Lunching in cemeteries was not always the cringe-inducing activity it is today. The Victorians loved a good shady spot under a tree to enjoy the more park-like cemeteries that developed in America around the mid-1800s — they were intended to be recreational areas for people to visit the dead and enjoy some leisure activities.
Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY is a great example. Look how soul-crushingly lovely it is (probably not as much at this time of year).
Of course, other cultures had, and still have, similar traditions of eating with the dead as a way of maintaining communication post mortem. Here’s a great shot of some women and children eating amongst the gravestones in Russia in 1919.
Of course there is no reason, other than your own cultural biases, why cemetery lunching cannot still be a popular activity. So many of our cemetery properties are well maintained parks, but just sit there as empty monuments to the dead. The idea of it being “respectful” to have cemeteries empty and silent is a very modern one indeed.
Mara (Order editor and writer and corpse from Monday’s home funeral shoot) and I enjoyed this picnic in Inglewood Cemetery in Los Angeles last year. Frankly, the Order should make more of an effort to eat at cemeteries, if only to set a precedent of acceptance of the practice. Also, you know, to eat. EAT.
For my last contribution for Fortnight Journal, I was challenged to demonstrate my ideal funeral through a series of photographs. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an ideal funeral — to each their own death. This is simply my best attempt to show what I hope is the next wave of death care in the Western World.
It is a return to a time when a person would pass away at home, away from the machines of the hospital and in the presence of the people they spent their lives with. Their family and friends are the primary force in caring for their dead body. I am present, as a mortician, only to help guide the family and aid them in washing, preparing, and shrouding the body. The body is taken to a natural burial cemetery, where it is put directly into the ground and allowed to decompose, returning from whence it came.
The photos were shot in Topanga, CA on a film camera by photographer & Order member Darren Blackburn. Mara is the exquisite and convincing corpse (though she is still very much alive) and David is her stricken family.
Andy Prendergast, scientist and good friend of the Order, wrote us a provocative essay on cancer and where it fits into our evolutionary development.
If you like hard science made accessible and interesting, this is absolutely for you.
“A common refrain at the Order seems to be: the world is full of death, and our awareness of it has been unnecessarily suppressed. As an extension of that theme, I’m telling you now: you’re a walking cellular Holocaust, and you’re blissfully unaware of that most of the time. Ironically, the moment it becomes most apparent that your body has been killing little pieces of itself for years is when that process fails. Because often, the consequence of this failure is cancer.”
Updated Mission section for the Order, On the Fear of Death
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being interested in mortality and death. Don’t let anyone ever tell you you are “sick” or “morbid” or “deviant.” It is patently untrue. Death is where every single one of us will end up. To feign disinterest in such a fundamental thing is denial, plain and simple. Read everything you can about death. Read the philosophers, read the scientists. Figure out what you (not your culture or your religion) believe happens to a body after death and what rituals make sense to you. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. With death, ignorance is fear.
If you’re looking to spread mortality awareness through your apparel, look no further.
Your first option is from a Buddhist website, hoping you’ll look toward your impermanence as a living creature. What is now (living body) shall not be forever.
As one commenter pointed out, the sexy poses of the two models are a little strange. And the visible bruising on the woman’s arm may send the wrong message on exactly what type of corpse we’re talking about here. But A+ for a blunt assessment of the situation.
Your second option is a little more fun-loving, calling to mind the Girl/Boy Scout troops of your youth. It has a 1950s aesthetic that says “I go bravely to my eventual demise!”
The last one SEEMS a little silly… made of meat, indeed!
However, when you consider it in the framework of intellectual Ernest Becker, who tells us that humanity’s greatest denial is that we are actually just slabs of meat, no different than any other animal, doomed to eventually rot and die – well, then the happy-go-lucky slice of meat takes on new meaning!