we all know that we don’t live forever and that we eventually die, but somehow we have this expectation that in death we will have something eternal, if only a plot of ground. the idea that our dead body is entitled to a spot forever and ever and ever seems weird to me – like, why the insistence on eternity, on forever, for our bodies? why in death are we suddenly supposed to have a piece of the earth all to ourselves forever? (and on a practical note, aren’t we going to run out of room?)
don’t get me wrong – i don’t think it’s respectful to disrupt a dead body, and even though i don’t connect with that sort of veneration, i respect people‘s grieving and I can understand how the idea of having a spot to call your own indefinitely can be appealing. it just seems like a lot of time and energy and money are spent on what happens to your body after you’re dead, and how sometimes people will ignore what’s good for them during life but obsess over what might be good for their body after they die.
anyway, in the episode of ask a mortician that i am embedding below, caitlin talks about oven crypts in new orleans and how the concept that your plot of land is yours forever – common in the western world – it’s just not something that happens everywhere, not even everywhere in the united states (where i live). as someone who is used to seeing sprawling lawns with headstones and people buried underground, and who has acknowledged the permanence of that particular spot for that resting body, it’s somewhat refreshing to know that not everybody in the world is so obsessed with the permanent resting spot for your body.
tonight, to celebrate the new year, i have my best friend over and we’re watching silly/bad/interesting/funny videos on youtube together, and i had to show him ask a mortician. we’re using my tv and searching on there and this is the first one that crops up – it’s not about death but they (she has a co-star for this one) do metaphorically slaugther the happy crappy myths about very white, very chubby, very happy santa claus.
christmas might be over but it’s never too late to hear the eerie truth and you can always set a reminder in your calendar to pull up this video and watch it before christmas next year!
i used to joke that when i die, i want to be cremated and then i want my friends to have a party where someone “accidentally” tips over my urn and they have to vaccuum me up. many of my friends are appalled by this and it’s no wonder – here in the US, death is an event that’s marked with sadness, and the “right” way to have a funeral or honor a life is to do it in black clothes, soft voices, and rigid formality.
for me, death is a sad event but that doesn’t mean that honoring that person’s life has to be a sad event. i mean, i have lived a joyful life so far, and i would want my friends to honor my life by creating joy.
i’m aware that the way funeral go in this part of the world at this point in time is specific to here and now, and not how everyone does it or has done it. in fact, as you’ll find out in the video below, some funerals turn into huge parties and even include strippers – erotic funerals. i can’t say that i would opt for strippers and attempting to sexually charge a funeral, but i do appreciate the celebration and how this kind of funeral is seen as a gift to those left behind.
if you’ve never seen caitlin doughty’s “ask a mortician” series on youtube, i highly recommened it. not only is she smart and witty, she makes uncomfortable topics much easier to approach, and she has the right balance to her sense of humor to make the videos enjoyable without being creepy.