Journal14: Daughty–Dealing with the Dead

Deanna Phipps

Journal 14: Dealing with the Living/Dead Podcast

 

I think it depends on the ritual being performed before deciding if I would be able to participate in the death process of a family member. Being at a crematory, and pushing a button and watching my family member burn (witness cremation) is much different compared to standing by during the embalming process and watching grandpa get pumped full of chemicals. I think Doughty has a right to feel sad and melancholy as she, alone, sends these bodies off into the Netherlands without the family with her. I think our family and friends deserve the respect of having us suck it up, and watch as their corporeal body is returned “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” That our grief is second to the love and respect our loved ones deserve from us in their time of release.

 

Doughty wants to humanize the industrial crematorium because of how large a role it plays in our lives and how little we actually know about it. Since the stigma about death is to not talk about it, to deny our inevitable fate, we tend to ignore every concept with a direct connection to death itself, including the crematorium. In knowing so very little about it, this stigma has surfaced about morticians and embalmers that casts a dark light over their work. In every movie and cartoon, morticians have this twisted, evil persona, which is exactly how people feel towards them in real life. To extinguish those improper ideas by openly talking about morticians, their jobs, the industry in general, Doughty hopes to re-humanize the crematorium and remove the whole stigma about death being this invasive, perverse concept.

She wants us to see the mortuary industry as a tool for us to use during the process of preserving/preparing the body for burial or the funeral. She wants people to be able to take care of their own family members, and utilize the industry for the steps they are not willing/capable to do themselves. We are so uncomfortable with death with how it already is, so in trying to confront it with our family members it because a realistic, tangible concept we can no longer ignore.

 

 

I found it surprising, in Doughty’s podcast, that she wishes for families to become more active in the whole funeral process. To wash the body, dress it, have home stapled ceremonies, and more which would force a more open quality aspect in regards to death as a whole. While this would be healthy for the mindset of death, I think this is a very tough idea for families to stomach. It’s hard to lose a loved one, and to then be around their lifeless body would lead to many different responses across the board. Yes, it would force us to become more comfortable with death in general, but to sit next to your loved one’s lifeless corpse, to see that they are no longer here with us is a difficult thing to ask of anyone, regardless on their outlook on life.

One thing that did not surprise me during this podcast was the high dropout rate the mortician career holds. Taking care of dead bodies, consoling and dealing with each family’s grief, maintaining this calm and relaxed manor while going through the process day in and day out requires a specific type of mental and emotional fortitude not many people have. Although, I can’t really imagine people thinking to themselves “man, I want to take care of dead people when I grow up!” So to hear that the vast majority of people who enter this career field drop out was not a very surprising fact.

In Mitford’s passage, I found it extremely surprising that North Americans were generally the only culture that embalms its dead. I assumed that it was a fundamental part of virtually every culture to try and preserve that which we have lost, since humans are selfish creatures. To find out that the eastern countries did not embalm their dead was a mind-numbing thought, which led me to ponder what, exactly, they did with their dead? Cremation is a popular alternative to embalming, but I can’t see every single easterner choosing to use that method. Do they simply bury their loved ones as they are? Obviously, they wouldn’t have open-casketed ceremonies, but they still must do something with the un-cremated bodies. Maybe we western idealists will consider pulling back the reigns of embalming and look towards more natural methods of saying goodbye.

Something that was not surprising in Mitford’s passage was that morticians use a very precise language in referring to our lost loved ones. We have a very distinct way of handling the concept of death, which is to not even confront it at all. So to use a language that ultimately refuses to acknowledge the facts—that our love ones are dead and not coming back—but to skirt around death and pretend it’s not inevitably our future by trading in doom-filled words with those of softly whispered goodbyes was not a surprise.

In Pollan’s chapter in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I found it not so surprising how bad the food is for you. How chemicalized and processed and refined over and over again every ingredient is for every fast food chain restaurant in America calls food is. Swimming in oils and grease, dipped in refined sugar (ketchup), salted up and offered on an idea of moderate healthiness by being given calorie count and nutrition information does nothing to hide the fact that this food is not in any way, shape, or form a healthy derivative of its organic state. These places are called fast-food, not healthy food chains.

What surprised me the most about this chapter was how much corn is in every single ingredient. Corn makes up most of the chicken, the milkshake, the burger, the everything you get at McDonalds is somehow a deviation of corn. Corn this, corn that, corn here, there, everywhere, you can’t outrun it. In fact, whatever you eat probably has one form of corn somewhere in its ingredients. I don’t understand how we can make so many different thing from one type of plant. I know we Americans are creative, but still. When your chicken McNugget is more than half corn, you start to wonder what it is you’re putting into your body. Can we even begin to live without it now?

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