Caitlin Doughty – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

9781782111030

This book is about Caitlin’s six years working in the American funeral industry. Wait – don’t be scared! This book is certainly worthy of your attention.

The book certainly gives us all the details of her work and doesn’t shy away from telling us the whole story. She tells of her first experience of shaving a corpse and how disastrous it would be if she was to nick anything. This’d be a tricky thing for anybody, and especially someone that’s shaving for the very first time. The manager tells her that she’d not paid to be freaked out by dead bodies and she’s keen to remain unflappable throughout. I can’t say I would react in similar way, especially when I read about the skull being intact after cremation, unrecognisable from the person she had shaved. The skull then crumbled in her hand.

She goes out collecting bodies and says this is a luxury we have, something other cultures don’t. Some people in America only have to face death in the moments a body is wheeled out. She points out that some people only really have to experience bodies on the street after something extraordinary like Hurricane Katrina. People used to go and witness the actual cremations but now families aren’t so involved. There’s a real unwillingness to confront death.

She’s very good on the history of how different cultures handle the death of their people. Some leave the bodies out for vultures at the top of mountains and cannibals eat the bodies of dead people. All very different from the way we treat our dead here.

She gives detailed descriptions of what dead people actually look like untreated and it’s certainly not what the public think dead people look like. She feels disconnected from people’s revulsion at her stories from work, a whole new wealth of emotions has been opened up for her.

The beauty of this book is Caitlin’s whole outlook and the way she looks death in the face. She says that death is a great equaliser however it is dressed up and this book certainly has changed my outlook. It’s filled with remarkable insights into the way we handle death and the way we should possibly proceed in future.

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