Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

ISBN: 0393245950

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 256

View: 895

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“Morbid and illuminating” (Entertainment Weekly)—a young mortician goes behind the scenes of her curious profession. Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures. Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like? Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin's engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

And Other Lessons from the Crematorium

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Publisher: Canongate Books

ISBN: 1782111042

Category: Social Science

Page: 272

View: 6456

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THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 'Unforgettable . . . a hilarious, poignant and impassioned plea to revolutionise our attitudes to death' Gavin Francis, Guardian From her first day at Westwind Cremation & Burial, twenty-three-year-old Caitlin Doughty threw herself into her curious new profession. Coming face-to-face with the very thing we go to great lengths to avoid thinking about she started to wonder about the lives of those she cremated and the mourning families they left behind, and found herself confounded by people's erratic reactions to death. Exploring our death rituals - and those of other cultures - she pleads the case for healthier attitudes around death and dying. Full of bizarre encounters, gallows humour and vivid characters (both living and very dead), this illuminating account makes this otherwise terrifying subject inviting and fascinating.

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

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

ISBN: 0393249905

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 224

View: 9622

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The best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with “dignity.” Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Here to Eternity is an immersive global journey that introduces compelling, powerful rituals almost entirely unknown in America. In rural Indonesia, she watches a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body, which has resided in the family home for two years. In La Paz, she meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and in Tokyo she encounters the Japanese kotsuage ceremony, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones’ bones from cremation ashes. With boundless curiosity and gallows humor, Doughty vividly describes decomposed bodies and investigates the world’s funerary history. She introduces deathcare innovators researching body composting and green burial, and examines how varied traditions, from Mexico’s Días de los Muertos to Zoroastrian sky burial help us see our own death customs in a new light. Doughty contends that the American funeral industry sells a particular—and, upon close inspection, peculiar—set of “respectful” rites: bodies are whisked to a mortuary, pumped full of chemicals, and entombed in concrete. She argues that our expensive, impersonal system fosters a corrosive fear of death that hinders our ability to cope and mourn. By comparing customs, she demonstrates that mourners everywhere respond best when they help care for the deceased, and have space to participate in the process. Exquisitely illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the morbid unknown, a story about the many fascinating ways people everywhere have confronted the very human challenge of mortality.

Mortician Diaries

The Dead-Honest Truth from a Life Spent with Death

Author: June Knights Nadle

Publisher: New World Library

ISBN: 9781577318576

Category: Self-Help

Page: 152

View: 2839

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After 50 years in the funeral business, 80-year-old grandmother-undertaker June Knights Nadle has seen it all — at least all of what goes on before, during, and after life’s ultimate challenge. In Mortician Diaries, she combines equal doses of charm, humanity, humor, and reality to tell it like it is on this taboo subject. A kind of Prairie Home Companion set in a mortuary, the book features memorable stories of regret — “I wish I had kissed him on the morning he had the accident” — and renewal, as the lesson of facing life’s last great event is learned, or not. Some of the accounts here are funny, some sad. Some are haunting in their strangeness as they reveal the many ways in which people cope. Along the way, the reader is drawn into Nadle’s own life story as an unconventional woman who devoted herself to the dead and to those they left behind.

Rest in Pieces

The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses

Author: Bess Lovejoy

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 1451655010

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 352

View: 5119

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A “marvelously macabre” (Kirkus Reviews) history of the bizarre afterlives of corpses of the celebrated and notorious dead. For some of the most influential figures in history, death marked the start of a new adventure. The famous deceased have been stolen, burned, sold, pickled, frozen, stuffed, impersonated, and even filed away in a lawyer’s office. Their fingers, teeth, toes, arms, legs, skulls, hearts, lungs, and nether regions have embarked on voyages that crisscross the globe and stretch the imagination. Counterfeiters tried to steal Lincoln’s corpse. Einstein’s brain went on a cross-country road trip. And after Lord Horatio Nelson perished at Trafalgar, his sailors submerged him in brandy—which they drank. From Alexander the Great to Elvis Presley, and from Beethoven to Dorothy Parker, Rest in Pieces connects the lives of the famous dead to the hilarious and horrifying adventures of their corpses, and traces the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death.

