Thank you to everyone who sent me the New York Times profile of funeral director Doris Amen. Well done correctly identifying a bad bitch.
Let me explain. That last time we heard about a female funeral worker in New York was a few months ago, when New York Magazine did a profile on Elizabeth Meyer.
“…the mortuary started her as a receptionist, a role that included collecting bodies from homes and morgues. “The first time they asked me to do that, I was wearing suede Gucci loafers. I was kind of concerned about them,’’ she says.”
No disrespect to Elizabeth’s true Buddha soul here, but she represents a somewhat disturbing trend of publicizing “party planner” funeral folk. Young women who loathe to get their Gucci loafers soiled with a little corpse juice and just loooove planning theme funerals for the wealthy. It doesn’t help us engage with death to think of funerals as parties hosted by chipper young women wearing “significant pearls.”
That’s why the Time’s profile of Doris Amen is such a refreshing palate cleanser.
“Sometimes you got to do it all yourself,” says Ms. Amen, who is perfectly capable of collecting a corpse, transporting it and doing its makeup and hair without help.”
Doris is cheap ($1,999 to start for a wake), honest, and does it all drinking Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and puffing on her electronic cigarette. In the days of tacky, whitewashed corporate funeral homes with no character to them whatsoever, Doris has her viewing room setup like a 1970′s mourning paradise.
She rolls to the medical examiner in her 1978 silver hearse and gets things DONE. The Order of the Good Death is suitably impressed, and salutes her efforts. She’s an inspiration to all of us mort ladies hauling around corpses and not trying to pretend we’re anything but servants to death.
Please read the whole article on Doris, I can’t really do her justice here.
For those of you who are not inclined to visit blogs on the regular, but still want the occasional death update, consider friending the Order of the Good Death on facebook. I haven’t promoted it so much, but I definitely post entries, articles, and Ask a Mortician videos when they come up. A low impact option.
Well. Holy Shit.
You put out one little self-made genky YouTube video and all of a sudden the death revolution is on! Without being too sincere (I’m not good at interweb sincerity) this is seriously amazing.
For those of you who’ve been reading the Order of the Good Death for awhile, you know that the point is to get people talking and asking questions about death. It’s happening! Maniacal, crazed laughter. And new people! Welcome mortals! Your life in death awaits.
Here are some places I’ve been featured the past 24 hours.
The Daily What: Morbid Curiousity of the Day
Clusterflock: Ask a Mortician
There have been some troll comments, i.e.
“It was interesting and serves a purpose, but it irritates me a little bit that she has to be so weird and gothy.”
“i see u also wear dark colors and r cheerful about dead bodies and stuff b/c ur a special gothic snowflake hear 2 teach all us normies to stop being so uptight when family members die!”
But the vast, vast majority of people have been supportive and down to talk about death.
This morning I woke up to over 700 new YouTube subscribers. Then I went out to my living room and magically, overnight, all of the pumpkins we carved for Halloween Monday night have turned into crazy wet soupy decomposed messes.
That’s thick white mold growing out of this pumpkin’s soulless eyes. I had to plop them in trash bags and clean the fluid off my 19th century books and rotting pumpkin seeds off the floor. It was totally gross and not too far off from working with human decomposition, frankly.
I have made a ridiculous thing upon this day.
You got death questions, we got death answers.
Ah, All Hallows season. ‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year, non?
While morticians as a whole do tend to love the darquest of holidays, plastic witches and fog machines and traditional pumpkin carving aren’t REALLY reflective of our profession.
Here are a few craft suggestions for the REAL mortician in your life.
First, there is this piece of total unadulterated genius. It was made by Gabriel, a coworker of Lupe, one of my friends from mortuary school.
It’s an autopsied pumpkin! Seriously, holy shit. Let me tell you why this is so genius. I have long complained about the state of bodies that arrive at a funeral home after they have been autopsied by the Coroner’s office. This is the perfect visual, without being considered gross or exploitative or rotten.com-ish. It’s cute, even!
Literally autopsied bodies come to the funeral home after the torso has been sliced open, all the organs removed, and then just kinda stuffed back in with a poorly done basket stitch that leaves holes for guts to casually fall out. The skull is cut off by a circular saw and then just stuck back on. Purge, blood, and bile abound (see pumpkin visual above). If this was some manner of funeral home staff pumpkin carving contest, I hope Gabriel won it.
Second (much less impressive craft) was made by myself and Order member Mara. It’s just an example of how to use decomposed vegetables you have lying around your home for a fun autumnal party invite.
Step one is to gather decomposed produce. The more advanced the decomposition, the more it will call to mind the changing of the seasons and the “fall” into organic death for eventual spring rebirth.
There you have it, Martha Stewart for serious morticians. Happy Hallows, my pretties.