Is nothing sacred?
Well, I think we probably know the answer to that one (if you have online friends like my online friends who forward you lots of weird stuff), when it comes to what some people would consider strange business innovations linked to religious life.
Nevertheless, that was the question that crossed my mind as I read a news story by the Commercial Appeal newspaper of Memphis, Tenn., about a funeral home's drive-thru viewing option:
When Ryan Bernard bought the old bank building in Orange Mound, he found an unusual use for the drive-thru window.
Bernard, owner of R. Bernard Funeral Services, offers grieving loved ones the chance to pay their last respects conveniently from their car. Guests drive up and view the body through a bullet-proof window. The drive-thru visitation service is a mobile spin on the traditional wake.
"I got the idea a couple of years back when I was out in California. It caught my attention. I thought it was neat and thought I could bring it back to Memphis and this area," Bernard said. "Being in Memphis, we are surrounded by a lot of big-name funeral homes that have been around for 100 years, so being the new kid on the block, so to speak, I needed something unique to make me stand apart."
In addition to novelty, Bernard said that the drive-thru viewings offer accessibility and convenience.
"It helps out those that lack (physical) mobility, those who don't feel like the hassle of parking cars and getting out or those who are scared to come into a funeral home,” said Bernard. “A lot of funeral homes creep people out.”
Of course, then you have all that nasty heat and humidity in Memphis. Why not stay in your air-conditioned car during the really bad months?
A few years ago, I highlighted a Philadelphia Inquirer feature on drive-thru prayer. Although that idea was new to me, I could relate to the rationale.
But viewing a loved one's dead body through a drive-thru window? I find that concept real difficult to grasp.
Give the Commercial Appeal credit: The paper quotes an expert source who is not thrilled with the practice:
Bernard said reaction has been mostly positive, but others have said they find it disrespectful. Jackson, Tennessee, funeral home owner Bob Arrington falls in the latter camp.
"In my opinion, I don't think the body should be put on display like a new car," said Arrington,who is also the former president of the National Funeral Directors Association.
"I think if it was to catch on, so to speak, it would be geographical," Arrington said. " I think one of the last ones to do it would be in the South because we are so traditional and so tightly wrapped to the Bible Belt."
However, I wish the Commercial Appeal had pressed Arrington to explain his comment on the traditional South and Bible Belt. I sense a pretty strong holy ghost there, but the paper fails -- believe it or not in a report about a topic linked to death and funerals -- to engage the apparent religion angle.
As a result, the story ends up feeling rather shallow.
Is nothing sacred?