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Dutchess_III's avatar

Would you take a photograph of someone dead, in their open casket, at their funeral?

Asked by Dutchess_III (38323points) November 6th, 2015

Some one just posted a picture of my uncle, who I never met, in his casket when he died in 1953. My reaction was…well, not quite horror but something mildly close to it. Revulsion?

Is it supposed to bring comfort of some kind? It has just the opposite affect on me. I went to the funeral of an 8 year old boy who had been killed when the semi his father was driving ran off the road and rolled. I just glanced at his poor, bloated, dead little face and I wanted to scream.

My husband’s family does open casket funerals. I can’t….if I can I just quietly go sit down without “viewing the deceased.” If I’m rather roped into it, out of respect, I’ll walk past but I won’t look. I can’t fathom taking a picture and sharing it.

How do you feel about open caskets and would it be normal to take a picture and pass it around?

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38 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

No caskets in my family. Just an urn. Open caskets are uncomfortable for me, too. I guess I don’t get the point, since the person is dead.

Rarebear's avatar

Jews don’t do open casket funerals. I can’t stand them.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. I have a feeling the practice may have started among the rich and powerful, so people could see that that wicked Queen or King, was, in fact, dead.

The first funeral I went to on Rick’s side of the family…the whole thing was just horrifying to me. Rick didn’t understand why. He was used to it. But since I explained it, I think he totally understands why I feel the way I do. However, he has no problem viewing the bodies anyway.

God, one of his family members took a picture of one of his uncles, like 15 minutes before he died, in his hospital bed. I don’t get it. Rick took a thousand pictures of me when I was in the hospital, and I don’t know why because he certainly doesn’t go out of his way to take pictures of me normally. I looked like death warmed over, and I deleted every one of them.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

Not for me. I’d rather remember them how they were when they were living. I don’t need an image of them dead forever stuck in my mind.

talljasperman's avatar

I want to make sure that they are dead and not faking it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@tali, You have a doctor who says he’s dead, a coroner who says he’s dead, and, if necessary, a family member who identified the body and says he’s dead, everybody says he’s dead, but you have to see it for yourself? Why?

Seek's avatar

I have no strong feeling in either direction. Funeral portraits have been a thing since the camera was invented.

talljasperman's avatar

@Dutchess_III So nothing like Elvis Presley happens again. Also I want to say goodbye one last time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Elvis Presley was a hoax, started by the public. Further more, it was an open casket. He was VIEWED in his casket, by thousands, but the hoax started any way.

Besides, if you’re going to fake your own death, you wouldn’t think a person would stage it so that they’re “found” butt naked, on the toilet, shooting up.

jca's avatar

When I was a teen, my grandmother died and my mom told me to take my grandmother’s photo in the casket. I did. I didn’t have a whole lot of photos of her. I don’t think I’ve taken any other photos of people in their caskets.

@talljasperman: If someone’s been embalmed, it wouldn’t be possible for them to still be alive, since embalming consists of removing all of their bodily fluids and replacing that with preservatives.

longgone's avatar

I don’t like open caskets, but I understand why some people need to see their loved ones one last time. Personally, I have only seen a corpse once. It resulted in that last image replacing all the others I’d had in my mind, which was unfortunate.

Then again, the father of a friend who killed himself describes his time with said friend’s body as a very peaceful way of saying goodbye. Different strokes…

Judi's avatar

It’s perfectly acceptable, especially in some southern cultures. I was only 10 when my dad died and my mom had an open casket for him. It was a bit traumatic for me because he looked younger than I had ever seen him. When I think back and realize he was only 50 I understand that the way he looked was probably how he looked without pain. (He was sick my whole life.)
By the time anyone else died in our family we were pretty well entrenched in northern culture. We all agreed that it was silly to pay for caskets and embalming. I was shocked again when my aunt that I had never been around died. We went to her funeral and it was very similar to my Dad’s. That’s when I realized how much culture plays into these choices.

talljasperman's avatar

Tibetan monks used to cut up and feed expired monks to the crows. So nothing is wasted. Every culture has their own beliefs.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Actually, the only time a body goes to waste is through embalming, but even that will eventually return to earth, one way or another.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

When the father in law died, the relatives all took photos I thought was a bit strange but they seemed to have no problem with it.

