Not Your Typical Drive-Thru

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The first drive-thru funeral home recently opened in Memphis, Tennessee. This may sound a bit unusual but, it’s actually not a new trend. Three other cities in America have offered the same service.

A funeral home in Louisiana was the first, in 1977, and two others opened in California and Michigan in the mid 2000s. Up until 1989, a funeral home in Chicago was offering remote viewing via cameras.

Earlier this year, Ryan Bernard, owner of R. Bernard Funeral services, purchased an old bank building in southeast Memphis. He knew he would be competing with funeral homes in the neighborhood that had been around for decades so, he took inspiration from the Golden Arches business model. A few years prior, he has visited a funeral home in Compton, CA which had a drive-thru option. He decided to adopt this unique model for his new business in Memphis’ Orange Mound neighborhood.

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Those who have used the drive-thru have said it makes saying goodbye just that bit easier, particularly for the elderly who might otherwise not be able to pay their respects in person.

On the day of the wake, mourners line up in their cars in the gated viewing lane. As they pull up to the window, the curtains open revealing their loved one, behind bullet proof glass. An employee greets them with the guest registry and accepts any condolence cards. The mourner has three minutes to visit before the next car pulls in.

In a culture that is becoming perpetually impatient, perhaps this seemingly bizarre service will become a standard part of our funerary customs.

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Words and Photography by Lisa Guerriero