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Resting in peace now can actually be in bed



Published: Mon, June 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A Cleveland-area funeral home provides what it calls a less intimidating bedroom environment.

BROOK PARK, Ohio (AP) -- A bed and two end tables stand in place of where the casket would usually be at Humenik Funeral Chapel.

Owner Joe Humenik says some of his peers in the funeral business snicker at the bedroom-like setting he offers for laying out a body.

But he has seen the way mourners react and knows that not only is he providing clients with a less intimidating atmosphere, he's saving them money.

"People feel it's a waste of money to purchase expensive caskets," he said. "They're looking for alternatives for doing the most respectful funeral they can do at the least cost."

A spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association says he knows of no other parlors offering a similar service, but that it could become more common as funeral costs go up.

"It is something that's so new and unique. It isn't something we've tracked," spokesman Kurt Soffe said.

Different option

Humenik opened his own funeral home in suburban Cleveland five years ago after spending 10 years in the business. He first tried out the "reposing bed" for someone very close to him -- his mother.

He had observed at countless funerals how mourners awkwardly approach the casket, say their goodbyes then retreat to the seating area.

But when his mom was laid out in a reposing bed, people stood nearby throughout the visitation.

"It was a real phenomenon," he said. "People took chairs and were sitting around the bed. It was just amazing."

Humenik said the bed has become popular among families who opt for cremation -- a growing trend -- and don't want to rent a casket. Using the reposing bed, saves them $500, he said.

"Nobody will do this," Humenik said of his innovation. "Funeral homes are in business to sell caskets. They're not in business to use beds."

Donna Smith, 55, attended a funeral two years ago in which her neighbor was laid out in a bed.

"Tradition is hard to break. It was different at first, but it was enlightening," she said. "It wasn't that gloom and doom. It was pleasant. It was easy on the soul."

How it works

Humenik sets up a twin bed with white sheets and a dust ruffle. For a personal touch, he asks family members to bring in the deceased's favorite blanket or afghan. For veterans, he covers the body with an American flag instead of a blanket.

The foot of the bed faces the seating area and is flanked by two end tables with lamps. A candleholder stands behind the bed's cherry Queen Anne headboard.

"It is like walking into their bedroom," Smith said. "It's just as if they're sleeping in bed. You don't get that awful feeling.

"It's just lovely," he added. "That's the way I want to go."

Humenik uses the bed almost every time for a child's funeral. At one, the child's classmates gathered on the floor around the bed and played with the deceased's toys that were on display.

"It's the casket that's the intimidator, not the dead person," Humenik said. "The casket represents finality."

Similar idea

Soffe, the funeral directors association spokesman, owns two funeral homes in suburban Salt Lake City. He offers a padded gurney for funerals in which the body will be later cremated. The gurney is draped with a blanket to obscure the metal bars and wheels underneath.

"It has a very nice appearance. They have been very grateful to know they don't have to bring in a casket," he said.

Soffe doesn't think the use of gurneys or beds will become a trend, but he said they could grow more popular. He said such changes take time because people are reluctant to do things differently when it comes to funerals.

"When someone dies, we look for an area of comfort and an area of common ground," he said.

The average cost of a funeral and casket is approaching $5,700, according to the funeral directors group.

Families in the working-class neighborhood of Brook Park don't have a lot of money to throw around for funerals, Humenik said. Those who select the reposing bed and hold the service at his funeral chapel spend as little as $3,800.

Humenik said he isn't afraid to be a pioneer in the industry, as long as what he's doing is comforting for his clients.

So what's next? Maybe laying out an individual in a favorite chair or recliner?

"If a family requested it, I would use a recliner," Humenik said.




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