She was still trying to make sense of what was going on around her when she opened her eyes. As she glanced over the room, she saw a few familiar faces, which offered her some relief. But it was short lived.
Her family and friends were there but their expressions were twisted in pain. She wanted to reach out, to comfort them. But she was frozen in place. How could things go so wrong?
Melanie Dillon was excited to catch up with her best friend, who she hadn’t spoken to for a while. They had been close, but life, as it does, had simply gotten in the way.
Working a full-time job in a different city, it was too late when she realized that she had unintentionally distanced herself from everyone around her. And, before she knew it, six months had gone by.
But, she intended to change all that. She’d cleared her schedule and taken the weekend off. Melanie loved being on the open road, so the seven-hour drive from Wisconsin to her hometown of Minnesota seemed to fly by.
Exhilarated by the wind whipping through her hair as she barreled down the expressway, she gleefully glanced at the speedometer’s needle creeping closer to the halfway mark. But she had no idea that she was actually racing toward the most harrowing ordeal of her life.
Arriving at Jen’s apartment, Melanie couldn’t wait to reconnect with her friend. And after she and Jen had had a good catch-up, she decided to put her ill-fated plan into action.
She wanted to drive to her childhood home in Washington County and surprise her family. Little did Melanie know, it would be a far cry from the happy reunion that she’d hoped for.
Melanie pulled up to her parents’ drive and was surprised to see that there were about a dozen cars parked outside. She immediately thought it was strange.
She stood, bewildered and not sure what to do. Should she turn back? Had she come at a bad time? Perhaps she should have called first. But when she saw the hearse, all she could think was that something terrible had happened.
Melanie opened the door and walked into the reception room, where she was greeted by a stranger who silently ushered her into the next room. She was immediately taken aback. Nobody greeted her or tried to explain.
There were rows of seats. Everyone had their heads bowed in mourning. Unable to do anything but sit down amid the awkward silence, she picked an empty seat in the corner. But things only got weirder from there.
The tone in the room was somber. From her quiet corner, Melanie’s eyes furtively darted around the room, trying to gather more information about the awkward situation.
Then, she froze. She recognized several people in the room around her as some extended members of her own family. Their faces were filled with sorrow. What had she intruded on?
Melanie still had no idea whose funeral she was attending. She looked around again, looking for a clue. Then, she saw it — her own last name on a program that was in the hands of someone a few seats away from her.
But if someone in her family had passed away, surely her family would have told her? The only logical explanation was that this was a funeral for one of her distant cousins or even for a family member she had never met. It couldn’t be for someone she knew, could it?
Trying to make sense of the bizarre situation, Melanie leaned forward and craned her neck, scanning for her close family members in the crowd.
Relief washed over her as she spotted her mom’s face. But then, her life began to fall apart. Her mom’s face was contorted with so much grief that it broke her heart. Something was very wrong here.
And Melanie wasn’t the only person who was confused. Kim, a law student, was also brought to the unexpected funeral at the Dillon residence.
She, too, thought that she was meeting up with her friends and family. The whole ordeal turned out to be anything but an ordinary situation, as Kim and Melanie were about to find out.
When a photo of herself caught Melanie’s eye from across the room, she started to put the pieces of the puzzle together in her mind.
But none of it made sense. Was this some kind of sick joke? But, when her father stood up to speak, she realized why she was at this ceremony.
Her father started by saying, “It was the night of October 21. The phone rang, but it wasn’t you. It was the police.” Melanie remembered that night well.
It was just before she had moved to Wisconsin — she had just gotten a job offer, and she was celebrating. She had been out driving with her friends and having a carefree time…
Her father went on to say, “I want to be strong, but how is that possible? I am a father who is burying his daughter.”
Melanie now understood the true gravity of the situation. Seeing her father in tears over just the possibility of her death made Melanie thankful that she was still alive and didn’t put her father through this grief.
As Melanie’s father’s eulogy continued, she began thinking of the consequences of her actions.
