Drive-thru Casket Viewing in California Offers Mourners a Last Look on Wheels
Published April 17, 2011
COMPTON, Calif. - There are drive-thru burger joints and drive-thru banks but now one California city offers the ultimate in drive-thru convenience: drive-thru casket viewing.
Yes, at the Robert L. Adams Mortuary in Compton, south of Los Angeles, it is possible to view the deceased resting in a casket display window while cruising past in your car, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
"It's a unique feature that sets us aside from other funeral parlors," said owner Peggy Scott Adams.
"You can come by after work, you don't need to deal with parking, you can sign the book outside and the family knows that you paid your respects," Scott Adams explained. "It's a convenience thing."
I don't know about you, but the way I was raised, paying one's respects is not supposed to be convenient. Its about going out of your way to care. Now, I've never been a fan of the American ritual that involves displaying the dead (if any of my family ever try to do that to me I promise to haunt them) and commenting on how "natural" uncle Joe, a manly man indeed, looks in full make-up and a suit he probably hated. I tolerate it for the sake of parish ministry, play nice for the love of friends and relatives (again, its not about me, my convenience, my preferences) but I'd be much happier to just attend the funeral and offer thanks to God for lives well lived. Yes, I'd rather spend two hours in a pew than ten minutes in a receiving line.
And the very thought of driving by, where the dead are on public display in some bulletproof (oh wait, I haven't posted that part yet, have I?) storefront for the sake of "convenience"... revolting. I don't suppose it struck me as an indignity to receive a my supposed meal from a paper bag handed through a window by an employee who would rather be anywhere else. I'm sure I missed the lack of humanity in the "here's the goods, now move along" world of drive through banking, food, coffee, and even pharmacies (or so they say, I've never used one). But one by one, business by business, convenience has taken the place of relationship. To do so in the most relational of times, a funeral, is dehumanizing and repellant.
You know, there was a time when the dead were kept in their homes before the funeral, and death was part of life. Funeral homes removed that, for convenience. And while the last thing I'd want if a member of my household were to pass on woudl be a parade of people coming in and out my door, there is something appropriate in the non-sterile environment in which death and life collide. But for convenience, dignity and humanity and relationship are sacrificed, and even our loves are dispensed from a drive through (spelled drive-thru, I guess) window.