"So-called living funerals are "on the rise," says Denise Carson, author of Parting Ways (University of California Press, $35), which explores alternatives to traditional end-of-life mourning rituals. "Some look like a cross between a wedding and a funeral," she says. These celebrations provide an opportunity for someone who is near death to gather close friends and relatives and share memories. No rules or customs govern these get-togethers. They can take place anywhere, from a community center to a church or synagogue to a funeral home. "I've seen the honoree dressed in everything from a hospital gown to a tuxedo," Carson says. "Others are more somber, with prayers, psalms, anointing and last rites by clergy." Some attendees bring mementos, such as photos from a family vacation, or poems to recite. In the 1997 bestseller Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom, the book's subject, Morrie Schwartz, who knows his death is imminent, holds a living funeral in his home because he doesn't want to miss out on tributes to himself.
Celebrating Life When Death Draws Near