I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
month marks the 167th anniversary of a 30 to 40 hour period when Niagara
Falls ran dry!
was late on the night of March 29, 1848 when a local farmer on the New York side,
Jed Porter, was out for a walk and noticed something was different. The
normal sound of the thundering falls was gone!
Dry Niagara Falls
next morning residents on both sides of the falls had gathered to witness the
site; the falls had dried up over night. Factories and mills on both sides of the
falls stopped work because the waterwheels used to power them couldn’t operate without water.
word was out, over 5,000 people gathered to see the dry riverbed, and contemplate the
absence of the falls. Stories were told for years afterwards about people walking
across the riverbed, discovering guns and tomahawks that had been dropped over the
falls, one person even reported finding a skeleton ...
feared it was the end of the world; others thought the falls had finally run
dry. When no one could offer a logical reason why the falls had stopped, impromptu
church services sprang up on both sides of the river.
answer finally came from Buffalo, New York – gale-force winds has forced chunks
of ice into the mouth of the Niagara River, between Buffalo and Fort Erie, effectively
shutting off the flow of water to the falls.
all of March 30 and most of March 31, there was no water, but late on that
Friday evening, after a day with temperatures in the 60s and a shift in the
winds, a low rumble could be heard approaching the falls. People ran from
the riverbed as torrents of water tumbled and tore through, to once
again cascade over the falls with a deafening roar. The river was running
was the only known time that Mother Nature stopped the falls.
Funerals followed a set pattern during the 20th century. First, there
was the visitation or viewing, then the funeral service with remembrances,
scripture readings, songs and the obligatory memorial cards. And finally, the drive to the cemetery for those final words as
the body was returned to the earth.
with the approach of a new century, a modern, more contemporary funeral
service began to appear. Now, 15 years into the 21st century,
funeral services have become as individual, as elaborate and as themed as the deceased and the family could want.
of following tradition, today it’s more about a service that reflects
who the deceased was; their likes, interests, even their keen sense
of humor might be featured.
funeral services are much more casual than the traditional services of old.
Just about anything goes from a dove release (to signify the flight of the
spirit) to a Burning Man memorial service; the parameters are only as limited
as your imagination. (And certain state laws.)
services can also take on themes. Whatever your loved one’s passion was in
life, you can replicate it at the funeral service. Some state laws may
limit where the deceased’s body can be taken, making cremation much more versatile.
A memorial service can be held almost any where from a public garden or lake,
to a restaurant or favorite pub, to a setting that harkens back to another
century – the funeral at home. After the services, the deceased can be taken to
the cemetery in anything from a motorcycle-driven hearse to a big rig semi.
There are also those funeral services where the deceased becomes the “star” of the
show, posed in a tableau of his or her life. The trend began back in 2008 at the Marin
Funeral Home in Puerto Rico when a mother requested that her 24-year-old son be
posed standing in her living room during his three-day wake.
month, a 50-year-old man was dressed as the comic book superhero, the Green
Lantern, and posed standing in his sister’s apartment in San Juan.
the popularity of these "muerto
parao" ("dead man standing") funerals is growing, both in
Puerto Rico and the U.S
of these services have been held in the U.S. during past two years; most taking
place in New Orleans. The Charbonnet-Labat Funeral Home made news last year
when a local woman was posed at a table, surrounded by several favorite items including a can of beer with a cigarette
between her fingers.
We have become such a mobile society that the funeral industry has adapted a service for that. Drive-through viewing is offered in several states throughout the U.S. including Illinois, Michigan, California, Georgia and Florida.
the name is changing. Where we have used funeral service or memorial service to
describe a remembrance ceremony for the deceased. Today, the more modern terms include Celebration of Life Service, Service of Remembrance, or
Contemporary Memorial Service: all should clue you in that
this is not your grandfather’s funeral.
the end, the goal is to honor the deceased with a remembrance that is as unique
and special as they were – something they’d have been proud of, and we seem to be doing that quite well.