Ghostland

An American History in Haunted Places

Author: Colin Dickey

Publisher: Penguin

ISBN: 1101980206

Category: History

Page: 336

View: 833

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Dickey, piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and "zombie houses," embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living -- how do we deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed haunted? Paying attention not only to the true facts behind a ghost story, but also to the ways in which changes are made to those facts and why, Dickey paints a version of American history left out of the textbooks, one of things left undone and crimes left unsolved.

Down Among the Dead Men

A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician

Author: Michelle Williams

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

ISBN: 1593763883

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 272

View: 4575

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Michelle Williams is young and attractive, with close family ties, a busy social life . . . and an unusual occupation. When she impulsively applies to be a mortuary technician and is offered the position, she has no idea that her decision to accept will be one of the most momentous of her life. “What I didn’t realize then,” she writes, “was that I was about to start one of the most amazing jobs you can do.” To Williams, life in the mortuary is neither grim nor frightening. She introduces readers to a host of unique characters: pathologists (many eccentric, some utterly crazy), undertakers, and the man from the coroner’s office who sings to her every morning. No two days are alike, and while Williams’s sensitivity to the dead never wavers, her tales from the crypt range from mischievous to downright shocking. Readers won’t forget the fitness fanatic run over while doing nighttime push-ups on the road, the man so large he had to be carted in via refrigerated truck, or the guide dog who led his owner onto railway tracks—and left him there. The indomitable Williams never bats an eye, even as she is confronted—daily—with situations that would leave the rest of us speechless.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Author: Mary Roach

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

ISBN: 9780393069198

Category: Science

Page: 320

View: 1191

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"One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year....Gross, educational, and unexpectedly sidesplitting."—Entertainment Weekly Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

Mortuary Confidential

Undertakers Spill the Dirt

Author: Kenneth McKenzie,Todd Harra

Publisher: Kensington Books

ISBN: 0806531797

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 234

View: 2502

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From rookie mistakes and runaway corpses to screaming dead men and unusual requests, a collection of stories by funeral directors.

Good Mourning

Author: Elizabeth Meyer

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 1476783659

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 288

View: 1409

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Elizabeth Meyer’s “sweet, touching, and funny” (Booklist) memoir reads as if “Carrie Bradshaw worked in a funeral home a la Six Feet Under” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Good Mourning offers a behind-the-scenes look at a legendary funeral chapel on New York City’s Upper East Side—mixing big money, society drama, and the universal experience of grieving—told from the unique perspective of a fashionista turned funeral planner. Elizabeth Meyer stumbled upon a career in the midst of planning her own father’s funeral, which she turned into an upbeat party with Rolling Stones music, thousands of dollars worth of her mother’s favorite flowers, and a personalized eulogy. Starting as a receptionist, Meyer quickly found she had a knack for helping people cope with their grief, as well as creating fitting send-offs for some of the city’s most high-powered residents. Meyer has seen it all: two women who found out their deceased husband (yes, singular) was living a double life, a famous corpse with a missing brain, and funerals that cost more than most weddings. By turns illuminating, emotional, and darkly humorous, Good Mourning is a lesson in how the human heart grieves and grows—whether you’re wearing this season’s couture or drug-store flip-flops.

The Chick and the Dead

Life and Death Behind Mortuary Doors

Author: Carla Valentine

Publisher: Macmillan

ISBN: 1250120691

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 272

View: 1311

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Carla Valentine works with the dead. After studying forensics, she assisted pathologists with post-mortems for years before becoming the curator of the world’s most famous pathology museum. When it comes to death, she truly is an expert, and in this book she shares that expertise. Using the most common post-mortem process as the backbone of the narrative, The Chick and the Dead takes the reader through the process of an autopsy while also describing the history and changing cultures of our relationship with the dead. The book is full of vivid insight into what happens to our bodies in the end. Each chapter considers an aspect of an autopsy alongside an aspect of Carla’s own life and work and touches on some of the more controversial aspects of our feelings towards death, including the relationship between sex and death and our attitudes toward human tissue collection. Starting with the first cut, we move from external examination into the body itself, discovering more about the heart, stomach and brain, and into dismembered and reconstructed bodies, at each stage taking a colorful detour into the question of what these things can teach us about the living. Join Carla on the journey from microscope-requesting nine-year-old to pathology educator and death engager at a Victorian museum (a journey made via around 5,000 autopsies) as she tells the story of exactly what it’s like to live a life immersed in death.

