Photographing Funeral Customs
The range of customs and practices related to funerals is as broad, different and vast as the world itself. Music is frequently an integral part of funeral ceremonies from the formal playing of “Taps" (pictured), composed by U.S. Civil war Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield in 1862, at the pomp and ceremony of state or military funerals, to the singing of gospel hymns and the contrasting lively gaiety and almost “carnival" atmosphere of European and Caribbean wakes for the recently deceased.
In many regions of the world, among some ethnic and religious groups, the deceased’s body may “lie in state" at their home or a public place for periods from hours up to a week or more, while a period of mourning ensues before burial, entombment or cremation.
In the tropical rain forests and Pacific coastal regions of Colombia, African-descent, black communities often prepare an unembalmed body to lie in state at home for several days, even in the intense heat and humidity of the tropics.
“When my aunt Doña Elizabeth Lopez* died last year after a long, painful illness, we washed and dressed her in her favorite dress, shoes and shawl, then laid her on a raised pallet in the living room of her house. Nearly everyone in our small Pacific coast town of 800 people came to pay their respects. We stood vigil over her day and night for six days with food, music and drinks for all guests before she was interred on the seventh day in the local cemetery", related her niece Dora Lopez*.