March 18 2019 0Comment

How Death and Dying Have Changed Over Time

When thinking about Lynden, WA funeral services, it’s often beneficial to consider the history of death and dying in the United States and just how much it has changed, especially in the last 100 years. Not all of the changes are negative, especially in terms of the expert level of care and support that funeral homes give to grieving families. It’s what comes before that is moving the average person further away from the biological circle and certainty that everything that lives will die.

Once upon a time, people died at home. They were cared for by family and friends while they were dying. Doctors might make home visits from time to time in a crisis or with a sudden downhill turn, but regular medical appointments didn’t exist.

Once people died, they stayed at home until the day that they were to be buried. A coffin, usually made by a local carpenter, was built. The family washed the deceased and dressed them in their best clothes. They were then moved to the parlor where they were laid out until burial could be arranged.

Although families of the deceased went on with their daily lives during this time, as the burial day drew closer, the rituals of saying goodbye began in earnest as friends and extended family gathered in the parlor where the deceased lay. Food and drink was in abundant supply, because the community would pull together and cook and bring food over the home.

Superstition abounded in those times as well. In many homes, mirrors were covered or turned around to keep the deceased’s spirit from getting trapped in the house. Windows were opened to help the deceased’s spirit move on to whatever came next.

In short, dying and death were highly personal and how the process unfolded was personalized by each family as their loved ones were dying and after they died.

Fast forward to the 21st century. For the most part, dying and death look nothing like it did 100 years ago. Although there is recent trend among Gen X toward family caregiving at home, hospice at home, and death at home, for the most part, unless it’s sudden or unexpected (you have to laugh when you read an obituary for someone who was in their 90’s that says the death was unexpected; it may have been sudden, but it certainly wasn’t unexpected), dying and death occur outside the home.

Americans tend to shuffle our elderly people out of their homes and off to retirement communities, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes long before they die. That is the first step in removing death and dying from close consciousness. There are many rationalizations: we’re working full-time, we’re raising kids, we’ve already got more on our plates than we can handle and we can’t take one more thing, or we believe they’ll be better off there than they will be with us.

And it is in those places they’re shuffled off to that many of these elderly people begin the dying process. As death approaches, they are moved to hospitals or hospice facilities, and that is where they die.

Within hours of death, their bodies are transported to funeral homes, where cleaning and dressing for a formal funeral service is done. In some cases, the family doesn’t see their deceased loved one from the time of death (if they were with them) until just before the viewing.

What this does is make death and dying unusual, abnormal, and something to be feared and avoided at all costs. And that fuels the driving desire of many people to stop aging, do everything possible to live as long as they’re able, and even to go to extreme – and expensive – measures to preserve their bodies so they can be revived if a cure is found for what killed them.

But, in the end, we all still die.

For additional information about funeral services, our compassionate and experienced team at Moles Farewell Tributes & Crematory – Ferndale is here to help. We also serve the areas of Lynden, Bellingham, Ferndale and Mount Vernon, WA. You can visit our funeral home at 2039 Main St., Ferndale, WA 98248, or you can call us today at (360) 384-1391.