Friday, March 6, 2015

The Funeral Biz

Here we go with #4 all about death

Before I start this one I say again... This blog does not offer comfort or insight to bereaved persons. There are many places to turn to for that.  This one is just personal observations and comments about death.  If you find something of value in it I will be most gratified.

The funeral industry has always taken its lumps from critics. A big one came from the pointed pen of Jessica Mitford.  Remember her?  My mortician friends are trying to forget her.  She was a 60s activist who pulled no punches at all in spelling out what was wrong with our society. Her scathing critique of the funeral business, "The American Way of Death" sold a lot of copies and caused quite an uproar. She also turned out a detailed essay about the practice of embalming, telling us a whole lot more than we wanted to know.  She considered embalming  immoral, unethical and probably illegal.  She gave her essay a grandly provocative title, "Behind the formaldehyde curtain." I don't advise reading Jessica's stuff unless you are real curious about that sort of thing.  If that's the case, as it is with me, go for it.

Ever wondered what it might be like to be raised in your parents' funeral home? An old HBO series, "Six Feet Under" offers a dramatic  fictionalized account that probably has some truth in it.  I definitely do not recommend it unless you can handle very rough language, lots of sex, drugs and just about every personal and family dysfunction known to humankind. The series won lots of awards.  I found it quite fascinating but I suppose you must be weird to like that kind of thing.

Back to Jessica Mitford.  What would she think about the twenty-first century funeral industry?  She would like a lot of it. You can have a green, environmentally friendly, biodegradable service. You can become a tree, your cremains and high quality soil nourishing the seed. You can watch a loved one's cremation. You can keep a body at home on ice as it was done in the old days. You can have it just about any way you want it, including practices that used to be illegal or just frowned upon. Morticians stay in business the same way all businesses do.  They change with the times and they are equipped to do it your way ... from a big formal and traditional service to the most contemporary celebration of life.

This is not a free commercial for those in what used to be the undertaking business.  As I get ever closer to the time when the grim one will reap me,  I need to think about it.
I'm not with those who continue to publish terrible "exposes" about the funeral industry.  Are there excesses and crooks?  Sure.  Is selling products and services a big part of it? Why not? All the more reason to think, plan and talk about death before it happens.  You can go to your mortician knowing what you want and how much you will pay for it. Stay tuned for more of this if you can handle it.

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