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View Full Version : The casket will be closed at the funeral?


AllShookDown
02-07-2004, 01:11 AM
A distant cousin of mine sent me a recent obituary of another distant cousin of mine. At the end it said that "the casket will be closed at the funeral." I've never seen this in an obituary before. I've only been to a couple of funerals in my life. Is this some old-timey thing that isn't done any more, or just something that's not usually mentioned in the obituary?

DMark
02-07-2004, 01:35 AM
A closed casket can be for a lot of reasons.
Most often it is because the body is not fit for viewing - a truly horrible accident or the result of a long illness that would make the body not be suitable for a last viewing. The family might want to remember the departed as they were in good health.

There could be religious reasons, but my best guess is one of the above.

CrazyCatLady
02-07-2004, 01:36 AM
It's usually not mentioned in the obituary, no. Actually having a closed casket at the service is pretty common for people who died violent, disfiguring deaths, though.

What did your cousin die of, if I might ask?

Paul in Qatar
02-07-2004, 06:03 AM
My experience may not be representative, but I have observed the closing the casket at the funeral mostly at Eastern Rite services.

It is a honking emotional moment, with a capital 'E.' It symbolizes and makes it very real that 'she's really dead.' Not a dry eye in the house.

In the Western Rite services of my experience, the casket is closed in private, after the viewing, before the funeral.

Eva Luna
02-07-2004, 06:11 AM
I haven't been to a whole ton of funerals, or wakes for that matter. The only event (the one wake) that was open casket was the one non-Jewish event. I believe Jewish funerals are usually, if not always, closed-casket, regardless of the appearance of the deceased.

The wording sounds a bit ambiguous; does that mean the casket will be closed the whole time, or at some point someone will walk over and close the casket?

AllShookDown
02-07-2004, 08:22 AM
I see. I was reading it as if the lid on the casket would be changed from open to closed at the services rather than it being a closed-casket service. No one in our family is remotely Eastern so I'm sure now that that isn't the case. Thanks for the replies.

Caprese
02-07-2004, 08:29 AM
I believe Jewish funerals are usually, if not always, closed-casket, regardless of the appearance of the deceased.

The wording sounds a bit ambiguous; does that mean the casket will be closed the whole time, or at some point someone will walk over and close the casket?

Both Jewish funerals I've been to were open casket for a viewing period, and then, yes, the funeral director closed the casket before we prepared to go to the cemetery. The closing of the casket definitely offers a feeling of finality.

AngelicGemma
02-07-2004, 09:01 AM
I though the casket was usually closed.

I've been to 2 funerals (well actually 3, but 2 were for the same person.) and all were closed casket. This was good for me, as I wouldn't have been able to go otherwise. I refuse to see the the ones I love dead. I prefer to remember them as they were.

You could visit the chapel of rest any time before the funeral if you wanted to see the deceased.

C3
02-07-2004, 09:17 AM
I've been to a ton of funerals (I have a huge extended family). I've been to two closed casket funerals. One was for a cousin who committed suicide and couldn't be viewed. The other was for my grandmother who requested, before her death, that her funeral be closed-casket. She didn't want people looking at her at her funeral.

I think open-casket funerals are kind of creepy and, if I'm not cremated, I'd like to go the way of my grandmother.

MinniePurl
02-07-2004, 09:50 AM
I think it just depends. In my family, my grandfather had an open casket, because my grandmother wanted it that way. Several years later, my grandmother had a closed casket. Apparently her last few days in the hospital were pretty hard on her appearance, and my father and my aunt decided that she wouldn't want to be seen that way. Instead, the funeral parlor made a display of pictures of her throughout her life, that was outside the chapel.

Baker
02-07-2004, 12:29 PM
It has been my experience, at (mostly Protestant) funerals, that the casket was open before the service, for viewing, usually in the foyer, and then closed before the service started, and the casket borne into the sanctuary. These were all funerals held at churches, not funeral home chapels. Mourners can also usually view the deceased at a visitation before the day of the funeral.

I've left instructions that as soon as I die I'm to be prepared, put in the box, and it's not to be opened at all for any viewing, for anyone I decided that after my grandfather died, and my grandmother thought they hadn't got his mouth set right. If folks care to remember me, a debatable point, I'd rather they remember me alive, than in "doesn't she look natural?" mode.

AngelicGemma
02-07-2004, 01:07 PM
my grandmother thought they hadn't got his mouth set right.

My mum said exactly the same thing about my Grandad. And she ended up having nighmares about him not being able to talk.

I'm glad I never saw his body.

Yllaria
02-07-2004, 01:37 PM
Sounds like announcing a closed casket would let squeemish family members and friends know that it's safe to attend. And it would give everyone who felt they were owed a viewing a chance to vent and complain somewhere besides at the funeral.

Gunslinger
02-08-2004, 12:13 AM
All the funerals I've been to, the casket was closed the whole time. If you wanted to see the dearly departed, there was an open-casket viewing time a day or two before the funeral.

