I apologize for my considerably lengthy absence. And I should have posted this way back in November or December, but I am easily distracted. Anyway, I am currently in the process of getting settled in a new city, moving into a new apartment and getting settled with a new job. I will be back with new items in April!


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Casket Nomenclature: Hardware

When it comes to caskets there are several major areas one can discuss: materials (exterior design), components, hardware, and design (interior).  In an early entry, I provided information about the component parts of a casket; this post only concerns itself with the hardware of the casket.  


There are two main pieces of hardware (i.e. ornamental fixtures and their fittings) that are attached to the shell of a casket: (1) the handles and (2) the corners.  Production methods for hardware are dependent on the material.  If the hardware is metal, the hardware can be produced in one of two ways: cast or stamped.  Cast hardware is more expensive.  If the hardware is plastic, a plastic extrusion molding method is utilized.


Handle (in white attached to the blue casket shell)

The handle is available in four different styles: (a) stationary, (b) swing, (c) bail, and (d) integrated.  A stationary bar is a non-moveable casket handle.  This can be a full-length bar or individual bars.  A swing bar is a moveable casket handle with a hinged arm.  This can be a full-length bar or individual bars.  A bail handle is a single handle in which the lug, arm, and bar are combined in one unit.  An integrated handle is a handle that is integrated into the side of the casket; there are no attached handles.  This can usually be found on wood caskets.

There four component parts of a handle: (a) ear, (b) arm, (c) bar, and (d) tip.

Ear, Lug, or Escutcheon

(a) The ear, also known as the lug or escutcheon, is the part of the casket handle that is attached to the shell.


(b) The arm is the part of the casket handle that attaches the bar to the ear (or lug).


(c) The bar is the part of the casket handle, attached to the ear (lug) and arm, that is grasped by the casketbearer.


(d) The tip  is the decorative or ornamental part of the casket handle that covers the exposed ends of the bar.



The corners are an optional part of the hardware attached to the four corners of the body panel.  There are several different subcategorical distinctions concerning the corners of caskets: applied and inset, interrupted and end-around (this distinction is an archaic one and slowly vanishing), supportive and non-supportive (this is only for caskets with full length stationary bars).

Applied corners are corners that have been attached to the casket by nail, screw, or adhesive.  Inset corners, on the other hand, involve partially cutting the corner of the casket and making room in which to insert the decorative corner.


Lastly, there are other features that are available on certain models of caskets. They are as follows:

  1. Corner designs – Changeable casket corners; these may be removed prior to the committal service and kept as keepsakes
  2. Commemorative panels – changeable interior casket lid design
  3. Memory safe drawers – a drawer in which one may place notes, special memorabilia, pictures, etc.
  4. Memorial record system – provides a record of identification, if needed, without opening the casket
  5. Cathodic protection – method of inhibiting rust on basic grade stainless steel caskets that involves the insertion of a magnesium bar in a formed channel on the bottom of a casket


IMAGE CREDIT: All images used in this post with exception of those specified otherwise were found on Quizlet or StudyDroid.

All definitions and information were taken from my compendium for funeral practice class at the University of Minnesota:

Mathews, M. (2003). Funeral Service Practice Part I: Services and ceremonies, casket construction and design, survivor benefits. University of Minnesota: Minneapolis.

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Another Funeral Director Meme! Share it!

That is, if you want to of course. Enjoy!

Courtesy of Caleb Wilde

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Euthanasia: An Introduction

In popular media, the question often posed is: should euthanasia be legal? 

There are several things about the phrasing of this question that are misleading.  First–and this may surprise you–certain forms of euthanasia are in fact legal in the United States.  Second, the question regarding euthanasia and legality, as most popular media refers to it, is actually a question of active/voluntary/physician-assisted euthanasia and its subsequent legality. And lastly, contention with regards to euthanasia is most often connected with the idea or possibility of the occurrence of passive or active/involuntary/physician-assisted euthanasia or as it is more commonly called: a form of homicide. 

It is clear that popular media does little to distinguish between various forms of euthanasia and at best conflates a large number of issues surrounding euthanasia.  This in turn serves to further complicate any discussion regarding it.   With that being said and given that the passing/rejecting of some landmark legislation is in the not too distant past, I want to take this opportunity to consider the topic of euthanasia.  Because the topic is incredibly complex, this will most likely be one of several posts concerning itself with euthanasia.  In this post, I simply intend to present and generally define some terms and provide an overview of euthanasia in the United States*.  In (a) later post(s), I intend to look more closely at the euthanasia debate itself.

*Note: I will only be discussing states that have legislation regarding euthanasia; I am not treating states that have case precedents regarding euthanasia (i.e. Montana, Texas, etc.)

