The Ugly Truth Part 2: What Baby Boomers ACTUALLY Want From Funeral Service

In a recent blog post, The Ugly Truth: Baby Boomers’ Thoughts on Funeral Service, we learned how funeral service’s biggest demographic felt about funeral service. More importantly, we learned about their negative feelings towards traditional funeral services.

After all of the discussion the blog post sparked, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss what Baby Boomers DO want to see at their funeral service. So, I dug deep back into the Baby Boomer study done by Funeral Service Foundation and Olson Zaltman Associates to find some real quotes on what Baby Boomers expect from their funeral service.

Many Baby Boomers classified their funeral service as their “crowning performance.” They see the service as the one chance they have to truly show what they believed and what was meaningful in their life. They want to take an active part in the planning of their crowning performance. They want to be the writer, the director AND the star.

Without further ado, here are real-life quotes that illustrate exactly what Baby Boomers want in their “crowning performance” … and how you can offer it:

They want to be the director

“It’s closing the book. We all have books, we all have chapters. We have our history and our experiences. It’s a summation of events.”

– Al

The mood will be a true celebration

“Celebrate life. It means to recognize who I was. Recognize what I did. Let’s not dwell on the fact that the body, the soul, the spirit is not here. The person will always live on in our memories. It’s not going to be sad.”

– Mary

The setting will be symbolic

“[There is a place] where I grew up fishing. It is a place that has meaning to me. That would be a good place to plant me if it was available. I would be happy there any day of my life or any day not in my life. I have good memories fishing in that spot. I have good memories of my grandfather in that spot. Lots of good things there. I always want to get back to that spot. So it must have a powerful draw.”

– Lee

The soundtrack will represent them

“[Earth, Wind and Fire music at my service] would represent me as a person who loves to dance, who love music. Earth, Wind and Fire has been a part of me ever since junior/high school all the way through college and even up until adult life. Their music has always been there. It represents who I am.”

– Arlene

The props will be meaningful objects from their life

“When [my friend] died his wife asked us to come and celebrate his life by sitting in a room [with] the possessions that had a lot of meaning for him. His fly rod, his tobacco pouch, his pipe, flies that he tied, his fishing vest were all on the table and we talked about Jim in a circle. His kids were there, his dog was there. I read a poem that I dedicated to him. So we celebrated his life rather than marked his death.”

– Lee

The costumes will set the proper tone

“The end-of-life service I went to, it said no black is to be worn. The family was like a rainbow in front of the room because they all had on bright colors. They handed out balloons and inside there were coins with a favorite saying or scripture. Her sister [was in] this orange suit, and there [was] a teal and blue and green and even red [suit]. But they did it for a reason. She did not want to be mourned. And I don’t want to be mourned. I want to be celebrated.”

– Mary 

Embrace improvisation… no scripts!

“You have the freedom to imagine whatever you want. Choice is what we all live for. I want people, when they celebrate the end of my life, to choose to do it in whatever way they see fit. They’re not going to feel like they have to follow a manual, but in a way it will be a manual because I’ll express my wishes.”

– Becky

Friends and family will share personal stories

“My dad was a real pacifist and this preacher got up there and started talking about he was a war hero in the Battle of the Bulge. The truth is, he was a mop-up forces and didn’t see any action at all. She’s glorifying him and it’s a bunch of B.S. It didn’t have a lot of meaning, did it, if it wasn’t accurate? If several people were to get up and just talk about their own experiences, it’s more realistic, not something fabricated to sound good. Very candid. Good or bad. I think everybody walks away with a little better interpretation of the person’s life.”

– James 

Their life will be on display

“It’s just sort of another window into [a] person’s life. You get to talk to people and hear about their experiences with that person. They have stories. That was another important part for me. I live here, so I got to meet people that my mother worked with and got to know her through their eyes. I hope people come and say things about me for my daughter. It’s a way to be connected.”

– Carol 

Their values will be on display

“I’ve been to 50-100 funerals and I’ll bet there have only been two where it was clear what God requires of you. When people leave my funeral [I want people] to be given a little booklet or a Bible so they can read it at home, when they’re by themselves and with their God. If just one person finds his or her way to God, my time on earth would have been a success in God’s eyes.”

– Marilyn B.

The theme will be that they mattered

“I think everybody wants to be remembered to a certain extent. Some people do great things and they’re remembered that way. Other people are remembered by their family and friends. When you have a celebration of the end of life, it gives you your life that last little bit of credence. You’ve touched people. There should be something that everybody should look back on and feel good about. You’ve made a difference.”

– Bob

The service will make the deceased “come alive”

“ I want plenty of dancing and laughing and having a great time [at my funeral]. When we left [my friend’s funeral] everybody was laughing and talking about the person because we saw all the happy moments on DVD, the person moving around alive. When we went to the party afterwards, everybody was in a festive mood. We were talking about the person like they were still existing. We didn’t grieve her life. We celebrated her life. I didn’t leave heartbroken. [My heart] was sliced, but it wasn’t broken. When I walked away from there, I thought they were sort of still with me. I [was] basking in her achievements and her friendship and what she meant.”

– Arlene

Guests will connect with the deceased and each other

“A memorial service is about celebrating someone’s milestones and accomplishments. You don’t want to dwell on the failures. For the survivors, it’s good to rehash it all. If they’re in a grieving state, misery does love company. The companionship, the camaraderie. It’s kind of a support group. If someone is really grieving, it helps them cope with it better by sharing these common experiences.”

– James

The service will help friends & family move on

“People have to pick up the pieces. After this sense of closure, life goes on. Life doesn’t stop when I die. Maybe people can take a little bit of my enthusiasm or happiness or words of wisdom with them. Do away with grief and know that I went to a better place.”

– James 

The death will be seen as a milestone in their journey

“You’re born, we celebrate. Every year, we celebrate another birthday. That’s just another milestone. It’s the circle of life. It should be a celebration when you die. It’s a new life.”

– Rick

So how can you start creating “crowning performances”?

Your job as a funeral professional has not changed. You’re still in the business supporting families. But now, you’re supporting them in a different way. You’re still healing their wounds and instilling hope into them, but now you’re not just responsible for disposition…you’re responsible for creating a celebration. You’ll be expected to help write the story of a life, building the foundations and bridges to the future, and weaving and mending the fabric of a community. 

In Baby Boomers’ eyes, traditional funerals are about death. However, Baby Boomers want their funerals to be focused on their life story and the journey forward. A funeral should be about sharing stories, knowledge, and why the loved one mattered. They should be an opportunity for people to connect with each other and the deceased. A good service should be transformative.

You, the funeral director, are the researcher, the muse, and the stage manager. You’re the one who will  spark the conversations that create a meaningful service. Now go on and do it! Your families are counting on you.

Start offering personalized services

Want to start offering families meaningful and personalized funeral services? Get a 30-day free trial of Life Tributes, the all-in-one personalization software by clicking here or giving us a call at 800-798-2575, ext. 5.

P.S. Stay tuned for a third blog in this series. We’ll talk about the steps you need to take to start offering meaningful services for the Baby Boomer generation!

What is the most meaningful service you’ve ever directed? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Joe Joachim


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