I'd want mine open at the funeral so I could sit up and yell "Gotcha-ya!" :p

torie
02-08-2004, 12:33 AM
My father's casket was open throughout the whole ceremony. We also had a open-ended, non conventional ceremony. The idea behind the ceremony was each guest who chose to participate would bring a small, very light object with them. An object that they felt repersented their relationship with him. They went up to the front, explained the meaning behind it, delivered a kind of eulogy, then placed the object in the coffin to be buried with him. My brother switched watches with my father so that they would always have part of each other with them. My fathers best friend pu two yankees hats because one of his fondest memories of my father was him sneaking Vic into a Yankee's game for free by putting him in one of my fahter's spare navy uniforms.:)


My grand-father's funeral was much more traditional but it was open casket. I guess we wanted to prolong the inevitable of never seeing him again. He had had extensive nerve damage and had lost his hair.


When my friend's six day old baby died, she had an open casket funeral because not everyone had gotten to see him before he died. Let me tell you, that is something I hope I never see that again.

Well, those are the only three funerals I have been too and they are all open casket. Before I read this thread I didn't realize it wasn't common to have the casket open throughout the ceremony.

TheLoadedDog
02-08-2004, 06:41 AM
I've been to quite a few funerals, and they have generally tended to be closed casket. When my girlfriend's father (Vietnamese buddhist) died, there was an extended viewing period involving lots of ritual in which everybody had to make triple circuits of the coffin while holding incense sticks (multiple times). I felt this was rather unfair for the children present - though they actually handled it reasonably well. After a lengthy session of prayer on the day before the actual funeral proper, the casket was closed at 4pm. After this, non-family were permitted to enter the funeral chapel, and pay their respects to the closed casket. There is a Buddhist belief that if non-family members view the body, bad luck can be transferred in one or both directions from the family of the deceased to the friends' families, or vice versa.


My personal preference is for a closed casket funeral. I can see the rationale of a "final goodbye" at an open casket one, but for mine I'd rather remember the person as something other than a cadaver.

Jayn_Newell
02-08-2004, 07:09 AM
I shouldn't have opened this thread, I'm crying now, but I'll post my 2 cents anyways.

I've been to two funerals that I can remember whether it was opened or closed. My grandmonther's I think was open, but I was five, so hard to tell. My other grandmother was open for viewing but closed at the funeral.

My grandfather, on the other hand, was cremated beofre the service. I"m gald I didn't have to see his body, but there was still that "oh my god, he's relaly gone" moment. Being away really didn't help thing, I feel like I've gone through his death five times--finding out he had cancer, finding out it was inoperable, finding he was about to die, finding out he was dead, and then finally the funeral. Really rough. [ending hijack, finding kleenex]

Barbarian
02-08-2004, 12:36 PM
Every funeral I've been to, from the one where my 18-year-old friend died from accidental drowning, to my grandfather, was closed casket, with the body available for viewing beforehand.

Quint Essence
02-08-2004, 12:51 PM
often it is a simple matter of money. It costs quite a bit to make a body "suitable for viewing", even if the cause of death was natural causes.
My father recently died and we did not have an open casket or viewing simply because we knew dad would be really pissed off that we would spend the extra money on something so pointless and needlessly painful for the family.
Funerals can be ridiculously expensive even for the most basic graveside service and there is no shortgage of misc. extras such as guest books to sign and other paraphenelia not to mention the guilt feelings of not spending the extra couple of thosand dollars for a "prettier" casket.
The worst thing about it is that the people most vulnerable to the sales pitches are those closest to the person who died and is likely the very person making the arrangements.

kniz
02-08-2004, 01:28 PM
My father-in-law knew that I hated viewing the body. He would try and trick me into doing it anyway. For example, he'd say "There's someone in the next room, I'd like you to meet." I fell for it a couple of times, because my strategy had been to not be interested in where the body was on display and just stay outside or in the lobby. From then on I made sure I knew where the casket was being displayed.

My grandmother requested that her casket be closed. I have requested the same. My personal opinion is that it is a ghoulish custom (however, I respect the fact that others consider my viewpoint as being wierd). So should the wishes of the deceased be respected or if the family disagrees should they follow their own wishes? If I'm dead, why shouldn't my wife and family do whatever makes them feel good? :confused:

Angua
02-09-2004, 03:19 AM
Most of the funerals I've been to have been open casket. But, that might be due to the fact that most of the funerals I've been to have been Muslim ones, where the last rites are performed at the funeral, and then everyone pays their last respects to the deceased. So, my view is probably a bit skewed.

amalthea23
02-09-2004, 12:34 PM
in 99.9% of jewish funerals, the casket is closed as its actually a tenet of the religion to do so. it is done this way because jews feel that it is unnecessary for the dying to have to worry about how they're going to look once they're dead. unless the person was non practicing the only way the coffin would be open would be either at the deceased's specific request or privately for family members only. jews believe that the body is simply a vessel and that once the person dies, what is left over is not that person, it's just a husk, hence the closed casket deal. as for the obituary, i think the status of the casket at the funeral was mentioned because many non jews expect to be able to pay their final respects "face to face" and i fully belive that some people come to wakes specifically for this purpose. having that line in the obituarty would lessen the possibility of some i'm sure well meaning, but upset mourner either questioning the family or the staff at the funeral home as to why they weren't going to be able to say their goodbyes as they'd imagined.
imagine having a family member die in such a way as to disfigure them and then to have to reiterate the fact to 10 or 15 semi strangers at a wake.
(btw, jews don't have traditional wakes either. there's a service, then the burrial and then the survivors sit shiva for an amount of time generally determined by their level of orthodoxy...

