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Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain


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[size=1] I was originally just going to post this article I have in the Poetry forum, but I think this forum is much more frequented, as well as is a better place to post it for many other reasons, the main being this forum is a place of discussion and analysis.

The basis of this thread be to finally open some people's eyes to the process that is embalming, and in general, the process that is a funeral. I would like to hear what you think of funerals; I would like to know if you think they are a waste of time, if they immortalize death and the person afflicted with mentioned affliction; I would like to know if death in a funeral is over-romanticisized. For death itself is an inevitable thing. I would like to know if you think having a funeral gives any closure to the ones who attend it. I don't think so.

When someone dies it is all despair, all sadness, all morose. The world is such a worse place to someone when one one has loved is not there. I can understand this, to an extent. But what's there to lament? Something you knew was going to happen to you, that has happened first to someone you love much? If you knew it was coming, you must have seen its inevitablities. It's obvious many people can't accept death in general though.

But back to the topic at hand--the funeral. Does the funeral provide any amount of closure? I don't think so. Tell me, does seeing your loved one one last time, all dolled up, all superficial, and dead, does this make any closure? I doubt it. I'd think more along the lines that it leads to less closure, because it leads more manifested exposure to your gloomy, saddened, lost disposition of lament and miss.

I know that if I would see someone dead-eyed, in their casket, it is not going to make me feel better, it is going to make me feel worse; and it is going to stay in my memories--a memory that is the last time I saw this person before they were forever inhumed, or cremated, or whatever they so sought to do.

Plus, think about it. What is the real reason funerals exist? Sure, there's the immortalization of a dead one, sure there's the inhuming of the deceased in the ground, sure there's the church procession (if so there is one), sure there is all this and more--but what is it that gives all this? It is the helplessness and easily demeaned mind of one who is getting over the loss that is death. This person is willed to waste opulent amounts of money just to fuel this so-called "proper" procession which will let the person grieve, and let the deceased find "peace." And so they pay this money--money, money, money--even in death one has to pay for one's death. So, with life support, and whatever else money, one gets one "finale," one last toast to life's good fortune--they get a party where they don't even exist, at least physically, that is all about sadness, eulogies, ineffable emotions, all the things which death is so-set to be.

Realistically, what is death? It's dying. Nothing more. Death is not a funeral, death is not embalming, death is not mourning, death is not being buried in the ground; death is a Fate, one which we must accept on some ground, and go on with our lives until it happens to us. Death isn't some big deal. It's just what it is--it's death--it is not some flowery, fluent, immortalizing, tantalizing thing. It's death. It is "a permanent cessation of all vital functions," it is the ending of a life. And what happens afterwards, I will not concern myself with; nor should anyone. And that is not what this thread is about--it is about [i]funerals[/i]--more specifically, as the article which I am getting ready to aquaint you all with, it is about embalming. So don't debase to such discussion.

The main focus is on the physical all our lives. How we look, how much money we have. Even the brains we use to think, and their perceptions are based on physical manifestations. Because what we saw with our eyes, and what we smelt with our olfactory system--and what we heard with our ears--this is what pools into our mind and creates thought, and creates images, and creates the outward reality we see. We are physical beings, there's no doubting it. Naturally, we are prone to it.

The funeral industry is just another thing capitalizing on the "physical." Its main purpose is not death at all--but immortalizing it, making it pleasurable for the grievers, and giving a kind of closure that isn't closure at all. Tell me, what does death have to do with making someone look like a doll via cosmetics, and other superficial devices? It has nothing to do with it. Death has nothing to do with that. Death is the "permanent cessation of all vital functions." I myself find the prospect of being buried, perhaps, quite useless. I myself will probably just be cremated. But this is what I believe.

The basis of this thread is what you think of the funeral industry--more specifically embalming--and also how you are going to have a funeral, as well as any other thing pertaining to funerals you would like to say within reason. Don't begin going into some debacle about death and what happens after it, and so on. Focus on this topic, not things which generally don't pertain to it and add to what it is about.

