When I attended my aunt’s Catholic funeral as a child, I remember looking at a very sterile body in the open casket with a rosary wrapped around her hands. There were flowers on top of the casket but that was about it. That was almost 40 years ago and times have changed. Families are requesting more of a personal touch at funerals and the emphasis seems to have shifted to more of a celebration of life, and with that what goes in an open casket with the departed is changing also.
It makes sense if you do choose to have your loved one in an open casket, that you personalize it. You may want to consider adding their favorite books or personal items that you think about when you think about that person. You also may want to choose clothes that reflect their favorite colors and their style. If the person rarely wore a coat and tie or a dress with ruffles, why would you want to bury them in such attire? If they had a favorite pair of jeans and a favorite shirt or sweater it makes sense to send them off in what was the most indicative of the person. Of course, if your loved one requested to be dressed in specific attire, by all means observe their wishes.
I attended my best friend’s father’s funeral and he had an open casket. Tom was a real character and his open casket certainly reflected that. He was dressed in a jean shirt with his fishing vest. The open casket was filled with family photos and his favorite fishing lures were still attached to his vest. He always wore hats and he had his favorite hat in his casket and one on top of the casket next to the flowers. His favorite fishing rod was leaning up next to the casket. Instead of a rosary in his hands I noticed he was holding a key. I asked what the key was for and was told it was to his favorite place in the world, his fishing cabin. Instead of feeling a bit creepy looking at a dead person, I actually cracked a smile knowing Tom would have loved his send off.
Some of the casket companies sell caskets that have a pull out drawer in the casket. Families and friends can add a farewell note, a favorite golf ball, photos and anything that they feel needs to be buried with their loved one. Hopefully sharing these thoughts will help you should you be planning for an open casket or looking for ideas on how to personalize an open casket for a loved one.
Many of the same ideas can be used for a closed casket, and the items can be decoratively arranged on top of the casket.
SSF Josh Melton in an open casket with photos of his loved ones and even a couple of teddy bears. He was killed in Kandahar on June 19, 2009