Caitlin Doughty, licensed mortician and founder of the Order of the Good Death, was born on a balmy August evening on the very un-morbid shores of O’ahu, Hawai’i.
Growing up in Hawai’i, Caitlin was an even tempered, bookish child. Her parents had little reason to believe that she would ultimately seek a life tiptoeing the line between the living and dead. It was only when she began to ask the pertinent questions that her parents began to suspect a proclivity towards the macabre. Example: “Mommy, if I was on the edge of that cliff and I fell off and on the way down screamed ‘Mommy, Mommy, I need you Mommy why won’t you help me’ and then smashed my body on the rocks, would you be sad?”
After completing high school, Caitlin fled her island home on the first plane east. In the frigid halls of the University of Chicago, she worked towards her degree in Medieval History. Her thesis, entitled “In Our Image: The Suppression of Demonic Births In Late Medieval Witchcraft Theory,” is a must read for all lovers of demon sex and the medieval church.
After graduating we find your mortician living in California, where she began to apply to funeral homes in an attempt to actually practice her academic interest in death. Her first job in the industry was as a crematory operator, burning bodies by day and reading death theory by night. Since 2007 she has worked as a funeral arranger, a body van transport driver, and returned to Cypress College for her second degree in Mortuary Science. Currently she works as a licensed funeral director/mortician in Los Angeles, CA.
The Order of the Good Death was founded in 2011 with the goal of bringing the realistic discussion of death back into popular culture. Caitlin’s webseries “Ask a Mortician” and the Order website have led to features on National Public Radio, the Huffington Post, Vice, the LA Times, Jezebel.com, Forbes, Bust Magazine, and Salon.
The Order was inspired by several historical groups. The name itself is taken from the 19th century Brazilian sisterhood of African slaves Irmandade da Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte, or, Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death. It is similarly inspired by the medieval Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying) as well as the Tibetan Bardo Thodol.
“We fall asleep and never wake again;
Nothing is of us but the mouldering flesh,
Whose elements dissolve and merge afresh
In earth, air, water, plants, and other men”
-James Thomson (1874)