Paying respects from the comfort of your car: Funeral home offers drive-thru visitation

Saginaw, MI (WNEM) -- Most people these days lead very busy lives. That's one reason owners of a local funeral home decided to make saying your final goodbyes a little more convenient.

The funeral home now has a drive-thru window.
"You may find people who are afraid of funeral homes, now they can view their loved ones from the convenience of their car," said Ivan Phillips, owner of Paradise Funeral Chapel.

Phillips unveiled the drive-thru funeral services on Sunday.

"I wanted to bring something to Saginaw that we've never had here before," he said.

In the past, Phillips has allowed disabled family members to watch video of funerals and take part in visitation services over the Internet using cameras.

"The funeral industry is changing rapidly. So my intent was to bring something here that was accessible to the community," Phillips said.

As cars pull up to the drive-thru, curtains move back after a sensor in the ground detects a vehicle's weight. Sharise Phillips, manager of the funeral home, said the drive-thru offers protection from inclement weather and comfort for the disabled.

"We wanted to provide convenience and accessibility for our customers for the times and days they don't want to get out of their vehicle," she said.

Visitors at the event welcomed technology into the funeral business.

"I think it shows how far advanced people are, especially since we live in such an advanced society," Sylvia Brantley said.

Phillips is aware of critics who may conclude this may be an undignified way to part ways, but he said people should just give it a chance.

The idea is garnering mixed reaction from the community.
"We've been getting a lot of negative feedback because most people don't know how it works," Phillips said.

He's getting a lot of flack from people upset about the drive-thru window.

"When you enter the drive thru you'll drop a memorial into the memorial box, sign the register book, drive forward and you'll be able to sit in the privacy of your vehicle for three minutes," Phillips said.

Paradise is providing the drive thru option to families at no additional charge. It's designed to allow more people to see someone who has passed away, even if they can't make the traditional visitation because of work, disability or other challenges.

"That would be an after hour visitation for the family if they choose to do so," Phillips said.

Anyone can drive up and pay their respects to the deceased.

Phillips said the design, which uses sensors to open and close the curtains when cars pull up and leave, costs more than $300,000. He believes it's well worth it. He said everyone should have the option of drive thru visitation.