In the end the funeral industry is about the money. They have so many inane, preposterous gadgets it's enough to make one sick with grief themselves. From the graves--tombstones--cosmetics used by embalmers--on and on and on--it's just to the point where I can't even see why people would waste such large amounts of money on such an inevitable thing. I mean, just think about it. Is death about a funeral? Is death about that? Is it about embalming? Is it about any of this? It's much like a car, or anything you can think of. What is the purpose of a car? It is transportation. It is about getting from point A to point B. Yet some people buy extravagant cars, with leather seats, and large wheels, and the most technologically advanced features, and a well-polished, beautiful paint job, and a powerful engine. And what is the person doing with this expensive, materialistic, expansive, imperially claimed car?

He is just going to travel, the same as a poorer man is going to. The only difference is he's wasted his time on features to his car that look to the eyes more beautiful than his. Death is the same, it's going from point A to point B, and arriving at point B. How do you plan to travel there? Do you plan to get superfluous gadgetry that makes the wheels spin faster, makes everything over-glamorized for its purpose?

I'm not going to.

Anyway, here is the article I hinted at. I typed it all up myself, since I couldn't find the article on the internet. It may have errors in it at points, but I typed it well enough, and to the best of my abilities for the time I have to spare. It is by a woman named Jessica Mitford. She has a book as well, that talks about the American way of death. But for all purposes, I haven't read it yet. But I do have this article here, as I've said. I believe it is important for any poster in this thread to read this said article. It has many things which apply to the above post, and it's a general synopsis of what, exactly, an embalmer is and does, as well as what the American way of death is. I know there's people here from other countries. Do you recall ever having an open-casket funeral? Is it common practice where you live? From Mitford's information on this point, only the United States and Canada do.

I do realize this article is pretty verbosely lengthed. I'd still ask that, if you don't feel like reading it all, you perhaps save it, or read it in parts; if you can't do this, at least scan it. I'm sure you'll be interested in it; I know I was interested throughout reading it.

Now, take an open step to the curtained window, with its dainteries and its beautiful veneer, and open those curtains, seeing [i]"Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain.":[/size]

[quote][center][b]"Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain"[/b]
[i]By Jessica Mitford[/i][/center]

The drama begins to unfold with the arrival of the corpse at the mortuary. Alas, poor Yorick! How surprised he would be to see how his counterpart of today is whisked off to a funeral parlor and is in short order sprayed, sliced, pierced, pickled, trussed, trimmed, creamed, waxed, painted, rouged, and neatly dressed-transformed from a common corpse into a Beautiful Memory Picture. This process is known in the trade as embalming and restorative art, and is so universally employed in the United States and Canada that the funeral director does it routinely, without consulting corpse or kin. He regards as eccentric those few who are hardy enough to suggest that it might be dispensed with. Yet no law requires embalming, no religious doctrine commends it, nor is it dictated by considerations of health, sanitation, or even of personal daintiness. In no part of the world but in Northern America is it widely used. The purpose of embalming is to make the corpse presentable for viewing in a suitably costly container; and here too the funeral director routinely, without first consulting the family, prepares the body for public display.

Is all this legal? The processes to which a dead body may be subjected are after all to some extent circumscribed by law. In most states, for instance, the signature of next of kin must be obtained before an autopsy may be performed, before the deceased may be cremated, before the body may be turned over to a medical school for research purposes; or such provision must be made in the decedent's will. In the case of embalming, no such permission is required nor is it ever sought. A textbook, [i]The Principles and Practices of Embalming[/i], comments on this: "There is some question regarding the legality of much that is done within the preparation room." The author points out that it would be most unusual for a responsible member of a bereaved family to instruct the mortician, in so many words, to "embalm" the body of a deceased relative. The very term "embalming" is so seldom used that the mortician must reply upon custom in the matter. The author concludes that unless the family specifies otherwise, the act of entrusting the body to the care of a funeral establishment carries with it an implied permission to go ahead and embalm.