An Introduction

The euthanasia debate spans a large number of fields and theoretical orientations and I believe it can be agreed upon that decisions regarding euthanasia are incredibly complicated due to a confluence of factors encompassing religious, medical and philosophical changes over the centuries.  The complicated nature of this social issue necessitates defining euthanasia as well as utilizing a structure of conceptualization that is categorical in nature.  According to Pfeifer and Brigham (1996), euthanasia, as an overarching concept, refers to any action or inaction by an individual to encourage the death of another who is suffering from a terminal condition.  There are three subcategorical distinctions: active and passive; voluntary,  nonvoluntary, and involuntary; and physician-assisted and nonphysician assisted.  Conceptualizing euthanasia in this manner enables one to concretely and distinctly describe an act of euthanasia (e.g. passive/physician-assisted/ voluntary euthanasia, active/nonphysician assisted/voluntary euthanasia, etc.).  Moreover, it also, according to  Pfeifer and Brigham (1996), enables one to begin to investigate and gain a more concise understanding of current attitudes toward euthanasia.

The terminology and subsequent definitions you encounter below were taken from the introduction written by Pfeifer and Brigham for the Journal of Social Issues: Psychological Perspectives on Euthanasia (1996) unless otherwise stated.

Active and Passive

Active euthanasia is defined as an act of commission in which a person engages in some direct action in order to hasten the death of a terminally-ill individual.

Passive euthanasia is defined as an act of omission such as the issuance of a DNR instruction by a physician that results in the death of a terminally-ill patient.

Voluntary, Involuntary, and Nonvoluntary

Pfeifer and Brigham (1996) do not distinguish between, and actually conflate, involuntary and nonvoluntary euthanasia.  Recently, and in particular among journals concerned with ethics and/or law, a distinction between these two terms is prevalent.

Voluntary euthanasia applies to circumstances in which an individual’s wish to die is known and/or expressed through directives such as verbal statements, living wills, etc.

Harris (2001) and Jackson (2006) are more specific in their language and apply voluntary euthanasia to circumstances in which a patient is able to and does provide informed consent.  This encompasses directives such as verbal statements, living wills, etc.

Nonvoluntary euthanasia applies to circumstances in which the individual is unable to specifically indicate his or her wish regarding death.

Harris (2001) and Jackson (2006) are more specific, stating that nonvoluntary euthanasia applies to circumstances in which the patient is unable to give informed consent, for example when a patient is in a persistent vegetative state, if the patient is a child, etc.  Nonvoluntary contrasts with involuntary, according to Jackson (2006), as follows:

Involuntary euthanasia applies to circumstances in which euthanasia is performed on a person who is able to provide informed consent, but does not either because they do not wish to be euthanized or because they were not asked.

Physician-assisted and Nonphysician assisted

Physician-assisted euthanasia applies to circumstances in which a physician assists an individual.

Nonphysician assisted euthanasia applies to circumstances in which a nonphysician assists an individual.

Euthanasia in the United States

We have, over the years, witnessed cases and lawsuits arise due to acts involving active/voluntary/physician-assisted euthanasia (i.e. Dr. Kevorkian, etc.); active and passive/voluntary/nonphysician assisted euthanasia (i.e. cases in which someone fulfills the request to die of another); and active and passive/nonvoluntary/physician-assisted euthanasia (i.e. Terri Schiavo, etc.).  Given this and the outcomes of these various cases, it is obvious that euthanasia is both contentious and complicated at best nor entirely legal or illegal.

Death With Dignity Movement

Typically within the United States patients retain rights to refuse medical treatment and elect appropriate management of pain even if it may hasten their death via explicit consent, advanced directives, living wills, etc..  Even though the average American may not conceptualize this as a form of euthanasia, it is. And, more specifically, it is a passive/voluntary/physician-assisted form of euthanasia.  In popular media, I have rarely seen these rights referred to, let alone referred to in the context of euthanasia. However, a lot of media attention is given to active euthanasia, especially cases in which the euthanasia is contested by a party to have been involuntary.  Active euthanasia of any kind is not legal in most states.  However, there are exceptions. According to the Death with Dignity National Center (2012), two states enacted acts legalizing and allowing residents to elect active/voluntary/physician-assisted euthanasia.   These two states are Oregon and Washington.  In Oregon and Washington, these acts allow “mentally competent, terminally-ill adult state residents to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their death” (Death With Dignity National Center, 2012).  The acts passed in both Oregon and Washington have their origins in a movement referred to as the Death with Dignity movement.  This movement’s purpose is to provide options ranging from advance directives to physician-assisted dying so that those facing terminal conditions may take control of their own end-of-life care.

