The South can be a strange place, and R. Bernard Funeral Home in Memphis, Tennessee, is no exception to that rule. The owner of the funeral home, Ryan Bernard, has come up with a unique but bizarre way to say your final goodbyes to a deceased loved one: a viewing drive-thru. In the same way you can order a Big Mac, you can also now pay your respects to your dearly departed.
“Being in Memphis, we are surrounded by a lot of big-name funeral homes that have been around for 100 years, so being the new kid on the block, so to speak, I needed something unique to make me stand apart,” says Bernard. With the building he purchased for his business existing as a bank in its past life, he decided to make use of the bulletproof drive-thru teller window as a means to achieve that unique feature he was searching for.
He claims the worth of the strange service he provides is in the convenience it allows. “Some people, they don’t want to deal with the hassle, the chaos of a large funeral… It helps out those that lack (physical) mobility, those who don’t feel like the hassle of parking cars and getting out or those who are scared to come into a funeral home. A lot of funeral homes creep people out.”
In addition to the drive-thru, Bernard is coming up with other creative ways to stand out amongst other funeral homes, including live streaming services for out-of-town family members who are unable to attend the services. According to him, it’s all about options. “We still offer traditional visitation services,” said Bernard. “The drive-thru is just an added bonus for your family member. It is up to the family to decide if they want this option.” The service is free for customers with funeral packages.
Surprisingly, Bernard’s drive-thru viewings are actually not an innovative concept, though R. Bernard is the first funeral home to offer this style of viewing in the mid-South. Paradise Funeral Chapel in Saginaw, Michigan, has been offering drive-thru funerals since 2014. “When we first started it, everybody was talking about it and it was a big deal,” said the funeral chapel’s owner, Ivan Phillips. “Things have calmed down, and we used the service two to three times a week.”
Although Bernard says he has had mostly positive reactions toward this bizarre service and has even had several families utilize it for their deceased loved one, not everyone is so fond of it. According to Bob Arrington, president of the National Funeral Directors Association, “In my opinion, I don’t think the body should be put on display like a new car.”
Personally, the idea seems to me to be just yet another way the funeral industry has become more about the almighty dollar and not actually about honoring the dead. I’m definitely curious to see what the readers’ thoughts are on this, so join in on the conversation on this week’s #WEIRDWEDNESDAY post on our Instagram! And don’t forget to check back in next Wednesday for your weekly dose of weird.