The American Way of Death Revisited

Author: Jessica Mitford

Publisher: Vintage

ISBN: 0307809390

Category: Social Science

Page: 320

View: 4657

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Only the scathing wit and searching intelligence of Jessica Mitford could turn an exposé of the American funeral industry into a book that is at once deadly serious and side-splittingly funny. When first published in 1963, this landmark of investigative journalism became a runaway bestseller and resulted in legislation to protect grieving families from the unscrupulous sales practices of those in "the dismal trade." Just before her death in 1996, Mitford thoroughly revised and updated her classic study. The American Way of Death Revisited confronts new trends, including the success of the profession's lobbyists in Washington, inflated cremation costs, the telemarketing of pay-in-advance graves, and the effects of monopolies in a death-care industry now dominated by multinational corporations. With its hard-nosed consumer activism and a satiric vision out of Evelyn Waugh's novel The Loved One, The American Way of Death Revisited will not fail to inform, delight, and disturb. "Brilliant--hilarious. . . . A must-read for anyone planning to throw a funeral in their lifetime."--New York Post "Witty and penetrating--it speaks the truth."--The Washington Post

Past Mortems

Life and Death Behind Mortuary Doors

Author: Carla Valentine

Publisher: Sphere

ISBN: 9780751565348

Category:

Page: 304

View: 7248

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Part memoir and part manifesto, Valentine's book lifts the lid on daily life in the mortuary . . . Valentine bares her own soul . . . with visceral attention to physical and emotional detail - Wendy Moore, Guardian A fascinating portrait . . . one seriously intriguing read - Glamour A grisly topic, but a glorious read - Mail on Sunday A day in the life of Carla Valentine - curator, pathology technician and 'death professional' - is not your average day. She spent ten years training and working as an Anatomical Pathology Technologist: where the mortuary slab was her desk, and that day's corpses her task list. Past Mortems tells Carla's stories of those years, as well as investigating the body alongside our attitudes towards death - shedding light on what the living can learn from dead and the toll the work can take on the living souls who carry it out. Fascinating and insightful, Past Mortems reveals the truth about what happens when the mortuary doors swing shut or the lid of the coffin closes . . .

My Grandfather's Gallery

A Family Memoir of Art and War

Author: Anne Sinclair

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

ISBN: 0374711798

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 240

View: 528

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A singular man in the history of modern art, betrayed by Vichy, is the subject of this riveting family memoir On September 20, 1940, one of the most famous European art dealers disembarked in New York, one of hundreds of Jewish refugees fleeing Vichy France. Leaving behind his beloved Paris gallery, Paul Rosenberg had managed to save his family, but his paintings—modern masterpieces by Cézanne, Monet, Sisley, and others—were not so fortunate. As he fled, dozens of works were seized by Nazi forces and the art dealer's own legacy was eradicated. More than half a century later, Anne Sinclair uncovered a box filled with letters. "Curious in spite of myself," she writes, "I plunged into these archives, in search of the story of my family. To find out who my mother's father really was . . . a man hailed as a pioneer in the world of modern art, who then became a pariah in his own country during the Second World War. I was overcome with a desire to fit together the pieces of this French story of art and war." Drawing on her grandfather's intimate correspondence with Picasso, Matisse, Braque, and others, Sinclair takes us on a personal journey through the life of a legendary member of the Parisian art scene in My Grandfather's Gallery. Rosenberg's story is emblematic of millions of Jews, rich and poor, whose lives were indelibly altered by World War II. Sinclair's journey to reclaim her family history paints a picture of modern art on both sides of the Atlantic between the 1920s and 1950s that reframes twentieth-century art history.

