Ask a Mortician

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Let’s be honest here:

Death is fascinating.

Whether you’re horrified, amazed, or just driven to – pardon the pun – morbid curiosity by it, death almost certainly provokes some kind of reaction in you. Even if you’ve come to accept it and are spreading the good word that death happens to us all, and that while it’s okay to be frightened of it, and to be made upset by it, the way that we handle it in western culture is just not helping, death probably makes you think.

Oh, what’s that you say? You are in that last group? Then boy do I have an author for you.

Caitlin Doughty, mortician, former crematory operator, and YouTube personality, tells a good story. In Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, she talks about death – and life – in a very straight-forward, upfront way that will make you laugh, make you angry, and at some points even make you cry. She deals in a real and sensible way with the fact that we in the west have completely buried – pun again – the reality of our mortality, and how unhealthy and unhelpful that is to us as individuals and as a society, psychologically and familially and monetarily.

From Here to Eternity is a travelogue of death and the ritual that goes with it. The book is set up in little vignettes, each a glimpse into the thanatology of a culture or country, from Spain to Japan to California. The prose is conversational and endlessly readable, and the humor and heart injected into each tale makes the dark subject matter warm and friendly.

Doughty reminds us that death is a normal part of living, and that by examining how we handle it as human beings, we can become more comfortably with the idea of our own eventualities – that it is not a subject to be avoided, but one to be demystified, destigmatized, until we all can truly find our own good death.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Caitlin Doughty had a lifelong curiosity about death, so after college, she took a job at a crematory.  Her behind-the-scenes account of her time there shines a rare light on a topic most people would rather not contemplate, or are afraid to ask about.

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

Caitlin Doughty returns, bringing a heart-felt examination of death rituals from all over the globe. From LED-lit rooms full of Buddhas in Japan, where burial isn’t part of their culture and space is at a premium, to the mountains of Tibet where vultures consume the bodies of the deceased, Doughty examines what it means to have a “good death,” and just how different a good death can look on the other side of the world. With humor, sincerity, and respect, Doughty reveals all-new possibilities for our own death rituals.