Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cosmetic Surgery...for Your Funeral

In the words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up:
The recent boom in cosmetic procedures has raised the bar for many of us when it comes to appearance. And, it turns out, the dead are no exception.

As the population has become increasingly sophisticated about procedures to enhance their appearance, so have their requests, morticians say, for smoothing lines, plumping lips and even boosting sagging parts for that last big special occasion — their funeral.

“People used to say, just throw me in a pine box and bury me in the back yard,” says Mark Duffey, president and CEO of Everest Funeral, a national funeral planning and concierge service. “But that’s all changing. Now people want to be remembered. A funeral is their last major event and they want to look good for it. I’ve even had people say, ‘I want you to get rid of my wrinkles and make me look younger’.”

Morticians have always performed a bit of cosmetic magic when it comes to recapturing the lifelike appearance of a person who’s passed on. What's happening now, however, is some people are making advance arrangements for these final touches and in ways they never used to even think about.

“I’ve had people mention that they want their breasts to look perky when they’re dead,” says David Temrowski, funeral director of Temrowski & Sons Funeral Home in Warren, Mich. “Or they’ll say, ‘Can you get these wrinkles out?’ It’s all in humor, but I think people do think [more] about what they’re going to look like when they’re dead and lying in a casket.”
For me, this conjures images of all those TV shows on TLC featuring brides fretting over their wedding dresses and "wanting to have the perfect day," only...you know...for their funeral. "Omigod, I want my funeral to be the big event of the year. I hope to lose 15 pounds before then. We'll have an open bar. I want to go with an ancient Egyptian theme."

I've officiated at funerals where the family asks for personal touches such as a Texas flag next to the casket or an entire display in the narthex featuring pictures, stuffed animals, and a pink motorcycle helmet. That stuff makes sense. It helps tell the story of who the person was.

I've also been to funerals where the person did not look like themselves. Makeup can only do so much. The circumstances surrounding their deaths didn't really make for a wonderful final picture. But I doubt that plastic surgery ever came into the discussion...the superficiality of the notion, the near-desperate-sounding final attempt to look like oneself (or better) at an event that you're present for only physically doesn't sound like it's worth it to me.