Image: Keturah Stickann
Caitlin Doughty wants you to think differently about death. For example, consider how Americans used to deal with funerals. She told Collectors Weekly:
Originally, the way we handled death in America was very simple, something I would ideally like to go back to. If somebody died, the family kept the body in the home. They washed them, wrapped them in a shroud, and then carried them to the graveyard and put them directly in the ground….
The first major change was embalming, a chemical treatment of the corpse to preserve it, which is a uniquely American practice. Embalming started during the Civil War, and soon after, anybody could be embalmed, and it was more about creating a standardized product, or what they now call a “memory picture.”
As a young, hip mortician from Los Angeles, Doughty is on a mission to remodel our relationship with death and dying, and to do so she’s founded the hippest death club around. Called the Order of the Good Death, the club is full of artists, writers, film makers, musicians and other creative types who want to explore death without having to go into a Hot Topic.
Doughty explains the mission of the Order of the Good Death on the group’s website:
The Order is about making death a part of your life. That means committing to staring down your death fears- whether it be your own death, the death of those you love, the pain of dying, the afterlife (or lack thereof), grief, corpses, bodily decomposition, or all of the above. Accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety and terror of modern culture are not.
Doughty jokingly describes the members this way on the blog:
The members of the Order of the Good Death are all magical fairies, spreading sparkling death acceptance dust o’er the children’s eyes at night.
And each one of them is doing quirky, creative projects to try and change our understanding of death. There’s the author Bess Lovejoy, who just published a book about dying. There’s a fashion designer and makeup artist who is designing for the dead.
Doughty herself is a bit of a YouTube star, making videos about just what death means to a mortician. You can learn more about her at Collectors Weekly, where they ask her why she’s so interested in death, and how we can all get ready for it.
Essentially, the Order is a who’s who of hip, death-obsessed artists. Together, they hope to get us all a little more comfortable with the idea of death, the rituals around it and the inevitability of it all.