I do not like people giving me books to read that I have not requested. I have like 100 books on my wish list and when family members ask me what they can give me for a gift I go to the list and send several suggestions. I think of myself as a slow reader with a somewhat narrow range of interests and don’t want people cluttering up my reading pile with books I previously had no interest in.
So I drove from Virginia to Florida for Christmas with a stop at my brother’s rural home near Tallahassee. He handed me a gift. You guessed it. A book. A book I had not requested. But he was generous and I do not give my do-not-give-me-a-book speech right after the kindness of a gift.
I just finished reading all 241 pages. That comes out to about 4 pages a day since I accepted the book. See…slow.
Turns out it has become one of my all time favorite books. Of course it is in the death and dying genre. Right in my narrow range of interest.
NOTE to family and friends: Only my brother Dennis can give me books I have not asked for.
A full disclosure WARNING about the book. It contains very graphic detail about the condition of bodies of the deceased, their preparation, and what cremation actually looks like. This book is not for everyone. That said, I still would recommend it for everyone. Push through it and you find a wonderful story of a young woman finding a calling to help us all in the end.
Do yourself a favor and visit Doughty’s Web site “The Order of the Good Death” at http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/. She has some great videos called, “Ask A Mortician.” She has a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/OrderoftheGoodDeath. A Twitter feed @TheGoodDeath (https://twitter.com/TheGoodDeath) with 16,000 followers. And lots of photos on Instagram, thegooddeath (http://instagram.com/thegooddeath).
This is not your old chaplain’s verses about “letting be.” She recently posted a photo of a greeting card, “If I had a choice to have sex with any celebrity, living or dead, I would probably choose living.”
She is irreverent but dead serious. Get it?
There is a small but growing army of folks like Caitlin Doughty out there who want to bring death into our everyday lives. She advocates for families preparing bodies for burial or cremation. She is a leader in the “Death Salon” movement holding public forums to talk about death and dying. She is not religious but encourages rituals to help families and friends of the newly dead grieve and cope in healthy ways.
Yesterday, I sent her copies of my books (unsolicited of course). I started the cover letter, “I am sorry I arrived so late to your party. Only now have I found out about all the fun you are having.”
Great article recently in the New York Times about “Millennials” (those in their teens and twenties) and grief. Grief in the age of Facebook, texting, Instagram, and selfies. “An Online Generation Redefines Mourning,” by Hannah Seligson appeared in the March 20th edition of the Times.
“My God, is there anything creepier than a post announcing someone lost a loved one and seeing ‘136 people like this’ underneath?” Ms. [Rebecca] Soffer said [in the article].
“The social norms for loss and the Internet are clearly still evolving. But Gen Y-ers and millennials have begun projecting their own sensibilities onto rituals and discussions surrounding death. As befits the first generation of digital natives, they are starting blogs, YouTube series and Instagram feeds about grief, loss and even the macabre, bringing the conversation about bereavement and the deceased into a very public forum, sometimes with jarring results.”
Here are some links I found through the article.
Modern Loss is a repository of essays, resources and advice that the founders try to edit so that it doesn’t sound glib, overly religious or trite. For instance, you’ll never hear, “At least they are in a better place.” (“Our least favorite line ever,” Ms. Soffer said.)
The Order of the Good Death is a group of funeral industry professionals, academics, and artists exploring ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality. It was founded in January 2011 by Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and writer in Los Angeles, CA.
OMG . . . “Selfies at Funerals”