Four years ago, Wynn Scott’s mother-in-law passed away and she learned too late that she had once been a model.
That gave her an idea.
In November 2021, Wynn surprised her husband Ryan with a loving and fun way to celebrate his 50th birthday in November 2021.
Now, Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery in Mesa is taking her idea to start a new tradition.
“It’s so sad that we always wait until someone passes away to tell them how wonderful they were,” said Wynn, who spent 45 days planning the event for her husband of 30 years because she wanted to celebrate his life while he was still on earth.
After three funeral homes rejected her idea, Mountain View Funeral Home & Cemetery in Mesa, said yes.
“We love to do things for the community, so we absolutely said yes to her and helped with all the planning,” Mountain View Marketing Director Hilary Samples said.
Wynn said she wanted to maintain the respect for those buried at the cemetery –including some of her friends’ relatives – but also have fun with Ryan’s ceremony.
Approximately 80 guests attended the event at Mountain View last October and dressed as one typically would for a funeral.
The funeral home rented her a casket for free that sat front-and-center. But instead of a body, it was filled with an assortment of beer – including Bud Light, Ryan’s favorite.
Guests were greeted in traditional funeral fashion with remembrance posters and a singer playing somber music.
Friends of Ryan were invited to share their prepared eulogies as he sat next to the casket drinking a beer.
The two-and-a-half-hour event even included Hawaiian hula dancers in honor of Ryan’s favorite vacation spot and ended with dance company’s flash mob performing to the music of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to keep in line with a Halloween theme.
Ryan’s friends served as pallbearers, who loaded the beer-filled casket into a hearse and led a procession of nearly 100 vehicles and an escort of 10 police cars to Lucky Lou’s Bar and Grill in Mesa.
After a celebratory shot with some friends at Ryan’s favorite watering hole, the procession proceeded to the Scott’s home for a masquerade party with more than 100 people in attendance.
“It’s been almost a year and people still talk about it being the most incredible event they’ve been to,” Wynn said.
Ryan – very much alive and kicking – described the whole event as “a little
surreal, out-of-body-type experience” but found it a respectful and fun way
to poke fun at him for crossing the half-century line.
“It was special to me because of how much was put into it and how many people are involved in and how it all turned out,” he said.
Ryan said the level of effort put into the event is what really knocked him dead.
“That was probably the most surprising part was just how organized and how intense the whole thing was – but in a good way.”
Wynn is no stranger to planning funerals as she briefly studied mortuary science at Mesa Community College but dropped the course after losing interest.
When it was all said and done, Wynn said she spent nearly $10,000 on the entire event.
“I was kind of expecting to get some backlash on it,” Hilary Samples said. “It was very, very well received from everybody who attended.”
Like anything today, Wynn said there was some backlash in her Yelp review of the funeral home, but everyone enjoyed the celebration of life.
“As you get older, you've got to kind of take life with a grain of salt
and be a little bit lighthearted about it,” Ryan said.
With families wanting to create new traditions, Samples said living funerals are more about sharing in the celebration of life than mourning over death.
Wynn’s idea has inspired Mountain View to offer living funerals as “the future of cremation services.”
“Many wonder what will be said at their funeral and a living funeral is the opportunity to do so,” Samples said.
Samples said Mountain View has seen a 15% increase in the number of cremations during the pandemic and that many families that chose that option postponed memorial services until in-person gatherings were allowed.
Much like the event itself, Samples said the costs of a living funeral will vary.
Samples said Wynn’s idea has inspired at least one other family to do the same albeit in a different tone, adding that simple acts like a grandmother sharing a family recipe with her adult granddaughter can make the ceremony special.
“We often don’t say the things we want to say until it’s too late,” Samples said. “This gives families and friends the opportunity to speak their mind before the person is gone.”