Is Signing Caskets a New Mourning Ritual?

Friends and family of Littleton shooting victim Rachel Scott signed her white coffin at funeral services over the weekend. “Honey, you are everything a mother could ask the Lord for in a daughter. I love you so much!!!” her mother inscribed. “You are my hero,” a friend wrote.

Is signing caskets a new mourning ritual?

Yes, especially at the funerals for teenagers who have died in school shootings. The caskets of three youngsters gunned down in the 1997 Paducah, Ky., school shooting were scribbled with messages such as “this isn’t goodbye, I’ll see you soon.” At the funeral of a sixth-grader killed in the Jonesboro, Ark., attack, a basketball inscribed by classmates was displayed alongside the casket. Other teenagers dying in an untimely fashion have also been buried with notes or sports equipment signed by their peers.

The messages seem intended to incorporate the high school rituals the departed would have experienced if they had lived. “[Her] friends won’t be able to scrawl cheerful end-of-the-year sentiments in her yearbook this spring,” the local paper commented about an Oregon teen, killed in a car crash, whose casket was signed. The family of a Michigan athlete who perished in an auto accident was presented with a sweatshirt signed by her teammates vowing to “get Memorial [a rival high school] for you.”

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This item was written by Jodi Kantor.