Brad Farnham & Scott Novak - Putting the "Fun" in "Funeral"
Saturday, 30 June 2007
They turn death into a celebration of life
Company: Party Thereafter Owner: Brad Farnham Contact: 2636 Humboldt Ave. South Minneapolis, MN
612.216.1047; partythereafter.com Type: Funeral Celebrations
INSTINCT: What’s wrong about funerals in their current form?
BRAD FARNHAM: We, as a society, are doing them the same way they’ve been done since the Civil War, and they haven’t changed a bit.
How are your celebrations different?
Everything we do has photography. We create and project a movie of the person’s life. We give that as a takeaway to everybody who comes, as a CD. We have live vocalists. Food is love, so there’s always food and drink. We really aren’t event planners—we’re really chronicling people’s lives, using cinematography and video.
Does the material for these remembrances come from the survivors?
I meet with them, yep. Sometimes, I meet with the deceased themselves. For instance, I met with this 99-year-old woman and she helped me plan things out. Two days later, she died. She was prepared to die, she was ready to die, and since she knew everything was basically decided, she just died.
So, speaking generally, what happens then?
After someone passes, the celebration is 30 days later. By waiting, we give the family time to get their heads around their loss. When they do come to the celebration, they can actually enjoy it and talk to people who were important to [the deceased].
Your services obviously surprise a lot of clients. What’s surprised you?
People’s creativity surprises me. Once you let people outside the traditional what I call “brutal funeral box,” they just run. They’re the ingenious ones. They come up with what their loved one cared passionately about in his or her life. All of our clients are so damn creative.
Does your gender identity affect your work?
I’m particularly interested in the gay play in this business. We’re the first generation that has been allowed to have children, for the most part. What I want to do is start using our people around the country to document these gay families. I would like to interview these kids when they’re six or seven and ask them what it’s like to have a gay parent, then 25 years from now, have them talk about it as an adult. [Then I’d] archive that information. I guarantee you, if we could get these stories documented and told, no one can pretend that gay families are invisible ever again.
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Word of mouth must be a powerful tool for you.
The word of mouth is just phenomenal. If I speak at a gay group with 350 members, I know every one of those people is going to tell a coworker or a family member because no one else is doing this.
Why did you decide to do this? Why this particular line of work?
I think it’s my destiny. I’ve had some stuff happen over the course of my life. During my freshman year in college, my brother, who was a year older, was killed in Vietnam. I planned his funeral. My second daughter was born prematurely 25 years ago. She’s alive and thriving now, but we spent seven months at the children’s intensive care unit, and I saw a lot of infants die there. Recently, a friend of mine was dying of a rare brain and spine cancer—it had only been seen in the world once—and we decided we just had to help him. So we spent 36 months helping him…well, helping him to die, basically. So it seems like this whole thing this is destiny--we have to do this. We don’t have any choice. We have to do this.
What are some of the themes you’ve put on for celebrations?
For a departed camping enthusiast, we actually staged an entire
campground inside a building. We brought in canoes, picnic tables and
gingham table cloths. We brought tin cups and a canoe. We set up eight
tents and all of them were absolutely authentic. I even hung up wet
swimming suits and towels, much like you’d see in a traditional
campground. For a 99-year-old Minnesota Twins fan, wveryone wore Twins
caps and sang “Take Me Out To the Ball Game” at the end of her
According to Party Thereafter, there are five F’s: Family + Friends + Food + Flowers + Fun = Love
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