Sunday Morning! “From Here to Eternity” by Caitlin Doughty

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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  1. fillyjonk fillyjonk
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    As I try to make myself ready for my dad’s memorial service in about 2 months, I am thinking about this. I have said I prefer memorial services to straight-up funerals because one’s had a bit of a chance to process the grief. The first family visitation/funeral I went to (a grandparent) featured an open-casket visitation (I was not warned and was not prepared) and one other family member almost did the “throw themselves weeping on the coffin” thing and it was…kind of a lot, even though I was technically an adult at that point.

    But yeah, I think part of it is I like being able to distance myself a little.

    In my city, a group tried to buy land for a “natural” (no embalming) cemetery, and wow, was there an outcry. (I don’t think it succeeded, which makes me sad, because “stick me in the ground without all the chemicals” would eventually be my desire)

    I’ve long thought “the knowledge of good and evil that would make humans like gods” was metaphorical for us figuring out we are all going to die some day. It’s terrible knowledge to walk around having (IMO) and it’s something we all try hard (at least up to a point) to make ourselves forget about. Or at least I know I did, and part of the sadness and upset surrounding my dad’s death was being reminded, “This, too, will be you some day” and it’s led me to think about things like “wow, once I’m gone, I will be totally forgotten given that I don’t even have kids to mourn me” and “who is going to deal with all my junk” (which ALMOST let me to just renting a dumpster and throwing out all but the essentials)Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to fillyjonk
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      That was one of the interesting things I learned from the book is embalming really isn’t necessary, but they seem to require it in most places. I think I’d prefer to be buried in a hole without any treatment.
      Best wishes for the memorial. I dread how soon I’ll have to make similar arrangements.Report

      • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to Rufus F.
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        Excellent piece as always. I’ve been to A LOT of funerals. Celebratory to horrible dirges, weeping loved ones physically being pulled off the casket to all out parties. There was even one from my childhood of a feuding family who lined up on both sides of the open grave, and as soon as the “amen” was said the fight was on. I find the various customs fascinating. Will definately check this out.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to fillyjonk
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      My parents had me relative late in life and my mom’s parents had her relatively late in life–which means that I was exposed to a good number of deaths and open casket funerals at an earlier age than you seem to.

      I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know about the fact of death, and I don’t remember how or when I learned about it. There must have been some time when I didn’t know about it, but I can’t remember not knowing.

      That doesn’t give me any special insight and probably doesn’t help when it comes to grappling with others’ deaths or with the fact of my own mortality. But it’s just an odd thing, or at least I find it odd.

      My instinct is to prefer an open burial like what was advocated for in your town. Since that doesn’t seem to be a possibility, my next instinct is to prefer cremation.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to gabriel conroy
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        I knew about death from an early age (a family pet died when I was 6, that was my first exposure) but my dad’s death is the first one that hit really super hard. (Three of my four grandparents died while I was old enough to be aware of it, but my dad’s parents were when I was a schoolkid and the decision was not to take us out of school to go to the funeral, just my dad went).

        Cremation is, yes, a better idea than the full embalming and it’s what my dad chose, but I admit I still have somewhat a horror of the idea. Yes, I know, the person is dead. But my paternal grandmother died after a kitchen accident where the clothes she was wearing caught fire, and that happened when I was at an impressionable age….so, yeah. Still have a horror of the idea.

        I’m guessing no-embalming burials will become more accepted over time and likely if I hang on long enough that will be an option for me. I think already there are a number of places in Texas, but frankly….I don’t want to put anyone to extra effort to deal with my meatsack when I’m gone, since I won’t really have a lot of close relatives left. I’ve also considered donating my body to a medical school.Report

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