Q.N. Jones
02-09-2004, 12:56 PM
Maybe this is a rural Midwestern Lutheran thing, but all the funerals I've been to have been aggressively open-casket. When I say "aggressively," I mean that the casket stayed open through the whole service and was closed only just before the casket was removed for its trip to the cemetery. Also, most of these funerals featured at least one mourner collapsed weeping over and into the casket, the result being that they were practically hugging the dead body.

Additionally, the viewings prior to these funerals were extremely long (five hours, in one case, and most people stayed nearly the whole time). Almost everyone went up and sat by the casket and stared at the dead body for a long time. Then they proceeded to socialize and laugh with each other in the viewing room!

My mother and I feel this is a very creepy way to conduct things. However, the rural Midwestern Lutherans who were in charge of these funerals seem to believe that closing the casket indicates suicide or a gruesome, disfiguring accident. It's just not done unless it absolutely has to be.

AllShookDown
02-09-2004, 04:41 PM
My father-in-law knew that I hated viewing the body. He would try and trick me into doing it anyway. For example, he'd say "There's someone in the next room, I'd like you to meet." I fell for it a couple of times, because my strategy had been to not be interested in where the body was on display and just stay outside or in the lobby. From then on I made sure I knew where the casket was being displayed.

When my mother was a little girl they still kept the custom of laying out the body at home and making the children kiss it. She remembers this with her grandfather's body.

yBeayf
02-09-2004, 09:53 PM
All the funerals I've been to (Italian Catholic) have been very open casket (except for my great-uncle, who died of aggressive mouth cancer), though we generally haven't had people collapse into the casket as Q.N. mentioned. There is a lot of touching of the body, though.

Traditional Catholic and Orthodox theology teaches that the body is an integral part of the individual, so when a person dies, their body isn't just an empty shell, but an important part of who they are. This is why cremations are forbidden, and also why relics of saints are venerated. The soul and spirit have departed, but the body is still here.

Lissa
02-10-2004, 01:05 AM
often it is a simple matter of money. It costs quite a bit to make a body "suitable for viewing", even if the cause of death was natural causes.
My father recently died and we did not have an open casket or viewing simply because we knew dad would be really pissed off that we would spend the extra money on something so pointless and needlessly painful for the family.
Funerals can be ridiculously expensive even for the most basic graveside service and there is no shortgage of misc. extras such as guest books to sign and other paraphenelia not to mention the guilt feelings of not spending the extra couple of thosand dollars for a "prettier" casket.
The worst thing about it is that the people most vulnerable to the sales pitches are those closest to the person who died and is likely the very person making the arrangements.

My aunt recently died, and I insisted on being part of making the arrangements because I've read so much about the predatory and manipulative tactics of some funeral homes. I took Jessica Mitford's suggestions, and studied the laws of our state before going, so I would be able to rebut any false statements of what was "required." I was loaded for bear, ready for a fight. They wouldn't manipulate my family, I vowed.

They didn't even try. The man who met with us was upfront, honest, and didn't try to push any services or purchases on the family. There was no effort to make the family feel guilty for not spending loads of money.

The family opted for direct cremation, and we did not buy a casket. However, we did decide we needed to have calling hours for the members of the community who had cared about my aunt. The funeral home "loaned" us a lovely oak casket, to placed in the front of the room, and took care of all of the details, such as the register book, and the obituary leaflets. The bill for this came to $300, which I felt was quite reasonable.

All in all, I was pleased with the way we were treated, and a little bit ashamed that I had assumed the worst about the funeral home.

As to the OP, I wonder if it's possible that the line indicating that the casket would be closed in the obituary was a way of letting sensitive people know that they would not have to view the body. I have known a few people who refused to go to funerals or calling hours because of a strong aversion to seeing the body of the deceased. A line such as that in the death notice or obituary would be reassuring for these kinds of people.

Odinoneeye
02-10-2004, 01:44 AM
My grandpa's funeral was neither closed casket nor open casket. No casket. No body. They only used pictures of him.

Every other funeral I've been to has been open casket. Although all but two were from my ex-wife's family and that is their tradition.

matt_mcl
02-10-2004, 01:50 AM
There would have been no point in an open-casket funeral for Dad, because he didn't look like himself. He didn't even look like a distorted version of himself; he just looked like a different person. (Besides which, I think an open-casket funeral would be a little macabre.)

They let us see him for a little while at the funeral home, and then we decided to have the casket closed, and it stayed closed for the rest of the process.

Sparrow
02-10-2004, 08:04 AM
In the UK the coffin (casket) is usually closed all the time, from when it arrives in the hearse. If you want to view the body, you have to go along to the funeral director's beforehand.