January 15, 2013

On De-commercializing Death

The Thinking Housewife On De-commercializing Death

Some years ago, I read several books on death, dying, and funerals, including Lisa Carlson’s excellent “Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love.” I used this book as a jumping-off point for a Sunday School class on “A Christian View of Death, Dying, and Funeral Preparation.”

After covering the history of funeral practices in America (including many of the interesting ones familiar to those from the Appalachian South), I drew attention to the moneymaking nature of modern embalming & preparation practices. I also spent one entire class session in describing and showing in gruesome detail just exactly what goes on in a typical embalming & preparation. We discussed federal, state, and local laws governing funeral issues, and I (hopefully) demonstrated that the family has much more authority and latitude in these decisions than most people think. Most of the class members were surprised to learn that many states (including my own) allow for burial on one’s own property as long as the burial meets certain reasonable requirements. We discussed coffin construction, body preparation, washing, and dressing, and family traditions in funeral rites. Most of the class members found the subject matter interesting and encouraging.

What I found interesting as a teacher was the number of folks who, at the end of the semester, told me that the class hadn’t changed their intentions to allow the funeral industry to take charge of their family funeral arrangements. It reminded me of how Americans can read extensively and talk with enthusiasm about healthy food, the Christian agrarian model, and the evils of industrialization … and yet remain enslaved to pizza and microwaves and Jenny Craig. It’s just easier to let Big Brother take care of the tedious details.
Posted by Jill Fallon at January 15, 2013 3:29 AM | Permalink