I received From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty as an Advance Reading Copy from W.W. Norton. To them I am very grateful.
I never in a million years would have guessed that a book about death could fascinate and intrigue me the way this book did. Caitlin Doughty, the author, traveled around the world in search of rituals and customs concerning “deathcare.” I was amazed at what cultures around the world participate in. Certain customs such as using chopsticks to dig out your family member’s bones from their ashes in Japan or living with corpses years after death and having conversations with them in Indonesia to the Westerner sound morbid and even disrespectful, but these actions are done with intimacy and the most care that anyone could imagine. Views of death and the deceased vary between cultures.
In America, we have so far removed ourselves from the process of death and grieving that no one even thinks to ask if they can witness the cremation of a loved one. Most of the time they don’t even want to. We have removed ourselves from death and therefore, it terrifies us and we don’t know how to deal with it. The modern funeral industry takes advantage of this fear by charging outrageous amounts of money for the “convenience” of doing everything from obtaining the body after death to burying said body in a six foot steel vault required by law. Not only does this take away from the emotional grieving part of the process, but it also chemically alters the state of our bodies after death.
I was inspired by the project at Western Carolina University that is experimenting with natural decomposition. I love the idea of having my body sent there to decompose in a natural setting only to be sent back to my family and placed in my garden. I read this book with a Christian perspective and I got the distinct feeling that author is not religious by any means, but more spiritual. Reading from a Christian perceptive on this book I came away with the thought that after death, our bodies don’t matter anyway. Normally I would not care what happens to my body because the soul is what truly matters, not the physical body. But, I must admit that God created this world and everything in it. He loves this world, no matter how sinful it has become. So yes, when I die my body is just a rotting corpse, but why can it not benefit the earth after I’m gone? Natural decomposition, in my humble opinion, is the way to go.
More importantly, this book is about reforming the modern funeral industry and changing it from a money-hungry organization only interested in the bottom line, to a structured process of helping grieving families deal with their emotions in any way that means something to them. I greatly enjoyed this book; a book that I would have never picked up, mind you. But I highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious about this industry and how other cultures differ from ours on the subject.
This book is scheduled to be published and available for purchase in October 2017.