Drive-Thru Viewing

About once a month I troll the internet for funeral news like a weirdo. I search Youtube for news videos and also do some Google searches looking for any recent local news here in Florida. This habit has given me a few topics for blog posts (my personal favorite: ventilation in mausoleums and why it’s necessary), and it’s also given me news that I sincerely wish I could take back out of my brain, like the story about the young woman Julie Mott who was stolen from a funeral home in San Antonio after her viewing back in August of 2016. When the funeral home employees came in the next morning she was just…gone. And she still hasn’t been found. That story really haunted me and I still follow up about once a month to see if there is any more news about her.

Some of the stories I read are tragic and some are just downright bizarre, like the funeral director who decided to leave a body in a hearse parked at the back of his property for nine days because… well, he thought the body smelled bad and there was some protocol with the body being released for cremation. He didn’t want the body stored in his place and potentially scaring off customers. To his credit, he did in fact appear on camera for a news interview, because in many of these cases the person responsible won’t answer questions unless the authorities get involved.

And then there are the cases that don’t fit into the tragic category, and they don’t really fit in the bizarre category- they have a place all their own in the world of funeral news. I guess you could call them trendy. I give you the drive thru viewing. (Video compliments of YouTube.)

First, I want to say that I am not making fun of anyone here on this blog (Well, except for that one cemetery that I absolutely can’t stand. I make fun the owners sometimes.) But when I first heard about this, it did strike me as being almost comical, so I spent a day or two reflecting on it and trying to decide if I was for it or against it. I posted about it on social media and also to my coworkers at the library, because we’re an opinionated bunch if nothing else. Here are some of the collective remarks made.


Some people hate funeral homes and get panic attacks even thinking about going to a viewing or a funeral, so looking through a window at the person may be easier for them to handle. Some people are physically challenged and so this is a more comfortable option for them. Many people feel shy about expressing their grief publicly; I know I feel a lot more comfortable crying in my car than I do in a room full or people or in a public restroom. A lot of people are disturbed by the (real or imagined) smell of funeral homes and that can keep them from visitations. Viewing the body through the window may feel less real and confrontational than looking down at the body or even being in the same room with them, and so it may be a good option for people who really fear death.


One person said she could imagine a whole family heading to McDonald’s first and then eating fries and drinking shakes while looking at the body in the funeral home drive-thru. One person said if parking was more inconvenient than the fact that the person died, then maybe they shouldn’t go to the viewing at all. One friend said that they thought looking at a dead body was a weird tradition anyway and that looking at one through a window was even weirder.

What this reminded me of was the Victorian practice of photographing dead bodies, a historical quirk that I personally love. Many of the photos are beautiful and peaceful, and while I’ve seen a few that have really disturbed me, I find that many are artistic and certainly valuable for their historical detail. However, when the house was quarantined the photographer would have to stand outside and take the photo through the window of the house, and that gave me the creeps for some reason. It seemed voyeuristic and changed the whole dynamic, but I could see the need for it if the family had no other photo of that person.

Photo first seen in Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America by Stanley Burns. of the Burns Archive. Photo accessed from

I don’t know that this fills a specific need in the funeral industry, but I admire the creativity for sure and I certainly look forward to seeing if this catches on and and ends up in one of the Orlando funeral homes. I think that for years people have either chosen to attend a funeral or not – it’s been that simple. This seems to place some people into a gray area where they want to be there to support the family of the loved one- but don’t. They want that last look at their loved one- but not in person. I can’t say this with any judgement because everyone’s feelings toward death are different, but I’ll be really interested to see if this becomes a regular funeral practice.

Finding Mozart…Part 2

This is part 2 of Keila’s guest post from last week! Enjoy!


While walking through the Ehrengräber something bright pink caught my attention in the sea of grey headstones.  I walked through some hedges and came upon a much more contemporary section of grave art.  I apologize I’m not familiar with most of the people, but it appears many of them were artists, actors, and musicians.  Please enjoy:

The cemetery has between 20-25 burials daily and has plenty of room for new burials.  The newer sections are of course not as ornately decorated as the old.  Unfortunately, I did not make it to the Jewish cemetery sections which are further away from the church in the center.  I hope to make it back to explore more of the cemetery in the future. In the meantime, here are some more of my favorites from this visit.


