Visitations are for visiting. It makes sense, doesn’t it? That’s why we call it a visitation. Someone dies and and the family schedules a visitation and their friends and other family members gather at the funeral home or at the church so they can talk to each other. They gather so they can show their respect. They gather so they can tell each other stories and help each other work through the loss of a loved one. That’s what’s supposed to happen.
So why do so many funeral homes insist on putting every one in a long receiving line? You know the routine. You are greeted at the door by the LOL (little old lady) working the lobby. (Every funeral home has LOL’s working for them and they are usually wonderful people). The LOL then escorts you to the end of the line and you’re stuck. The family is somewhere down the line and even if you happen to see someone else you know, you don’t dare get out of line. Do funeral homes and families really think that this is the most effective way for everyone to visit. Or are they doing it because “That’s the way we’ve always done it”.
I don’t know about you but I can’t stand receiving lines. They are long and boring. Receiving lines force me to talk to people I don’t know. They limit the number of people I do get to talk to, to just the people in front of me or the people in back of me in line and the family members at the head of the line. Very often when I go to a visitation I only know one or two members of the family. I may not have ever really known the deceased. But the receiving line forces me to wait for long periods of time to say a few comforting platitudes to people I will probably never see again. Yes, it serves a certain purpose. But wouldn’t that same purpose be met by stationing family members around the room so their friends can walk up to them directly. So they can spend a few meaningful minutes sharing the stories that show how much we care for each other.
I also want the chance to talk to people other than the family. There are many times when I may have known a person that died but I didn’t know the family well. But I was a good friend of the deceased and we were part of a group together. I want the chance to share stories with other friends and members of that group. Because I too have lost someone that played a part of my life and I need to share stories to help me through my own personal loss.
At Clock Funeral Home we hardly ever have receiving lines. Sometimes they do happen to form, but we purposely tell families to spread themselves around the visitation room. We also have multiple displays of the family’s personal memorabilia and photos at various location around the room. It’s all well lighted and easy to get to, just like at a museum or art gallery. This makes the visitors work the room. It makes them wander around and look at all the stuff. It makes them stop and view the video for awhile. The stuff reminds them of the things they remember about the deceased or their friends. And when the visitors get their chance to really talk to the family and friends the stuff they have seen is food for the conversations and stories that are so important at times like that.
The true value of a funeral is the gathering together of people and the sharing of stories. Because it’s through those stories that we show our respect, honor, love and support for each other. It’s what we, as humans beings need.
So if the funeral home you usually use keeps putting you in receiving lines that defeat the purpose of what visitations are meant for, next time let me help you gather together and share the stories. I promise you won’t get stuck in line.
I’m Dale Clock. Thanks for listening.