Embalming is indeed a most extraordinary procedure, and one must wonder at the docility of Americans who each year pay hundreds of millions of dollars for its perpetuation, blissfully ignorant of what it is all about, what is done, how it is done. Not one in ten thousand has any idea of what actually takes place. Books on the subject are extremely hard to come by. They are not found in most libraries or bookshops.

In an era when huge television audiences watch surgical operations in the comfort of their living rooms, when, thanks to the animated cartoon, the geography of the digestive system has become familiar territory even to the nursery school set, in a land where the satisfaction of curiosity about almost all matters is a national pastime, the secrecy surrounding embalming can, surely, hardly be attributed to the inherent gruesomeness of the subject. Custom in this regard has within this century suffered a complete reversal. In the early days of American embalming, when it was performed in the home of the deceased, it was almost mandatory for some relative to stay by the embalmer's side and witness the procedure. Today, family members who might wish to be in attendance would certainly be dissuaded by the funeral director. All others, except apprentices, are excluded by law from the preparation room.

A close look at what does actually take place may explain a large measure of the undertaker's intractable reticence concerning a procedure that has become his major [i]raison d'etre[/i]. Is it possible he fears that public information about embalming might lead patrons to wonder if they really want this service? If the funeral men are loath to discuss the subject outside the trade, the reader may, understandably, be equally loath to go on reading at this point. For those who have the stomach for it, let us part the formaldehyde curtain. . . .

The body is first laid out in the undertaker's morgue-or rather, Mr. Jones is reposing in the preparation room-to be readied to bid the world farewell.

The preparation room in any of the better funeral establishments has the tiled and sterile look of a surgery, and indeed the embalmer-restorative artist who does his chores there is beginning to adopt the term "dermasurgeon" (appropriately corrupted by some mortician-writers as "demi-surgeon") to describe his calling. His equipment, consisting of scalpels, scissors, augers, forceps, clamps, needles, pumps, tubes, bowls and basins, is crudely imitative of the surgeon's, as is his technique, acquired in a nine- or twelve-month post-high-school course in an embalming school. He is supplied by an advanced chemical industry with a bewildering array of fluids, sprays, pastes, oils, powders, creams, to fix or soften tissue, shrink or distend it as needed, dry it here, restore the moisture there. There are cosmetics, waxes and paints to fill and cover features, even plaster of Paris to replace entire limbs. There are ingenious aids to prop and stabilize the cadaver: a Vari-Pose Head Rest, the Edwards Arm and Hand Positioner, the Repose Block (to support the shoulders during embalming), and the Throop Foot Positioner, which resembles old-fashioned socks.

Mr. John H. Eckels, president of the Eckels College of Mortuary Science, thus describes the first part of the embalming procedure: "In the hands of a skilled practitioner, this work may be done in a comparatively short time and without mutilating the body other than by slight incision-so slight that it scarcely would cause serious inconvenience if made upon a living person. It is necessary to remove the blood, and doing this not only helps in the disinfecting, but removes the principal cause of disfigurements due to discoloration."

Another textbook discusses the all-important time element: "The earlier this is done, the better, for every hour that elapses between death and embalming will add to the problems and complications encountered. . . ." Just how soon should one get to embalming? The author tells us, "On the basis of such scanty information made available to this profession through its rudimentary and haphazard system of technical research, we must conclude the best results are to be obtained if the subject is embalmed before life is completely extinct-that is, before cellular death has occurred. In the average case, this would mean within an hour after somatic death." For those who feel there is something a little rudimentary, not to say haphazard, about this advice, a comforting thought is offered by another writer. Speaking of fears entertained in early days of premature burial, he points out, "One of the effects of embalming by chemical injection, however, has been to dispel fears of live burial." How true; once the blood is removed, the chances of live burial are indeed remote.