If the people who were seated next to her now, which included friends she had known her entire life and family she loved dearly, all would be so devastated by her passing that they set up this event to tell her so, she would start taking her own life more seriously.
Her father continued, “Speeding, just this one time, marked the end of you. I cannot and do not want to try to understand.” Then, it clicked in Melanie’s head.
Her loved ones were all with her because they didn’t want to see her become the victim of a car accident, and her reckless driving habit put her at that risk.
Melanie and Kim both experienced something that few people ever would. They were both in attendance of their own funerals, which were set up by family and friends.
With the help of a television crew, they had planned everything. Their goal? To expose them to the realities of their dangerous behaviors and inspire a change.
This video, produced by the Vias Institute, intends to make individuals aware of the possible consequences of their reckless driving habits.
Showing people that they could end up dead or kill another person in the blink of an eye because they were driving over the speed limit is an important message to share, and Kim was the next one to learn this.
Kim was stunned when her best friend Anna took to the podium to speak, as Kim didn’t even realize that she was in the room.
She had been just as dazed and confused as Melanie. Just the devastated look on Anna’s face was enough to make Kim tear up… then, she began her speech.
Anna started her eulogy to Kim by saying, “I thought this only happened to others, but here I am. Why did you have to go? Why you?
“The person I did everything with. With whom I could share everything with. We still had a lot of things to do. In April, we were going to Brazil together.”
As Kim heard her best friend’s words, she started to sob. Not everyone gets to know what the consequences of their own actions would be, and Kim was seeing hers firsthand.
She knew at that moment that she would do anything she could to keep her friends from feeling this pain for real.
Seated next to Kim was her brother, who got up to say, “It’s terrible to see you plucked from our lives like that. You were my friend, my support, and my hope.”
She had never heard him speak like that before, even though they had known each other their whole lives. This really made Kim start to realize that her actions have consequences.
During the ceremony, Kim caught a glimpse outside of a grave meant for her. To be standing so close to her own grave made this moment teach her something profound.
She had the power to stop this from happening, and if she didn’t change her driving habits, she knew exactly what would happen.
Melanie was no longer sad. She now had a newfound sense of purpose.
To save her family and friends a lot of stress and to stop the possibility of this funeral from becoming real, she would have to be more careful while driving. And she didn’t think she would ever forget this moment.
Once more, Anna, Kim’s best friend, took to the podium to speak directly to her, saying, “Kim, this time I can still ask you.
“Please be careful when you are driving. I don’t want to lose you.” And thankfully, Kim didn’t put up a fight when she was confronted with these words.
Melanie’s father also pleaded directly with his daughter, saying, “Please never speed again. We love you too much to lose you.”
She knew that she would never want to be the cause of so much sorrow in her father’s life, especially not if she could do something to stop it from happening.
The institute that produced this video provided the message, “Virtually no one feels it is dangerous to drive a few km/h faster than the maximum speed limit.”
“However, even this ‘slight’ speeding kills and injures hundreds of people every year. And we tend to ignore the many lives of people close to us that are devastated as well.”
“To slow down their loved ones before it is too late, people in this film set up an unusual wake-up call. They invited their speeding friend or family member to their own funeral. The emotional reality check was caught on (hidden) camera.”
This setup would change the life of anyone with self-destructive behaviors, as it lets them see the true results of their actions.
After Anna spoke, Kim immediately rushed to her side to thank her for her emotional, eye-opening message. The two of them embraced, and Kim swore that she would never put herself or any of her friends in such danger again.
And Melanie had a similar sentiment for her father, too.
Melanie sobbed in her father’s arms after his moving speech. This event changed her heart and would remain a strong memory for the rest of her life.
Anyone can change their habits if given the right motivation to do so, and seeing your own funeral is a mental image that can end up saving someone’s life.
These people were at an increased risk of dying in a car crash due to their reckless driving habits, but they aren’t the only people who are.
This event may have been an unusual wake-up call, but it provided these people with an intervention that may have saved their lives for good.
