Home, sweet home

January 5, 1996

Death, where are thy shingles?

Since the days of the pharaohs, mortals have tried to make the afterlife cozy. The Egyptian kings were mummified inside enormous stone pyramids. The Vikings were placed on barges and set ablaze. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans want to be stuffed and mounted with their horse, Trigger.

Death, go figure.

Today, the funeral industry labors endlessly to give people the impression that their final resting place is anything other than a worm cafeteria. Some caskets even boast Neoprene gaskets to keep out moisture.

But when it comes to death, perhaps the sage Dorothy put it best: "There's no place like home."

Habco Inc., a company in Madison, Wis., makes caskets that look like 6-foot-long doll houses. The roof lifts up as the lid.

While death is a sad event, designer Verna Richardson says the "burial homes" capture a sense of warmth and serenity that people say softens the experience.

Yes, it feels so much better burying grandma in a coffee table-sized doll house.

"Imagine being laid to rest or going home in your dream house," a company press release says. "The one that you've always wanted, or one that looks just like your own home."

"I want you to know that the concept for the burial home came to me in a very special way," says Richardson, who is also the company president. "After being frustrated with the lack of alternatives to the traditional casket, I prayed to God for help in making a product that would help me, as well as others, who are uncomfortable with caskets. His answer to my prayer was, 'Make it look like a house.'

"In doing so, we have used the finest design, quality woods and material in each home. We made sure that we had a woman's touch in each design. We also made sure that all of our homes are as beautiful and approachable as possible, without forgetting that the real beauty of going home is in being with God."

Well, if you build it, they will come. And this year approximately 2.2 million people will die in the U.S., according to Habco. Approximately 1.8 million of them will have traditional funerals. For most Americans, a funeral is the third largest expenditure they'll ever make, right behind a house and a car.

"Going home is beautiful," Richardson says, "but loss brings sorrow. If our home in some way adds beauty to your sadness, we have fulfilled our mission."

© 1996 Randel Shard. First published in The Capital Times on January 5, 1996