Death and the Afterlife

A Chronological Journey, from Cremation to Quantum Resurrection

Author: Clifford A. Pickover

Publisher: Sterling

ISBN: 9781454914341

Category: Social Science

Page: 224

View: 1907

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Throughout history, the mystery of death has captivated artists, scientists, philosophers, physicians, and theologians. This eerie chronology ventures to the borderlines of science and sheds light into the darkness, exploring such diverse topics as the Maya death gods, golems, sEances, zombies, and quantum immortality. With the turn of every page, readers will encounter beautiful artwork and unexpected insights about death and what may lie beyond.

Confessions of a Funeral Director

How the Business of Death Saved My Life

Author: Caleb Wilde

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 0062465260

Category: Social Science

Page: 208

View: 1312

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The blogger behind Confessions of a Funeral Director—what Time magazine called a "must read"—reflects on mortality and the powerful lessons death holds for every one of us in this compassionate and thoughtful spiritual memoir that combines the humor and insight of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes with the poignancy and brevity of When Breath Becomes Air. We are a people who deeply fear death. While humans are biologically wired to evade death for as long as possible, we have become too adept at hiding from it, vilifying it, and—when it can be avoided no longer—letting the professionals take over. Sixth-generation funeral director Caleb Wilde understands this reticence and fear. He had planned to get as far away from the family business as possible. He wanted to make a difference in the world, and how could he do that if all the people he worked with were . . . dead? Slowly, he discovered that caring for the deceased and their loved ones was making a difference—in other people’s lives to be sure, but it also seemed to be saving his own. A spirituality of death began to emerge as he observed: The family who lovingly dressed their deceased father for his burial The act of embalming a little girl that offered a gift back to her grieving family The nursing home that honored a woman’s life by standing in procession as her body was taken away The funeral that united a conflicted community Through stories like these, told with equal parts humor and poignancy, Wilde offers an intimate look into the business and a new perspective on living and dying

Does This Mean You'll See Me Naked?

Field Notes from a Funeral Director

Author: Robert D. Webster

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.

ISBN: 1402250835

Category: Humor

Page: 240

View: 3995

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With curious anecdotes and unbelievable truths, funeral director and embalmer Webster shares empathetic yet entertainingly quirky stories about the funeral business. He answers those embarrassing questions foremost in people's minds and provides readers with behind-the scenes stories of what really goes on after one dies.

Grave Matters

A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

Author: Mark Harris

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 1416564047

Category: Family & Relationships

Page: 205

View: 1009

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Examines the embalming process and the impact the standard funeral has on the environment while also discussing alternative eco-friendly burials.

The Undertaker's Daughter

Author: Kate Mayfield

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 1476757305

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 368

View: 4658

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“The Undertaker’s Daughter is a wonderfully quirky, gem of a book beautifully written by Kate Mayfield.…Her compelling, complicated family and cast of characters stay with you long after you close the book” (Monica Holloway, author of Cowboy & Wills and Driving With Dead People). How does one live in a house of the dead? Kate Mayfield explores what it meant to be the daughter of a small-town undertaker in this fascinating memoir evocative of Six Feet Under and The Help, with a hint of Mary Roach’s Stiff. After Kate Mayfield was born, she was taken directly to a funeral home. Her father was an undertaker, and for thirteen years the family resided in a place nearly synonymous with death, where the living and the dead entered their house like a vapor. In a memoir that reads like a Harper Lee novel, Mayfield draws the reader into a world of haunting Southern mystique. In the turbulent 1960s, Kate’s father set up shop in sleepy Jubilee, Kentucky, a segregated, god-fearing community where no one kept secrets—except the ones they were buried with. By opening a funeral home, Frank Mayfield also opened the door to family feuds, fetishes, murder, suicide, and all manner of accidents. Kate saw it all—she also witnessed the quiet ruin of her father, who hid alcoholism and infidelity behind a cool and charismatic façade. As Kate grows from trusting child to rebellious teen, the enforced sobriety of the funeral home begins to chafe, and she longs for the day she can escape the confines of Jubilee and her place as the undertaker’s daughter. “Mayfield fashions a poignant send-off to Jubilee in this thoughtfully rendered work” (Publishers Weekly).