The cases of Melanie and Kim aren’t the only reports of people attending their own funerals, although the other cases might’ve occurred for different reasons. And they aren’t necessarily always arranged by concerned family members.
Sometimes it’s the people themselves who arrange the funerals, but they have the same goal in mind.
In South Korea, the instances of suicide have increased dramatically in recent years. It has gotten so bad that the government has put certain measures in place to help prevent the deaths of these people, but things are not always as they seem.
These cases aren’t always linked to depression or similar factors. Sometimes people just need to re-establish the meaning in their lives.
With all the changes in recent years, the life of the everyday South Korean has changed dramatically. The work environment has become more fast-paced and competitive, which means that everyone needs to work harder in order to stay successful.
We all know the motto of work hard and play harder, but what if you have to work so hard you don’t even have time to think about having some fun?
The competitive world can sometimes be overwhelming, and it can drive people to have thoughts they never thought they would have. Thoughts that often lead to depression and cause some people to spiral out of control.
And when that is the case, some people might end up taking the road less traveled.
The government finds this disturbing and has implemented multiple systems to help combat the death rate. They even went so far as to introduce vending machines that could give you that boost you might need on a rainy day.
But what if that isn’t enough for some people? What if the world just seems too gloomy at that point in time?
That is what one company thought as well, so they decided to take the next step. Their advertisements can be seen countrywide and what they offer is nothing usual.
This company has decided to help people suffering from depression in the most unorthodox kind of ways. This leads us to wonder just how much of an impact attending your own funeral can genuinely have.
The company offers to give a person a fake death experience while keeping South Korean traditions in mind. The process takes approximately four hours to complete, and many, like Beon, believe that it could help them see life in a new light.
It worked for Melanie and Kim. Could it work for him too?
The company believes that the people who join the program often feel like they don’t want to continue their journey anymore. And they hope that this fake death experience where these people go to their own funeral will help them see the meaning in their lives.
The overall idea is that they will go through these steps, and in the process, they’ll release the pent-up emotions that are bogging them down.
Beon is one of the many who are caught up in the work-fast, work-hard culture that has taken South Korea by storm recently. He is also one of the many that fell into depression because he’s overwhelmed.
He sometimes has thoughts of ending it, but he saw the ads for the fake death experience and decided to try it out. He hopes it will help him see things in a new light and that the experience will be life-changing.
Psychologists believe that people such as Beon don’t have suicidal thoughts because they no longer want to live but rather because they don’t see any other way out. They are already so stressed out from work that the simplest of things look like a giant mountain to them.
They also believe that these fake death experiences could help these people work through their problems, even if it’s just for a while.
Once the appointment is booked, the person is given a date when the fake death experience will take place. They will go to the location and meet others who are in the same rut as them as well as the man behind the program.
He will talk them through the process before starting the preparations.
While there, the people who signed up for the program will tell a bit about themselves and why they feel they needed the experience. In Beon’s case, it was the overwhelming stress from work and a recent separation from his girlfriend.
The reasons vary from person to person, but in the end, they are all there to prevent the same thing from happening.
After everyone has said why they’re there, they are given a picture of themselves, a candle, and a blank piece of paper. They are told to write down their final words to their loved ones as if writing a suicide note.
They are then given traditional South Korean burial gowns and taken to a building lined with coffins. Overall it’s a very emotional journey for everyone participating.
Before getting into the coffins, where they will stay for a period of thirty minutes, each of the participants gets a chance to read out their final words to their loved ones. They get to say the things they never get a chance to say, and it’s clear that this is the hardest part of the process.
They then get placed into the coffin, and following South Korean tradition, their hands and feet are bound.
After his experience, Beon was very emotional. He spoke about other issues that had bothered him, even though he had never brought them up before. It wasn’t the grand rebirth he was expecting, but it did give him that new outlook he was looking for.
For Beon and many other South Koreans, attending their own funeral was a blessing that helped them see their lives in a new light.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.