Funerals have been held since the dawn of time to honor and remember a departed loved one. There is always a common thread -- the importance of memorialization.
Now, however, with the Baby Boomer generation, a new element has been added to the traditional funeral.
Calling hours and other traditional rites are still an important part of remembrance. But many Baby Boomer funerals are taking on a whole new look. They are becoming very personalized remembrances -- reflecting the individual and his or her interests in life.
We know that the ancient Egyptians buried artifacts to help the departed spirit in the afterlife.
Excavated tombs have yielded myriad items including games and tools that the spirit might want.
It is interesting to note that this practice is popular once more as Baby Boomers request their favorite sports equipment such as golf clubs, tennis balls and team jerseys be placed in the casket.
Mountain bikes and canoes have been displayed during calling hours. Even the casket can become a reminder of the Baby Boomers' interest in sports.
A New York City funeral director told us that a departed football fan was laid to rest in a casket featuring a Notre Dame logo and team colors on panels and the corner caps.
In Upstate New York, one funeral featured a jazz band playing on the porch of the funeral home.
Another funeral highlighted the departed's interest in handicapping horse races by simulating his kitchen - complete with tip sheets and race results broadcast from a radio.
Baby Boomers are also known for their interest in preserving the environment.
At several sites in New York State, as well as in other parts of the country, "green" cemeteries and natural burial plots are available. There are no underground vaults, no mausoleums and minimal landscaping so the cemetery grounds are kept in a more natural state.
Some families have asked funeral directors to have a tree planted in memory of the departed loved one, thus helping to renew forest life.
There are companies that blend cremated remains with concrete to form reef structures then place them in selected ocean sites to form undersea "memorial reefs."
These reefs are ecologically beneficial because they form a natural habitat for undersea creatures.
Today's funeral director is likely to be a Baby Boomer and more than happy to arrange a funeral for you that will be truly memorable and a celebration of your life.
So when you start to preplan your funeral, be sure to discuss your desires with your family and your neighborhood funeral director so that you, too, can have a truly personalized funeral.