Friday, September 12

The Order of the Good Death

I had the opportunity to check out an advanced reader's copy of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, and loved it.

Ms. Doughty (now a mortician) tells the story of her first job working in a crematory - and all the bizarre, unexpected, and thought-provoking realities it brought her face-to-face with. In the process, she takes a good hard look at traditions and misconceptions surrounding death, modern American experiences as shaped by the entire industry built around death, and how our current unhealthy relationship with death is damaging to us individually and as a culture. It was fascinating, and absolutely something I think everyone should read. Ms. Doughty has an excellent writing voice and, although it may not be the lightest book you read this year, it will certainly open your eyes (as it did mine) to some important considerations you probably never considered (but will be glad you do).

As part of her campaign to improve Americans' relationship with and handling of the natural part of the human life cycle that is death, Ms. Doughty founded the Order of the Good Death. In addition to fascinating death-related blog posts on topics ranging from medieval "corpse toilets" to modern laws and best practices to consider when someone you love dies, the website features Ms. Doughty's "Ask a Mortician" video series. Not the least bit squeamish, she readily delves into entirely practical questions like "what happens to titanium hips and breast implants when you cremate a corpse?" and "can caskets really explode?".

I highly recommend taking a few minutes to browse this fascinating site, and picking up her book if you can.

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