Hark! Beholdeth Ask a Mortician Episode 4.
In which I finally attempt to answer your questions about how to become a mortician whilst enjoying a holiday meal. I’ll leave the details of that for you to discover, my pretties.
Thanks again to the incredible gentleman musician David Forrest for the music in the episode.
The first of six pieces (an essay) I’m producing for Fortnight Journal is online today. It’s about my first real contact with the concept of death. If you’ve any interest in the ur (a German prefix, meaning “original, primitive”) trauma source of all this death acceptance, look no further than this essay.
Do we all remember Jonathan Brandis, from seaQuest and Ladybugs and every Tiger Beat/ Bop Magazine cover of the mid 90′s?
Then there is dear Brittany “no shit you guys got coke here?” Murphy, our beloved Tai from Clueless.
She died in 2009 of pneumonia.
The punchline- our self destructive 90′s favorites went to prom together!
In 1994, Brandis was 18 years old and topped Seventeen magazine’s list of “Sexiest Guys.” Fan mags reported that he was getting 4,000 letters a week and ran photos of him with his characteristic grin, big blue eyes and floppy bleached blond hair. Reporters asked everything. Do you have pets? What position do you sleep in? Bop followed Brandis to his high school prom; his date was Brittany Murphy, who later starred in “Just Married” with Ashton Kutcher. “Don’t worry, no romance between these buds,” the magazine assured swooning readers.
They also both died at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
All this comes from research I’m doing for a new video. I won’t tell you exactly what it is, but let’s say it involves Los Angeles, death, and a little thanotourism.
Here is a message from Ms. Mandy Corrado, reader of the Order:
Hey there! One of your posts (not sure which one; maybe the coffin shelves) sent me down a rabbit hole online. I ended up coming across some information on “natural burials”… I have ALWAYS had strong feelings about what I wanted done with my body after death, but I never looked into the actual feasibility of my wishes. My wish has always been to not be embalmed and to be wrapped in a shroud or in a simple non-toxic coffin and buried under a tree, or in a very naturey place. Well, it turns out that most places have laws prohibiting “natural” bodies from going into the ground. Apparently, from what I could tell, cemeteries have to have special permits to actually bury bodies into the ground. Otherwise, they have to have cement vaults and the bodies need to be preserved. The fact that there are laws like this shock me, but what shocked me more is that it said that very few green burials are even requested, which seems so weird to me.
Here’s the ultra cool part: There were some comments on the article, one of which lists my dad’s family cemetery as one of the only places around that does natural burials. How cool is that??? I’m only 30 and not planning on dying soon and my husband and I have discussed our wishes with each other, but we’ve never figured out WHERE to be buried. This is the coolest news I could learn about my impending death… My FAMILY CEMETERY is one of the ONLY local cemeteries that do the kind of burial I want! …It’s fate! Thanks for helping me figure all this out. (I emailed my husband about it right away and we’re going to make sure our families know both of our wishes, just in case something happened to both of us…)
I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. And it’s not just because she’s selected a type of body disposition I happen to agree with, either. It’s the talking to her husband, researching, thinking of what she wants done with her mortal shell.
People will tell you “it’s just a corpse, do whatever.” It’s NOT just a corpse. It’s a powerful symbol for the living. Not only the family of the dead person, but for the person themselves, before they die. I guarantee that thinking about your death, planning for it, and living with its reality will change the rest of your life for the better.
Remember this woman from My Strange Addiction on TLC?
Who stuck her finger in her husband’s cremated remains and ate them so she could be close to him? As if we need a reminder that death does strange stuff to people. Some cultures will eat cremated remains as ritual, but this poor woman was doing it for some pretty intense reasons related to her complicated grief.
In any case, the point of the episode is to make you wonder, “Oh my GOD, how could she DO that? I wonder what human bones taste like?” I could tell you, because working at a crematory means inhaling bone dust like a normal person does air. It borders on occupational hazard. Gets in your lungs, the inside of your nose, stuck in your eyelashes, everywhere.
This is a wicked email I got from Annie Turner, further explaining how one could accidentally discover what ground bones taste like.
A couple of years ago, we were spreading my favorite uncle’s cremains according to his stated wishes – a process which involved coffee cups, cigars, and donuts, in case you’re interested, and really, why wouldn’t you be? – when a rogue and clearly malicious gust of wind suddenly appeared and blew a large swathe of said cremains directly into my face.
Specifically, it blew them directly into my mouth, which was open, because I had been saying something (probably profound).
Consequently, I now know not only what pulverized bone bits taste like, but also that they make you cough for quite a long time when you accidentally inhale some of them due to surprise.
Having your dead uncle suddenly wedged in your bronchioles is a fairly unique and disconcerting experience that will forever after leave you wondering whether or not you can now technically be classified as a cannibal (once you’re done windmilling your arms around while coughing, wheezing, and having an all-around psychedelic freakout, of course).
PS – I can’t accurately describe the flavor of pulverized bone bits, but I’d say the texture is rather reminiscent of large grains of sand and/or ground up Grape Nuts, only not good for building castles or as part of your balanced breakfast. Also, I joke, because if I don’t, I might start the windmilling again and no one wants that.