From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Deathby Published 03 Oct 2017
|From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.pdf|
|Publisher||W. W. Norton & Company|
The best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with “dignity.”
Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones’ bones from cremation ashes.
With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning—including a glowing-Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre—and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.
"From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death" Reviews
This was not what I was expecting, which was a SGIYE part two. This is very much an informational nonfiction rather than a memoir, though there are memoir-esque elements about the companions Caitlin travelled with. This is a great overview of death rituals around the world, but not an in depth resource for death geeks. My favorite chapter was about Japan, as there were more details that helped me understand their rituals and culture. I wish Caitlin had been more present in the text as she was in SGIYE. I would still recommend this though and read anything else she publishes.
I didn't enjoy this quite as much as Doughty's previous book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, but some parts were really interesting (Himalayan vultures with nine-foot wing spans) and others quite moving (people grieving their dead children).
Rating 5 Stars
I really can't find any reason to complain about Caitlin Doughty and her grim but amusing books on her experiences with death. Especially as she walks hand in hand with the reaper on a daily basis as a mortician; a job I could never do myself but have always been curious about.
This book however is more on the customs and traditions of families all over the world when it is time for someone to leave their mortal coil behind. For what I have read from what Caitlin has experienced, there are countless ways to go about this whether they be obscene or wonderful is up to ones own opinion. Mine is much more on the fascinated side of things rather than horrified at the fact that some people keep their mummified grandfather in their house years after they pass and even go as far to sleep in the same bed as them. It puts a different perspective in the western customs I have grown up on and have experienced way too many times.
Speaking of Western customs, after reading this I really hate them and I'm really upset that its the only choice I will have really when I go. It feels so cold and closed minded to just immediately stick your your dad into a funeral home to be put on a slab to be all made up for a wake viewing that and then soon after be cremated or buried. It all so rushed but its what we are used to and never really think anything is wrong about it. But now I can't help but feeling so, especially when looking at traditions such as Dios Los Muertos. I was familiar with this celebration before reading this book but I never realized how amazing it seems. It is a day of celebrating and remembering your loved ones. To respect them by hanging out at their grave all day, giving offerings and decorating with candles and marigold petals. It makes it feel so cold and upsetting to know that I'm just going to end up six feet under and my body will be left there alone to decay until one of my family member's come to visit. But when they do visit it it will be brief and I will be left there alone once again. Being cremated into an urn doesn't seem much different either and I especially don't want to that out of fear that once my close family passes and everything changes that my urn will just end up lost somewhere so I guess it would be better to have my urn interred in a crypt somewhere but there will still be the problem of no celebrations, no joy and no spending time with the dead. I know this is pretty morbid to really ponder but I have always had a morbid side and Caitlin also pointed out how horrible the western systems is too.
Anyway back to the book. I enjoyed all the stories and all the adventures Caitlin got to experience. I had some favorites but for some reason I'm blanking on them right now so I will have to go back to the audio or book to jog my memory so review to be continued and while I'm at it I think I'll start planning all my funeral arrangements so I can make this nightmare of western views and traditions happen as little as possible to me when my time is up.
From Here to Eternity is the kind of exuberant, passionate non-fiction I live for. Caitlin Doughty has a deep fascination with death: she is a funeral director by trade and her knowledge, enthusiasm and good humor are clearly evident as she describes and de-stigmatizes cultural attitudes toward death around the world. Many of the stories revolve around her own travels to various parts of the world to witness ceremonies, crypts, crematoria, and columbaria (places where cremated remains are kept). In Colorado, one group has fought legal battles and intense suspicion to offer outdoor cremation. In Indonesia, families co-habitate with the bodies of their loved ones for many years: talking to them, applying preservatives, and bringing them out each year to walk the streets. In North Carolina, forensics facilities allow experimentation with human composting. In Japan, you might be given a pair of chopsticks to retrieve your loved one's bones following cremation, and a modern facility lets you hold up a keycard to trigger a colorful light display identifying their remains in one Buddha-shaped urn amongst hundreds. In Bolivia, some steal skulls from graves and keep them around to share advice and answer prayers. In Joshua Tree, California, a pilot program lets you be buried, sans embalming fluids, in a simple cloth four feet below the ground. In the mountains of Tibet, bodies are chopped up and fed to vultures: one of the faster returns to nature one might imagine (if one imagined such things). The book has wonderful illustrations by Landis Blair, which perform a crucial role: they let you visualize what is being described without the "yick" factor some might experience seeing photos. I, of course, did plenty of Google surfing to find the photos.
Along the way, Doughty shares numerous fun facts and thought-provoking commentary on our relationship to death. In the US, death has become a lucrative business, and bodies are whisked away and kept hidden, and there are only two options offered: embalming/burial or cremation. She advocates for a more diverse, nuanced approach to death that honors the dead in the way they have chosen and that allows family time and space to process the loss, and also for death not to worsen our ecological crises. At the same time, this can be accomplished without compromising the health or safety of the living.
I found myself jealous of many of the practices described here, and thinking about my own choices for my body after I die. I am an organ donor, and want any useful organs to go to people who need them. I'd love to donate my body to medical students or scientific study (my wife is against this, and she and I have had great conversations after reading this book together). In the end, I don't want to be embalmed, and would even prefer not to be burned - I'd love for my body to be returned back to the earth in the least invasive, time-consuming way, so my nutrients can go back into creating new forms of life. I'm hoping, by the time it comes to that, there will be more options available. If so, it will be thanks to efforts like this book, which I highly recommend.
fascinating book about the various cultures and how they interact with death, and the concept of the departed or loved one. were many non-western cultures perform more natural acts of burial, a non-industrial cremation. some use a pyre to lit a loved one, while others keep them mummified, and visit them often.
The Japanese use chopsticks to pluck their loved one's bones from the ashes.
Fascinating and written beautifully