[Not all of us want to go out with as much fanfare as Queen Elizabeth. I don’t want, for instance, too have my fellow ‘Backs and ‘Belles to wait in line for twelve hours in the heat of The Jungle just for the privilege of walking past my rotting corpse. Six hours … tops! Here, again from Green Living, is a selection of some of the best books for plotting your own demise. SB SM]
Grave Matters follows families who found in “green” burial a more natural, more economic, and ultimately more meaningful alternative to the tired and toxic send-off on offer at the local funeral parlor. Eschewing chemical embalming and fancy caskets, elaborate and costly funerals, they have embraced a range of natural options, new and old, that are redefining a better American way of death. Environmental journalist Mark Harris examines this new green burial underground, leading you into natural cemeteries and domestic graveyards, taking you aboard boats from which ashes and memorial “reef balls” are cast into the sea. He follows a family that conducts a home funeral, one that delivers a loved one to the crematory, and another that hires a carpenter to build a pine coffin.
Final Rights: Abuse of consumers by the funeral industry has only worsened in the decades since Jessica Mitford’s landmark expose The American Way of death. Families are exploited financially at a time of intense grief, prepaid funeral money vanishes into thin air. Body parts are sold on the black market. In eight states, families are denied the healing that can come from personal involvement in caring for their dead. But a funeral consumer movement is awakening. As with natural childbirth and hospice, Americans are asserting their right to take charge of a major event in their lives. Many still want the help of a funeral director-but to assist, not to direct. And many are handling it themselves, with home burials, green burials, or direct arrangements with a crematory. Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson are the two most prominent leaders of that movement. In Final Rights, they provide the information consumers need to take back their rights under existing law, while proposing legal changes that could benefit all Americans who will plan or pay for a funeral.
The American Way of Death Revisited: 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.
The Whole Death Catalog: In the tradition of Mary Roach’s bestselling Stiff and Jessica Mitford’s classic exposé The American Way of Death comes this meticulously researched, refreshingly irreverent, and lavishly illustrated look at death from acclaimed author Harold Schechter. With his trademark fearlessness and bracing sense of humor, Schechter digs deep into a wealth of sources to unearth a treasure trove of surprising facts, amusing anecdotes, practical information, and timeless wisdom about that undiscovered country to which we will all one day travel. Topics include
• Death anxiety–is your fear of death normal or off the scale?
• You can’t take it with you . . . or can you? Wacky wills and bizarre bequests
• The hospice experience–going out in comfort and style
• Deathbed and funeral etiquette–how to help the dying and mourn the dead with dignity
• Death on demand–why the right-to-die movement may be the next big thing
• “Good-bye everybody”–famous last words
• The embalmer’s art–all dressed up and nowhere to go
• Behind the scenes at your local funeral home
• Alternative burial choices–from coral reefs to outer space
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.
I Died Laughing: This is a very funny book, even though it also includes some serious consumer information. Lisa Carlson has collected cartoons, jokes, funny quotations, humorous last words, and a wide range of other old and new material. As the advice columnist Dear Abby remarked, “This book proves that dying can be a laughing matter.” At the end of each section, Carlson has a page or two of information and advice for those who may someday have the job of arranging a funeral for a friend or relative, or who may be contemplating the arrangements they prefer when they die. Half the profits from sale of the book will be contributed to the work of the national nonprofit consumer organization, Funeral Consumers Alliance.
Funerals to Die For: True stories that put the, er, “fun” back into funerals! The hereafter may still be part of the great unknown, but with Funerals to Die For you can unearth the rich—and often, dark – history of funeral rites. From getting a portrait painted with a loved one’s ashes to purchasing a safety coffin complete with bells and breathing tubes, this book takes you on a whirlwind tour of funeral customs and trivia from all over the globe.