Currently, according to the Death with Dignity National Center (2012), there are six states (Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Pennsylvania) considering death with dignity-related legislation and two states that have banned death with dignity-related legislation concerning active/voluntary/physician-assisted euthanasia (Georgia and Louisiana).  In Hawaii, legislation was introduced in 2011 and carried over to the 2012 Regular Session, which adjourned May 3; The bills have not moved forward.  In New York, legislation was introduced in February; the legislature enacted clause stricken on May 9th.  On November 7th, Massachusetts voters defeated the bill introduced to their legislature by a narrow margin of 51 percent to 49 percent with 96 percent of precincts counted (Boston Globe, 2012).  In New Jersey as of September 27th, the legislation has been referred to Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. In Pennsylvania, their bill was referred to Judiciary committee in February of 2011 and is currently active for consideration. And in Vermont, their bill was referred to Senate Committee on Judiciary in March 2011 and the House Committee on Human Services in February 2011. The bill received a hearing in Senate Judiciary Committee on March 2012.  Supporters of the bill worked to give all the Senators an opportunity to vote, and, according to the Death with Dignity National Center (2012), used a Senate rule which allows certain pieces of legislation to be voted on as an amendment instead of as a self-standing bill.  Vermont’s legislative session adjourned on May 5th.*  

Considering the number of states that have/are entertaining death with dignity-related legislation, it is apparent that the death with dignity movement has made considerable advances both in its visibility and its number of proponents since the late 70s/early 80s.  While I am not sure I can agree that euthanasia is “the most pressing social issue of our time” (Pfeifer and Brigham, 1996), I do believe it may be one of the most ethically complicated and contentious.   

*NOTE: For more specific information about these bills or the acts in Oregon and Washington, please visit the Death with Dignity National Center website and follow the links to the appropriate resources.  You may also visit your state legislature’s website.


Boston Globe, The. (7 Nov 2012). Mass. doctor-assisted suicide measure fails. Retrieved 8 Nov 2012 from http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/11/07/backers-mass-doctor-assisted-suicide-concede/oXZDcgOUbqwhlqzb63FSPO/story.html.

Death with Dignity National Center. (2012). “Research Center: national efforts.” Retrieved 9 Nov 2012 from http://www.deathwithdignity.org/advocates/national

Harris, N.M. (2001). “The euthanasia debate.”J R Army Med Corps 147 (3): 367–70.

Jackson, J. (2006). Ethics in medicine. Polity. ISBN 0-7456-2569-X.

Pfeifer, J.E., Brigham, J.C. (1996). Psychological Perspectives on Euthanasia. Journal of Social Issues 52 (2): 1-11.


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Funeral Divas Founder Arrested at Chicago Conference

Funeral Diva’s Logo

Last updated Nov. 12, 2012: Two updates are to be found at the end of this post.

I just became aware of this incident this morning while checking new stories via ConnectingDirectors.  Before I continue, for those of you that are unaware of what Funeral Divas Inc. is, Funeral Divas’ purpose, according to the Funeral Divas website, “is to encourage and uplift every woman in the funeral service industry and provide comfort to grieving families[.]” Funeral Divas, Inc. describes itself as “not your traditional woman’s group.” Funeral Divas, Inc. was founded by Muneerah Warner, who has been reported to be a licensed funeral director. Although, I am now hearing accusations to the contrary.  I also wrote an entry previously introducing Muneerah Warner and a reality show that she was pitching back in January of 2012.

Funeral Divas and Fraud

As of November this past weekend, Muneerah Warner is now the subject of fraud charges that arose during a continuing education conference in Chicago that took place from Nov. 7 through Nov 10.

Muneerah Warner being escorted from hotel in Chicago; Image credit: ConnectingDirectors

According to a ConnectingDirectors’ article as of November 11th,  the founder of Funeral Divas, Muneerah Warner, was arrested during a continuing education conference on charges of credit card fraud.  It was also reported that the Funeral Divas Facebook page and twitter account were unreachable.

As of today, Connecting Directors has published some screen grabs, which are currently no longer available, concerning the developing scandal that were previously released by the Funeral Diva’s Facebook page and Twitter accounts before the were deactivated.  Additionally, ConnectingDirectors received and published recently resigned Funeral Divas board member Monica Vernette Gray’s response concerning the entire incident. This personal recap from ex-board member can be found here on ConnectingDirectors.

As far as I can tell given what little information is currently available, Muneerah is said to have fabricated a story claiming she was the victim of theft and was thereby unable to cover charges for conference rooms, speaker fees, etc. (According to Gray’s response,  Warner’s bank claimed there was no evidence supporting her claim to be victim of theft.)  Muneerah is said to then have asked at least one of her fellow board members to give their credit card to the hotel and, unbeknownst to this board member, authorized the hotel to charge the fees to the card.  This eventually lead to the hotel filing charges against Warner and advising those involved to call their banks and have charges reversed, etc.

