Tag Archives: Cemeteries

The Extreme Funeral Planning

A part of the process of death is preparing for death.  On an episode of  “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”, 56-year old Kris Jenner introduces the serious topic of death and burial to the Kardashian/Jenner/Odom/Disick families.  In the unfortunate event that one of their family members dies, Kris believes it’s important and essential to be prepared.  A mother of six, her inspiration on this topic arose from shortly after visiting her ill mother.  The entire family didn’t take her seriously, and started laughing hysterically!

Kris goes to many measures to make sure everything is set in stone for her family’s burial. We may not realize this at first, but funerals are a business. There are a myriad of options of how to treat bodies post-death, many of which are culturally constructed. These options seem normal to us, because that is how our culture makes them seem.  After the death of a loved one, we are to decide what kind of casket to get, based on the dead’s wishes and preferences. Thus, some people like to be prepared and have specific preferences on what they want, while other’s don’t mind.

Since Kris Jenner noticed that her family wasn’t really as passionate about this as she was, she decided to take this responsibility upon herself.  She proceeded to lay down in a casket and test it out, so she could decide on what kind she wanted to have for herself after death. Kris Jenner took a picture of herself with her eyes closed acting as if she was a dead, embalmed body and sent it to her children via text message.  There is a lot of importance placed on “the viewing” and the appearance of the body after death. Her motive was to hopefully shake her children up, and make them realize how she would look if death came upon her.  Kris also wanted to prove a point, that this was a serious this topic and also that she’s really worried no one will be there for her to take care of her.  Kris even posed in a deluxe model coffin, and although shaken, her daughter Kim was not bothered by the image of her mother’s death.

(Image from The Daily Mail)

Even though her family is discouraged and uninterested, nothing stops Kris Jenner from taking a tour at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and Funeral Home in Los Angeles, dragging her husband along.  Jokingly, Khloe Kardashian says the burial site should have a mausoleum and a moat.  The event planner and celebrity Kim Kardashian seems to be interested on just having a “fab” location to be buried in. Kris goes as far as ordering which flowers she would like best at their funeral as well.  As a business manager, its in Kris’ blood to be such a big planner.  For some, these burial rituals aren’t important, but for others give it a lot of thought and importance.

Kris took her entire family to a potential burial site and planned where everyone’s coffins would be placed on the celebrity-filled Hollywood plot, just for her family.  Since the Kardashian/Jenner/Odom/Disick family have all been so close and connected due to the show that is aired on E!, it only makes sense to Kris  to be buried together.  Funeral homes symbolize the removal from one home to another home.  It’s comforting to think that even when dead, the family is close in proximity and stays together.

The idea of planning one’s death may seem morbid and outrageous.  However, the ultimate concern of Kris was legitimate.  The idea of death may seem scary, due to the fear of the unknown.  Also, as a mother, she is worried that her children will not take care of her or care for her when she’s older or dead.   Kris is independent right now, but there are a lot of elderly who are suffering due to their children’s lack of attention.  Many people laugh it off jokingly, and make it seem like death and burial isn’t an important topic to discuss about since it’s in the future.  However, sometimes comedy and satire are ways of dealing with not wanting to talk about this sensitive and emotional subject. Granted it is good to plan for the future, but Kris planning her and her family’s funeral and burial to the T is slightly discomforting.

In the end, I found it slightly weird how her son, Rob Kardashian, tattooed a picture of Kris on his forearm, as a symbol that she will never be forgotten and to let go of the funeral discussion in total.  Many times people get pictures, dates, and phrases, or any symbol of memorabilia permanently tattooed to their body when someone close to them passes away.  This was Rob’s gesture to show his mother he cared for her.  Who knows, maybe this extreme gesture was necessary to finally put Kris to peace?

(Image from The Daily Mail)

To watch another clip from the episode, please visit http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/kris-jenner-plans-her-funeral-2012178


-S. Gillani

Report from Finland

This weekend I went to Helsinki. The object was to attend an archaeology conference, which I did with great interest, hitting sessions on cremation practices and post medieval mortuary practices and what archeology can tell us about them. It was amazing, stimulating and interesting. But, then, I snuck away. My brilliant colleague Howard Williams, who like myself, has an interest in all things death related invited me to come along to the Hietaniemi Cemetery.

I don’t know about you, but I have always loved cemeteries. These places are restful and loaded with sentiment, art and lived experience. And they tell a story. Hietaniemi is no different. In fact it tells many stories. The stunning eccentric monuments on the artist hill are striking in their daring design, and the large military section reminds the visitor of the loss of young lives in the fight for independence. The modernist fonts on the family graves stand out both as exceptionally beautiful and as a testimony of the embrace of modernist ideals also during the most sentimental of times. The avenues bordered by tall pine trees shape the place into a monumental landscape and a home for the dead. Peaceful and stern.

A storage space for lanterns at Hietaniemi cemetery, overlooking the urban industrial landscape across the small bay.

But, this is Finland. And Finland is special. It blends eccentricity and individualism with collectivism in a way that I found to be truly unique. Nowhere was this more striking than at Hietaniemi. The arrangements for cremations, with arrangements of natural stones in flowerbeds exploding with color, or the sterner granite square shapes of crosses or pillars with room for many names embody this notion of collectivity and conformity with individual expression.

Area for the final deposition of cremations at Hietamieni cemetery. The crosses are standardized and can be engraved on both sides, thus forming the marker for two separate depositions.

What can I say? I grew up with the books by Tove Jansson (and by the way, her family grave is at Hietaniemi), I dress myself and my home in Finnish design, I have loved the brilliant movies by Aki Kaurusmaki, enjoyed many a sauna and placed myself in the lines of the poetry by Edit Sodergran and Marta Tikkanen, but it took a trip to Hietaniemi for me to finally get closer to what I think Finland is about. I can’t put my finger on it yet, but I can say with certainty that it is pretty amazing.

Liv Nilsson Stutz