Does a “One Hour Prior” visitation serve its purpose?

I attended a memorial service yesterday.  The format of the service has become pretty standard in our community.  The service was for a lady/wife/mother of which I know the husband to some extent.  I consider him a really nice guy and attended the service because I wanted to let him know that I care and not so much because I knew the deceased – because I did not to any great extent.

When I heard of the death I noticed that there was no visitation on Sunday night only “One Hour Prior” to the service at a local church on Monday morning.  While I prefer to go to visitations in the early evening, yesterday morning worked out fine in my schedule and I was fine on attending.

A good thing about yesterday’s service was that it was a pretty large crowd and I was happy to see that.  However, because of the large crowd I was never able to make my way to the husband to say “hello and offer condolences”.  He may eventually see my name in the register book and know that I cared enough to come to the service.  Maybe it’s not important. . . but I think it is.

This may sound odd, but “to me” it is not important that he knows I was there.  However, I believe “to him” (the husband) it might be important to know that I, or any other attendee was there, simply so he knows these people care.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I still believe that the funeral or the memorial service is for the living.  They need to take in the atmosphere and have the laughs and tears of which remembering brings.

This brings me to my point. . . .does a one hour visitation prior to the service starting at a church afford the family the opportunity to take in this care and respect that is being shown to them.  If I didn’t get a chance to offer my condolences to the husband, how many other attendees were in that same boat?  Would the husband have benefited from the services to a greater extent if he was able to visit with more people?

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

My father’s been gone over 40 years. . .I was a teenager.  However, I can still tell you that I vividly remember many of my classmates who came to the visitation and/or funeral service.  You just never forget them, because they cared.  Knowing that they cared still makes me feel good.

I think a lot of families think that one hour visitation prior to the funeral is enough.  However, with pastors wanting to give a final private word to the families and funeral directors getting them together for an entrance into the church, that one hour is many times less than 45 minutes.  Couple that with the fact that many people don’t want to be the first ones there and you maybe have less than 30 minutes for the vast amount of attendees.  How deep in discussion can a mourner get in that time period with scores of people there?

I know and understand that consumer families should have the final say in what type of arrangements they want.  However, I believe more than ever it is incumbent on our professionalism to let them know all the realities of the situation when they want something less than what we believe is ideal for them.

In our profession we get just one chance to get it right for our client families.  And I understand that client families are the consumer and the consumer is who we have to please.  However, if we don’t get it right. . . then those client families don’t get the care that they really need.  In those arrangement conferences don’t be afraid to tell client families what you think is best. . .They can make the ultimate decision and you can rest knowing you have given them all the options.

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  1. Kent Dorsey on February 29, 2020 at 10:26 am

    Of all of the trends in funeral service, this one I HATE the most. Trying to time a visitation into a service, and what used to be a 4 to 4 1/2 funeral for personnel to be on, we can be gone 6 hours or more to go to a church and get set up. I have family members say, “it’s easier on the family all in one day…” and I keep my mouth shut.
    BUT… if they ask, I explain that having it one day will absolutely cut some out who can’t attend that day. I explain that having a visitation one day and service the next allows more visiting time and they aren’t rushed. I have seen some change their minds. However, I am careful not to offend that one family member is gung ho on the one day visitation/service.

  2. Robert and Mary Stein on February 21, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Tom, we remember well your father’s visitation, and who attended with us. It was a very nice evening visitation,one that would not be possible in one hour.

  3. Randy Rutledge on February 18, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Excellent article. Your observations are so true. I wonder how and why this “one hour prior” became so popular and so geographically widespread. Thank you for bringing up this topic.

  4. Craig Buysse on February 18, 2020 at 5:33 am

    Great article today Tom!! Everything you said is so true.

  5. Billy Guidry on February 18, 2020 at 3:55 am

    As a Funeral Director for the past 32 years I see this a major issue today as the families do not allow enough time for the deceased friends to pay their respects. And this seems to be getting worse. I must meet with the family and clergy on the funeral day as well as the organist and soloist and this does take time. Then you consider that some attending the visitation arrive late or just in time for services which complicates things. I try to give advice to families concerning times and for the most part, they heed my advice. I’m now semi-retired and still love my wonderful families and still care for them in every way.

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