these transposed approaches to dealing with the departed were found in niche-like communities throughout the land.

But then, there’s the Adams Mortuary, in Compton, California. Talking about people being in a hurry to dispatch the dead, what about a drive-thru viewing wake? Again, there’s nothing wrong with your hearing or reading, you read it right.
Inside, the funeral parlor is just your graveyard-variety suburban kind, gold chandeliers and plastic-covered pink upholstered seats. But outside the doors, there’s a covered and paved drive-thru, its glass display window visible from the street.
It’s truly American and perfect for those who may choose to stop by, take a quick look at the coffin, sign the book and take off, all without leaving the driver’s seat. After all, food and drinks at these wakes are overrated anyway.

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