I was raised in a very small town and never attended a funeral other than those similar to my own background. I married a Catholic man and the funerals are a bit different than my "WASP" background, but not so much that anything was a shock to me.
I became very close with a Jewish woman at work and have become very close over the last 5 years with an African American woman I bowl with every week.
C, the Jewish woman lost her father last Spring. I went to the funeral and was struck by the "plain" coffin. It was completely wood, it looked to be untreated. Then after the service we walked right out to the cemetary and they lowered the coffin into the ground as people (family and friends) each put a scoop of dirt on top one shovel at a time. I have never seen the coffin actually lowered right into the ground with the family standing there. About 3 monthes later she started talking about a ceremony her family was coming back in town for over one weekend. Apparently, the headstone came in and they have a ceremony for the unveiling. I have never heard about anything like this either.
Then last week my African-American friend lost her father in law. I went to the funeral and let me tell you, I was blown away. There was singing and dancing. They read letters from other churches in the area (the man was a Deacan in the church.) They was celebrating the life of the man rather than mourning the death. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen! I called my husband and told him this is what I want! The only thing that I found a bit strange were the 4 women dressed as nurses. They had on all white with the caps and everything. They were walking around passing out tissues. My girlfriend told me the aren't actually nurses, just volunteers who pass out tissues and water and smelling salts in case anyone "falls out."
I found this all to be very enlightening. So, I thought, with all the different regions we have here there are surely some different customs for funerals. How do you mourn the loss of your loved ones? Is it a somber, sad affair or is it a celebration of the life lived?