That Brits are born with an acute and possibly pathological sensitivity to absurdity is well known. The Great American Funeral has engendered great and gloriously funny books by Jessica Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, neither of which had more than minimal success in laughing Americans out of their (perceived) absurdity.
There is method in the funerary lunacies of the GAF, of course: they come at a cost to the client. The recent rise in the cremation rate has filled most US undertakers with helpless economic terror, and it is interesting that they have taken no lessons in adapting to this from Brit undertakers, who have been making a tidy living out of burial deniers for as long as anyone can remember.
The GAF has, it seems, some capability to evolve. Burning necessity has begotten ingenious adaptation of the hearse, conserving it as the only fit and proper vehicle not only for the reverent transportation of cosmetised corpses but also the burned and reduced version, cremains. No glove compartment or passenger seat of the family car for them; only the full hush and awe will suffice. And it’s billable!
My thanks to Sarah Murray, author of Making an Exit, for bringing these hearses, more correctly termed urn enclaves, to my attention. She adds: ‘It was explained to me that urn enclaves have “adjustable bier pins” accommodating different sizes and shapes. They flip up from the floor of the hearse and are cleverly stowed again when the vehicle needs to carry a coffin. One brochure tells me that if you don’t want to buy a new hearse or go to the expense or trouble or getting yours refitted, “portable urn enclaves are also available for funeral directors who wish to extend the service of their existing coaches.”‘ Coaches, forsooth!!
Find another YouTube clip (unembeddable) here.