Okay, so remember when I mentioned Mozart a little earlier?  He’s not actually buried in the Vienna Central Cemetery, but there is an honorary cenotaph there for him.  He was one of the most influential composers in history and made a great impact in Viennese culture during his time and into modern times.  He died young at the age of 35, leaving behind a widow and two young children.  The cause of his death has been debated and ranges from a prolonged illness, a sudden illness, or a poisoning.  The manner of his burial is also highly debated and this is where the story gets interesting.  Previous versions of Mozart’s death stories account that he died a derelict pauper unable to find work as a musician due to the ongoing Turkish War and was buried in a common, unmarked pauper’s grave in St. Marx Cemetery.  What is probably more true is that he was buried in the normal manner for his time which was to be buried in a shroud, rather than a coffin, in an unmarked or plainly marked grave.  Because of this, it quickly became difficult to identify the exact location of his resting place.  Even after extensive research, they have not been able to identify the location with any certainty.  Because of this an honorary tomb was erected for him in the field where he was most likely buried.  This tomb was moved to the Zentralfriedhof in 1891 on the 100th anniversary of his death.  Another memorial was erected in St. Marx to commemorate his burial in that cemetery.

So let me tell you a little more about St. Marx and my visit there.  The cemetery was closed for burials in 1874 and fell into disrepair.  It began restoration and was open to the public for visiting in 1937.  It is unclear how many burials there are in the cemetery due to the common graves, but it is considerably smaller than the Zentralfriedhof.  You can get to it on the same trolley line as the Zentralfriedhof, but the entrance is not located directly on the line and is about a half mile walk from the trolley stop.  The day I visited St. Marx was very different from the day I visited the central cemetery.  It was grey, freezing, and flurries of snow were falling from the sky.  It is apparently a very beautiful place to visit in the spring when hedges of lilac are in full bloom.  Unfortunately, during my very frigid winter visit everything appeared dead and quite haunting, especially since there was no one else visiting the cemetery that day.  This definitely resembled the morbid image of cemeteries which many people hold.

Upon entering the cemetery there is a map and signs that point you to the honorary marker for Mozart. It is located almost in the middle of the cemetery and it was very well kept and felt almost out of place in this cemetery as it was the only part that seemed managed at all.  Walking through the cemetery was kind of heartbreaking actually.  The city website giving details about the cemetery, which is also considered a park, states that clearing work is underway as well as a project to catalog the graves there.  But as you can see from some of the photos below it is difficult to imagine trying to identify many of the marked graves here as many of the headstones have fallen into such a state of decay and disrepair.  I still found a comforting beauty in the disarray though.  Even as many of the headstones were worn and eroding, you could tell that the markers were crafted with care and precision, much like the ones in the Zentralfriedhof.  Unfortunately, I did not get to explore the cemetery as much as I would have liked because it began to snow, and I could not stand the cold much longer (Florida girl in me). You can find some of my favorite photos below as well as some of the devastating state of the cemetery.

I think people underestimate how beautiful historical grave art can be and think of cemeteries as morbid places. There were so many amazing sculptures in these cemeteries, while many were expressions of grief, there were also many celebrating life, love, and joy.  I think it’s important to remember that grave art is erected to remember those we’ve lost.  Sometimes we express it in the unbearable grief their loss has brought upon us, and other times we remember how much their life meant to us and brought us happiness.  Although I would have liked to have spent more time in both of these places, I feel very fortunate to have been able to visit two mesmerizing cemeteries in Vienna, one built with purpose and still in use today, and the other a reminder of how we should work to remember and preserve the memories of those who came before us.


Death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,, accessed February 28, 2017.