Mimishu1995's avatar

When my grandpa died, no one wanted to touch the coffin, let alone taking picture. Him dying was depressing enough. No one wanted to be further traumatized by seeing his corpse (his body was also heavily “modified” before the funeral too). I guess I would be traumatized if I had seen the corpse too.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

If the person taking the photograph wasn’t a close member of the family, I’d think it was inappropriate. However, if the photograph was taken by close family members, then that’s fine. That’s their need and choice. As has been said, taking photographs of the dead is not a new thing. Each to their own.

filmfann's avatar

I have in the distant past. I won’t do it again.

ibstubro's avatar

When photography was new, it was expensive, so people rarely had photos taken. When people died, the photo taken of the corpse might be the only photo ever taken of that person – the only memento. It was respectful.

Memento Mori: Victorian Photographs of the Dead is very collectible today. There was even special furniture built that had supports so that the dead could be photographed in ‘natural’ positions. Sometimes the “eyes” had to be painted on the photograph by hand.

If your uncle died in 1953 it’s not a stretch to imagine that it was taken by someone in the Victorian tradition. Some people view an open casket funeral as a comfort – to those people a photo would seem a natural extension.

ibstubro's avatar

Today the closest most of us get to death on a regular basis is roadkill. Contrast that with a time when someone was routinely sent to the back yard to throttle and dress a chicken for dinner. People in the West like to believe that any day now science will discover the magic pill that lets us live forever. Chances of that are between slim and none.

We’d all do well to Picnic like the Victorians more.

zenvelo's avatar

@ibstubro Still common, here’s a nice cemetery walk.

ibstubro's avatar

Yes, but hardly a communal picnic as a regular Sunday occurrence, @zenvelo.
Victorians designed and treated cemeteries as parks for the living as well as resting places for the dead.

I have friends here that do haunted history tours, including cemeteries, weekly. That’s cool, but not the same.

Oh, and to answer the question directly, ”Hell, NO”! I wouldn’t even look at someone in an open casket, much less take a picture.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

Post-mortem portraits were very popular among the Victorians. My guess? There weren’t many pictures of people taken during their lifetimes. Home cameras weren’t perfected or sold to consumers until the late-1800s, so people had to go to photography studios and sit for formal portraits. The same photographers would visit homes and take coffin pictures, likely because survivors had so few images of the departed.

That was then, this is now. Today, there are countless photos of everyone, in albums and shoeboxes, and on computer drives and cellphones. It’s just morbid to take a picture of a dead person.

Also, I’m on board with those of you who dislike open caskets. I understand why someone might find comfort and closure in seeing a loved one for the last time. But, I get the creeps and avert my eyes.

kritiper's avatar

I can think of two guys. Then I’d buy a dart board!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, that wouldn’t be a fair fight!

jca's avatar

Does anybody here touch the dead body in the casket?

Dutchess_III's avatar

God no! I’ve heard horror stories of children being forced to kiss the corpse for what ever reason.

At the last funeral I went to for my husband’s side of the family, the wife of the deceased was standing right by his open casket, greeting people, a mimicry of a couple, I guess. I just could not handle doing that if it was me.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@jca The relatives did at the Father in laws funeral ,2 of my sister in laws kissed their dad good by I can’t remember if Mrs Squeeky did or not.

ibstubro's avatar

Where did they kiss him, @SQUEEKY2?

We each have to say goodbye in our own way, but I’ll be damned if the last contact I had with a loved one was their cold dead flesh against my lips.

jca's avatar

I’ll usually touch the dead person’s hand.

I’ve never kissed a dead person.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Do you think it’s instinctive to have an aversion to a dead person that some people subvert? I would hate to feel a cold, rigid, dead, pale person’s skin.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Hey it was their Dad, I can’t fault them for giving the guy a good by final kiss on the forehead.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t fault anyone.

ibstubro's avatar

No one’s faulting them for anything, @SQUEEKY2.
It’s just not something I would care to do or receive comfort from.

If he had hair I was thinking perhaps they might have kissed him on the head.

ibstubro's avatar

And yes, @Dutchess_III, I think an aversion to dead animals is a healthy instinct.

The vermin have to find a new host, asap. We can’t pretend that humans aren’t prone to have all the same vermin as other animals in their natural state.

zenvelo's avatar

Interesting thoughts on touching the deceased’s hands. My grandmother died when I was ten, in an age where open casket was the norm.

A few weeks later, I cut some roses in the garden at my mother’s request. She then told me that when she put some fresh cut roses in her mother’s hands right before the viewing, and realized the thorns would not hurt her mother, that she came to a full realization of her passing.

Seek's avatar

I have never touched a corpse. I think my husband kissed his grandfather’s forehead. They were very close.

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