June 21, 2014
Woman’s Corpse Hosts Her Own Funeral Party
I have a hard time dealing with the concept of a “happy” funeral. It’s not that I want to be upset, nor do I have any particular desire to force others to remain upset, but it has always struck me as odd that the death of a loved one would be cause for celebration. I’ve always associated death with a cathartic, healing sadness — the kind necessary for grieving and acceptance. For my Irish friends, it’s the exact opposite. Funerals are a celebration to them, not of the loss of a friend, but of a passing to something bigger and better. Most people land somewhere in between on the spectrum. Our loved ones certainly wouldn’t want us to spend all of our time wallowing in grief, but it’s hard not to feel upset when you lose someone you love. The family of Miriam Burbank, however, took this to a new, admittedly somewhat unsettling level by throwing a house party. And who was the guest of honor?
You guessed it. The deceased.
Ms. Burbank, known as Mae Mae to her friends and family, was the kind of dynamic person that you couldn’t help but remember, and those she left behind decided that she should be remembered in death in the same way that she lived: surrounded by friends and family, with a cigarette clutched between her fingers. Forget the coffin — Mae Mae was given a seat at her own table, propped up and tied in position with several ropes, carefully arranged to hide themselves. She was wearing the colors of her favorite sports team and a pair of shades underneath a disco ball, holding a cigarette near a can of beer. Guests were invited into the home as though Mae Mae were hosting yet another house party — something the spry 53-year-old was known for. According to one guest, everyone pretty much acted as though she were still there, conversing, drinking, and eating in style.
Now don’t get me wrong — I’m all for non-traditional funerals, and there have been plenty of other odd burials in the past. If people want to find an alternative way to grieve, that’s fine by me. That said, I’m not sure how comfortable I would have been attending a party hosted by a corpse. Pardon me if I sound a tad insensitive, but it’s the truth. Rigging her up like some kind of stage dummy, like some kind of centerpiece for some weird tableau just seems … off. I don’t condemn her friends and family for the decision, certainly, but I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t give me a case of the heeby-jeebies. I don’t doubt that Mae Mae was a vibrant, exciting woman in life, but it seems there would be other ways to express that without propping her up at a table while everyone eats and talks and drinks around her.
I used to joke with an old friend of mine about getting one of those motion-activated speakers installed in my body when I passed. We’d talk about all the crazy things we might put in our wills, or the wacky epitaphs we’d demand. The joking made it easier to discuss a topic as absolute and final as death. In the end, if this helps her family grieve more easily, than so be it. Mae Mae’s service wasn’t for my benefit, so how I feel about it is a completely moot point. Regardless of whether you think it’s awkward or amazing, it’s certainly hard to forget.
Image Credit: REUTERS / Percy McRay / Handout via Reuters