Supersize my funeral: caskets for the overabundant American

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Here's a nightmare scenario; at the funeral for your considerably-overweight loved one, the funeral director lowers the top of the casket after viewing hours, only to find that, like an overstuffed suitcase, the lid won't close. This actually happened recently at a funeral in Cincinnati, Ohio, to the distress of the family of 500-pound Barbara Norris.

With the burgeoning American waistline, more and more funeral directors are shopping for big and tall caskets from companies such as Goliath Caskets. While the normal casket is still a snug 28 inches wide, Goliath's Homestead model comes in widths up to 52". The company doesn't sell directly to the public. To illustrate the dimension, 52" is about the width of a full-sized bed, or 8" shy of a queen-sized bed.

Since 1960, the weight of the average adult man and woman has gone up around 25 pounds. In 2002, men averaged 191 pounds, women 164. As more of our citizens are driven to shop from big and tall catalogues, they face the ugly truth that prices are higher for these garments, and the selection is much narrower.

The same thing goes for caskets. Expect to pay a premium for the oversized boxes, which will hold up to an 1,100 pound corpse. And the added cost may not stop there. Shipping costs are higher, at least one funeral home had to knock out part of wall to get the box through the door, and the largest sizes won't fit in a conventional hearse.

Perhaps for those of truly Orsonwellian proportions, cremation might be a better choice. This assumes, of course, that the cremation chambers are up to the task, and the supply of gas is endless.

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