JULY 25, 2005
BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
The transformation of the American funeral
The deaths of Pope John Paul II and former President Ronald Reagan brought the funeral rite to a new level of public scrutiny, with television commentators and print reporters explaining every ritual and custom. But while papal and state funerals have changed little through the years, private funerals in this country have, reflecting significant shifts in America's culture and religion. Individually or collectively, these trends offer rich opportunities for storytelling. They also will become more prominent as funerals increase; the number of U.S. deaths per year is expected to nearly double between 2000 and 2055, to 4.7 million (see chart).