Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
& Other Lessons from the Crematory
Caitlin Doughty
2014  W.W. Norton & Co. Inc.

Don’t be afraid of death; it will only kill you. Author Mortician Caitlin Doughty reminds us that most people are afraid of death, of dying, of decomposition and of whatever happens after death. At 21 our author began work in a crematory in Oakland, California. Work was hard to get. She describes how she moved from fear and disgust around dead bodies and her own fear of death to a desire to help people understand death and dying, and accepting the utter reality of death.

Her book is full of stories of pain, disgust, hilarity and sensible ideas for all of us to look death in the face. She urges people to make preparations, make a will, make a burial plan, appoint someone to be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out when you die.

Doughty takes us behind the scenes of the funeral industry, making morticians human and humane, caught up unwillingly in corporate greed and yet caring for the bereaved. She tells of the lives of men and women who remove the dead from homes and hospitals, prepare bodies for embalming, viewing, burial or cremation. She criticizes much that happens in the death industry.

A scholar of death practices, she takes readers to a number of tribal and primitive after-death ceremonies. There is also an extensive bibliography of books related to death, burial customs and grieving.

I think this is a valuable book worth reading by all who plan or do not plan to die. Doctors, nurses, clergy and seminarians will benefit from this book by learning what happens when life ends. Today we leave it up to the funeral industry to make our choices about what happens to our dead bodies. Those choices should be our families’ and ours. Caitlin Doughty calls us to be responsible for our bodies.


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