~Elizabeth Meyer, Good Mourning
Caitlin Doughty, author of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory, belongs to a group called The Order of The Good Death, an online community which includes death professionals (forensic artists, funeral directors, bio-degradable burial garment designers, the technical curator of the Pathology Museum), academics, and authors who are "working to redefine culture's relationship to mortality, grief, and death customers." The Order recently published a "Death Acceptance Reading List," which was first published by the Death Salon (a sister organization of The Order) website. The organizers at Death Salon "encourage conversations on mortality and mourning and their resonating effects on our culture and history...[and] hold public events and provide an online community...to increase discussion on this often-ignored subject, focusing more on ideas and the broader cultural impacts of death than one’s personal interactions with mortality." Clearly, the folks involved in both these organizations are serious about opening up discussions about death, yet Caitlin Doughty's book, for one, was one of the mostly wryly funny we'd ever read.
What better time than tomorrow, the Day of the Dead, to discuss these topics? According to the Visit México website, what we might think of as one-day event, Día de Muertos, here in the U.S. (and perhaps celebrated at the South Valley Dia De Los Muertos Marigold Parade and Celebration?) is actually a several day celebration:
- October 28: Families and friends honor those who died as a result of an accident, as well as those who had a sudden or violent death.
- October 29: Families remember those who drowned.
- October 30: People welcome and remember the lonely and forgotten souls who don’t have a family, such as orphans and criminals.
- October 31: People honor those who were never born, or who were not baptized.
- November 1: Families remember the children, also referred to as "little angels"
- November 2: Families welcome and remember all adults who have died.
Lesley Téllez, author of Eat Mexico: Recipes and Stories From Mexico City's Streets, Markets & Fondas, was interviewed by Travel & Leisure about the holiday and she said it's "a time of reflection. There’s definitely peace associated with the feelings of remembering people, remembering your family, and connecting with your current family members or your friends.” Perhaps we could all stand to get on board with the Order of the Good Death and those celebrating Day of the Dead, and try to learn to accept death in our own lives. We've cobbled together a booklist that may just help - mostly titles suggested by the Order, but a few from the library catalog that looked promising. In this year of celebrity deaths, how are you coping? How do you deal with the death of loved ones? If you'd like to let us know anything that has helped you in the comments, we'd love to hear about it.
Accompany Them With Singing: The Christian Funeral by Thomas G. Long
This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford
Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death by Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson
The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death by Irvin D. Yalom
Talking About Death Won't Kill You by Virginia Morris
Let's Talk About Death: Asking the Questions That Profoundly Change the Way We Live and Die by Steve Gordon and Irene Kacandes
Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris
The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead by David Shields
We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying by Bruce H. Kramer with Cathy Wurzer
The End-of-Life Handbook: A Compassionate Guide to Connecting With and Caring For a Dying Loved One by David B. Feldman, S. Andrew Lasher Jr.
The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki
Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess Lovejoy
Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change An Adult's Life - For the Better by Jeanne Safer
On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
A Tour of Bones: Facing Fear and Looking for Life by Denise Inge
The End of Eve by Ariel Gore
The Farewell Chronicles: How We Really Respond to Death by Anneli Rufus