The questions still lingering are what actually happened here?  Was this just a misunderstanding? What happened to the money that had been raised by Funeral Divas, Inc. to sponsor this event?  How will the cancellation of this weekend be handled given that it affected at least 40 some individuals who were seeking to complete their continuing education requirements?  And perhaps more importantly, just how extensive is this situation of fraud with respect to Funeral Divas, Inc.?

As more information surfaces, I will be either updating this post or writing a new entry.


ConnectingDirectors received an official e-mail on behalf of Funeral Divas, which they just published.  Among other things, it included the following snippet to clear-up rumors that have been going around since that weekend: “First of all, the conference was not a scam. All courses were approved by the funeral boards of Illinois and Indiana. The founder was detained and released on her own recognizance. She was not charged with a crime. Funeral Divas, Inc. has not lost any money and there was no check fraud or any kind of fraud.”


Even though there are still many questions left unanswered, it appears that just a few moments ago ConnectingDirectors published Mrs. Warner’s response to their question concerning the whereabouts of the money paid by attendees and sponsors.  Mrs. Warner said, “The money was not due until the day after the conference. The detainment happened on Wednesday the money was due on Friday. The question should be why wasn’t I given a chance to pay.”

In addition to this information, ConnectingDirectors also reported that two Funeral Divas, Inc. board members have resigned: Samantha Vang and Monica Gray. 

SOURCE: ConnectingDirectors.

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Before I die, I Want To…

Photo of the ‘Before I Die’ project in New Orleans.

To the left is a picture of an abandoned building in New Orleans. What you see on the the side of the building started out as an experiment by Candy Chang. Candy had lost someone she loved. In writing about this experiment and the impetus for it, she said, “I thought about death a lot. This helped clarify my life but I struggled to maintain perspective. I wanted to know what was important to the people around me and I wanted a daily reminder.”

Candy and her friends painted the side of an abandoned house in their neighborhood with chalkboard paint. They then stenciled the sentence “Before I die I want to _______.” and left chalk in little baskets along the walls so anyone walking by would be able reflect on their lives and share their aspirations in public space.  

I stumbled upon this project while perusing the world wide web via ‘Stumble Upon’ the other day.  As I looked through the

Before I Die in Minneapolis

photos of various walls across the U.S. and several other countries, I came across the wall in Minneapolis.  I scanned through the photos quickly, looking for the address where the wall was located, but had no luck.  Upon google searching the Minneapolis project, I found that Before I Die in Minneapolis, according to the Startribune, “is on a wall at 2609 Stevens Avenue in Whittier, part of that neighborhood’s ‘Artists in Storefronts.'”  The project ran April 27 through June 10 of this year (2012).  So, I had missed it by a good two months.  

Anyway, I know this is a departure from what I listed in my previous post concerning up and coming blog topics, but because these art projects are more time sensitive than the topics I am working on currently. Thus, I figured it would be best to post about this before other drafts.  

Projects like these are always very interesting to me.  So, I encourage you to look for your city on the Before I Die Project Website and go have a look.  And take some pictures.  Maybe even write a little something of your own on the wall for others to see.  Or, if like me, you missed the project in your city, see if you can catch one in a city near you because as Candy Chang said, “it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you.” And sometimes all you really need is a little reminder.

SOURCE: CandyChang.com

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To The East

OK, I know the blog has been dead–no pun intended–for a week or so, but it was with good reason! I just returned a couple days ago (OK more like four days ago) from my trip out East for a job interview with S.C.I. or Service Corporation International for those of you that are unfamiliar with the abbreviation.  I was in Boston/Cambridge for a week from September 26th through October 3rd and it was wonderful, the most wonderful part being that they made me an offer.  Catching up with friends and good food tied for second place though.

Anyway, with all that being said, I wanted to just quickly put some ideas  out there for upcoming posts: euthanasia, the rural cemetery movement, casket hardware, mania for the macabre, and taphophilia.  I have started all of these independently in my drafts, but we’ll see how I do once my perfectionism takes hold. Aside from posts, I am also starting to work on a morbid/macabre bucket list that I intend to create a page for on this blog.  My Uncle Jim and several friends were my inspiration.

I’ll leave you with an interesting factoid and a picture from my trip to Mount Auburn.

Christian burials were traditionally made supine east (feet)-west (head). This is still how a typical funeral procession in and out of a Christian church is oriented. There are several reasons offered for this burial tradition. One reason is that it mirrors the layout of Christian churches.  Another, often cited in conjunction with the aforementioned reason, is that upon resurrection the individual may view the coming of Christ on Judgment Day. On the other hand, ordained clergy are traditionally buried in the opposite orientation and their caskets are carried likewise. The belief, I have heard from several priests, is so that they may rise facing, and ready to minister to, their people upon resurrection. 



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