So much has been written about the subject of death since Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s seminal work was published in 1969. Kubler-Ross was a Swiss psychiatrist who worked with the terminally ill at the University of Chicago. She wrote “On Death and Dying” which presented the “five stages of death,” more accurately the five stages of grief. Thus began an open dialogue on the subject of death in medical schools and other clinical settings and to some extent in social conversation. Nearly fifty years later we are much less reluctant to discuss the subject of death and dying.
That does not mean that everyone is terribly comfortable with all that has been written over this time span or even with the general discussion of the subject of death. I devour the subject as my modest library demonstrates. I have learned from each author, but my favorites to date are Mary Roach, Caitlin Doughty, and Caleb Wilde.
First I would like to recommend “Stiff” by Mary Roach. Published in 2003 it is far more interesting than “Spook” released two years later. “Stiff” is full of history as well as contemporary subjects surrounding death. Want to know a little about cannibalism? How about cannibalism in the name of medicine? Have any idea what can happen to the human body donated to science? Most people think anatomy lab for medical students, few think of crash dummy.
Roach’s macabre sense of humor has resulted in “Stiff” chapters with names like “A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste, The Cadaver Who Joined the Army, How to Know if You are Dead and Eat me,” just to name a few. Don’t let her way with words fool you, she does serious research and travels the world to gather information.
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” & Other Lessons from the Crematory
If you like both the subject of death and memoirs, this book is for you. Caitlin Doughty shares her experiences in the funeral business, but particularly in her job at a crematorium. Her gallows humor not only made me laugh frequently, it kept me grounded while I read about situations that were sometimes heartbreaking and disturbing.
Before we take that last journey into our own death shouldn’t we be as informed as possible about our options? Doughty will guide you through so much that you didn’t know you needed to know and she will do it with wit, charm, and compassion. Read it. Allow her to help you develop the “Art of Dying” which is appropriately the name of her last chapter.
After reading this book you may want to check out her blog and other things this busy author is doing. http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com
“Confessions of a Funeral Director” How the Business of Death Saved My Life
Caleb Wilde is a very sensitive and honest writer whose blog I have followed for several years. His book like his blog contains humor, but the purpose of his writing is much more on the serious side. Published last year this book covers Wilde’s life growing up in the family business and the adjustments he had to make in his life to remain a funeral director.
The book is true to its title and contains confessions especially regarding Wilde’s battle against chronic depression. His journey is instructive, interesting and enlightening.
I recommend both this book and the blog by the same name. https://www.calebwilde.com
“From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.” Edvard Munch