In his blog post, What I Said at My Granddaughter’s Funeral, John Piper shares how the death of his full-term stillborn granddaughter affected him, even though he didn’t know her:

Being Felicity’s grandfather means that I have felt the loss through her mother, my daughter-in-law Molly. For her entire life she depended on you more than anyone. You fed her, you cleansed her, you supported her, you protected her, you knew her better than anyone. The grace that God has given you to love her greatly and let her go is amazing. Christ is on display in your life.

He shares how each of the folks who have felt the loss have affected him.  It’s quite beautiful and reminds us that even the death of an unborn family member reverberates across the lives of our clients.

I’ve been asked what is the most dangerous thing facing the funeral industry today.  Some think it’s cremation, and I can see why the steady march toward this less expensive service makes some shudder.  But that’s not it.

Some say it’s the shrinking nuclear family, leaving fewer people to grieve.

Still others claim its an economic problem – folks just don’t plan or save for funerals anymore.

I say no, it’s not really any of these, although they are all important issues that need to be addressed.

The most dangerous thing facing the funeral industry is irrelevance.  Not the irrelevance of memorializing the deceased; John Piper shows us how important it is to remember even a baby who the family never got to meet.

No, it’s the irrelevance of the funeral home, the funeral director and the traditional funeral.  Baby boomers are just now beginning to die in larger numbers and the funerals they choose are an indication of what’s to come. 

The funeral director who tries to offer the same kinds of funerals they’ve done for the last twenty years is in for a rude awakening.  The funeral director who won’t allow people to drink coffee or soda in his building because it might stain the carpet should be worried about the red ink that will soon creep up the balance sheet.

Stubborn businesspeople (even in other industries) think they have a monopoly because their customers have only two choices:  choose the product/service they offer, no matter how inadequate or ill-fitting, or go without.

And since folks seldom go without “necessities”, like food, basic phone service or funerals, why offer a better alternative, when there’s no motivation to do any better?

Unfortunately for funeral professionals, their begrudging clients have found the alternative:  foregoing a funeral for something else.

Two of the last three deaths in my family resulted in direct cremation with a memorial service.  And I WORK in the industry.  Imagine the experiences of those who can’t try to talk their families into full services.

If you don’t offer what people want, they can (and will) go elsewhere.  Many will treat funerals like weddings and plan their own.  In fact, a lot of direct cremations are in response to a belief that “we can do it better than an expensive funeral director.”

How do we combat this shift in attitudes?

I’ll try to answer that question next week!