What is more American than convenience? What is more American than drive-thru windows? And cheeseburgers? Yes, I will have ketchup with that. Service without having to open the car door makes all of our lives easier. Sometimes, however, easier may not be better.
In Michigan, instead of paying cash, people can now pay their respects. Paradise Funeral Chapel recently installed a drive-thru window to allow people the option of viewing the deceased from the security of their vehicle. The public can simply drive up to the window and the curtains will open revealing the preserved body. Music plays. After three minutes, the curtains close.
Funeral home president Ivan E. Phillips explained that he was inspired to meet the needs of the elderly and disabled, many of whom are physically unable to walk into the funeral home and visit their deceased loved ones. Specifically, Phillips recalled one woman’s inability to visit her husband because she was confined to a nursing home. If only the drive-thru window had been installed earlier, she would have had one last chance to say good-bye.
Though well intended, the idea inevitably creates the possibility for interfamilial disputes and teenage exploitation. Given that drive-thru viewings are far from “normal” in America, the likelihood of all the deceased’s family members agreeing to a drive-thru viewing seems slim. As most Americans associate a drive-thru with food and only food, this option is rather unappetizing at first blush. Though the right and decision to preserve and bury a dead body belongs to the family, only one family member has the final say. A discussion over the merits of a convenient drive-thru visitation could quickly escalate into an interfamilial dispute, and ultimately, litigation. The fact that teenagers may find visiting the dead at night alluring only increases the possibility of at least one family member objecting. Visitations are intended for family and friends, not kids looking for a good laugh or thrill. In Chicago, teenagers could not resist the spooky draw of late-night visitations at the drive-thru window at Gatling’s Chapel. However, the chapel recently discontinued the service due to numerous instances of vandalism. Paradise Funeral Chapel may fare no better.
In the end, change is scary, especially when changing the way we visit the dead. With time, however, maybe we will be asking a new question—
What is more American than drive-thru viewings? And, of course, cheeseburgers?