St. Marx Cemetery Park with Mozart’s grave,, accessed February 28, 2017,

Vienna Central Cemetery,, accessed February 27, 2017,


Finding Mozart: The Vienna Central Cemetery and St. Marx Cemetery

Today I am proud to welcome guest blogger and friend Keila to the blog! Keila and I have had many adventures together and she recently went to Vienna and got to see some incredible historic cemeteries. This is a longer post- but her photos are awesome and I wanted to include as many as possible. So- enjoy!

I was lucky enough to be able to visit Vienna, Austria this Christmas.  While Austria and Germany are known for their amazing Christmas markets and famous gluhwein (holiday mulled wine) I was excited to visit for another reason, the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery).  The Vienna Central Cemetery is one of the world’s largest cemeteries and is the largest in Europe for the number interred there, over 3 million.  It is only a short trolley ride from the center of the city and has a dedicated bus line inside in order to help people get around the massive area more easily.  There are three gates (tors) at the front of the cemetery for people to enter, with Tor 2 being the main entrance.  Foot traffic is free, but there is a toll to get in with a vehicle.  This cemetery is unique to most in Europe because unlike many others it was planned.  City leaders realized that the city’s population was growing and a large cemetery would be needed to accommodate burials.  The opening of the cemetery was also quite controversial as it was one of the first mixed faith cemeteries with a large Catholic section, a Protestant section, and two Jewish sections (there are now also Muslim, Buddhist, and Russian Orthodox burials in the cemetery). There is also a church located in the center of the cemetery called Karl-Borromäus-Kirche (Charles Borromeo Church).  It is built in the Art Nouveau style and has undergone several renovations after being bombed during World War II and then later being damaged by subsidence and dampness.  There is a crypt beneath the church with the most notable burial being Karl Lueger, a former mayor of Vienna, which has led to the church also being deemed the Karl Lueger Memorial Church.




The day I visited was one of the warmer days of my stay in Vienna with it being in the high 40s.  It was sunny and rather pleasant, with a slight breeze.  There were many more people there than I expected.  Many who also appeared to just be visiting the cemetery in general. When I first entered the cemetery I was struck by how vast it seemed.  I was knowingly disappointed that I would not have enough time to explore the whole cemetery, but very excited to see what I could. After walking through the massive gate, I was greeted by two mausoleums on each side of the road.  Each contains 36 crypts.  These were the most beautifully decorated crypts I have ever seen and each one had me in awe at the exquisitely unique and detailed artwork.



After passing through these awe-inspiring crypts, it was difficult to decide which way to go next.  I did what most people do naturally and went to my right.  I walked past some very interesting looking headstones, some with trees (purposefully) growing through them, others which were raw stone.  Something caught my eye in the distance and I began making my way toward it.  Those who are familiar with cemeteries know they are full of statues of the Virgin Mary or veiled angels and women.  I thought I was going to come across a statue of Mary holding up Christ, especially when I noticed that the figure was holding someone.  When I finally reached it, it was so much better than I thought.  Instead of the Virgin, I was facing Death himself, holding his latest passenger.  The statue was faceless and had vines growing on it which made it even more hauntingly beautiful and it is my favorite piece of cemetery art to date. I feel like it was speaking to me in a way no other piece has.  The passenger appeared calm and relaxed in Death’s grasp, and it reminded me that death comes for us all, but it is not something to be feared.



Another interesting  fact about this cemetery is that it is the resting place for many famous composers, artists, actors, musicians, scientists, and other notable people from history.  Due to its unpopularity after opening because of its distance from the city, officials set aside an honorary grave area (Ehrengräber).  This part of the cemetery was definitely the most crowded with tourists. They moved several famous people from other cemeteries here in order to boost the reputation of the cemetery.  Interred in the Central Cemetery are notables such as Ludwig van Beethoven; Franz Schubert, who were moved to the city in 1888; Johannes Brahms; Antonio Salieri; Johann Strauss II and Arnold Schoenberg. A cenotaph honours Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is buried in nearby St. Marx Cemetery. We’ll get to that last one in a moment, but first enjoy some photos of the resting places of these famous composers.






There is much more to tell and this post will be continued next week! See you then! All sources will be listed next week as well in case anyone wants to do further reading. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.