For those who follow Youtube’s popular “Ask a Mortician” series or read the blog “The Order of the Good Death” the name Caitlin Doughty is a familiar. With Betty Paige bangs and a big smile, Caitlin bucks the trend of crusty old white men in the funeral home tradition. Her new book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes covers methods and practices of the modern death industry, as well as provides a back story for her interest in death as a whole.
Starting with life working in a crematorium, Doughty discusses the process of life in the death industry, as well as the incidents in her youth that triggered her interest in death and bringing it to the forefront, rather than treating it like life’s dirty little secret.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is greatly positive on the idea of families taking care of their own dead. Doughty counters many myths and misunderstanding family members have at the time of death. For example, embalming is not a required practice in most states, and often the corpse in question does not need it. If a body is going to be processed by cremation embalming is often a waste. The book encourages dialogue between ourselves and living relatives to discover just what we would like for our final exits. It even encouraged me to take the step of speaking to my close family about what is most important to them regarding funeral plans.
The truth is the book is just plan good. The writing is solid, the stories fascinating and the details intense. I would caution those with weak stomachs or fear of death to actually read this book and face their fears. It is important to see death as a process, and too much of our culture hides death from view.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is now available.