To return to Mr. Jones, the blood is drained out through the veins and replaced with embalming fluid pumped through the arteries. As noted in [i]The Principles and Practices of Embalming[/i], "every operator has a favorite injection and drainage point-a fact which becomes a handicap only if he fails or refuses to forsake his favorites when conditions demand it." Typical favorites are the carotid artery, femoral artery, jugular vein, subclavian vein. There are various choices of embalming fluids. If Flextone is used, it will produce a "mild, flexible rigidity. The skin retains a velvety softeness, the tissues are rubbery and pliable. Ideal for women and children." It may be blended with B. and G. Products Company's Lyf-Lyk tint, which is guaranteed to reproduce "nature's own skin texture . . . the velvety appearance of living tissue." Suntone comes in three separate tints: Suntan; Special Cosmetic Tint, a pink shade "especially indicated for young female subjects"; and Regular Cosmetic Tint, moderately pink.

About three to six gallons of dyed and perfumed solution of formaldehyde, glycerin, borax, phenol, alcohol and water is soon circulating through Mr. Jones, whose mouth has been sewn together with a "needle directed upward between the upper lip and gum and brought out through the left nostril," with the corners raised slightly "for a more pleasant expression. If he should be bucktoothed, his teeth are cleaned with Bon Ami and coated with colorless nail polish. His eyes, meanwhile, are closed with flesh-tinted eye caps and eye cement.

The next step is to have at Mr. Jones with a thing called a trocar. This is a long, hollow needle attached to a tube. It is jabbed into the abdomen, poked around the entrails and chest cavity, the contents of which are pumped out and replaced with "cavity fluid." This done, and the hole in the abdomen sewn up, Mr. Jones's face is heavily creamed (to protect the skin from burns which may be caused by leakage of the chemicals), and he is covered with a sheet and left unmolested for a while. But not for long-there is more, much more, in store for him. He has been embalmed, but not yet restored, and the best time to start the restorative work is eight to ten hours after embalming, when the tissues have become firm and dry.

The object of all this attention to the corpse, it must be remembered, is to make it presentable for viewing in an attitude of healthy repose. "Our customs require the presentation of our dead in semblance of normality . . . unmarred by the ravages of illness, disease or mutilation," says Mr. J. Sheridan Mayer in his [i]Restorative Art[/i]. This is rather a large order since few people die in full bloom of health, unravaged by illness and unmarked by some disfigurement. The funeral industry is equal to the challenge: "In some cases the gruesome appearance of a mutilated or disease-ridden subject may be quite discouraging. The task of restoration may seem impossible and shake the confidence of the embalmer. This is the time for intestinal fortitude and determination. Once the formative work is begun and affected tissues are cleaned or removed, all doubts of success vanish. It is surprising and gratifying to discover the results which may be obtained."

The embalmer, having allowed an appropriate interval of elapse, returns to the attack, but now he brings into play the skill and equipment of sculptor and cosmetician. Is a hand missing? Casting one in plaster of Paris is a simple matter. "For replacement purposes, only a cast of the back of the hand is necessary; this is within the ability of the average operator and is quite adequate." If a lip or two, a nose or an ear should be missing, the embalmer has at hand a variety of restorative waxes with which to model replacements. Pores and skin texture are simulated by stippling with a little brush, and over this cosmetics are laid on. Head off? Decapitation cases are rather routinely handled. Ragged edges are trimmed, and head joined to torso with a series of splints, wires and sutures. It is a good idea to have a little something at the neck-a scarf or high collar-when time for viewing comes. Swollen mouth? Cut out tissue as needed from inside the lips. If too much is removed, the surface contour can easily be restored by padding with cotton. Swollen necks and cheeks are reduced by removing tissue through vertical incisions made down each side of the neck. "When the deceased is casketed, the pillow will hide the suture incisions . . . as an extra precaution against leakage, the suture may be painted with liquid sealer."

The opposite condition is more likely to present itself-that of emaciation. His hypodermic syringe now loaded with massage cream, the embalmer seeks out and fills the hollowed and sunken areas by injection. In this procedure the backs of the hands and fingers and the under-chin area should not be neglected.

Positioning the lips is a problem that recurrently challenges the ingenuity of the embalmer. Closed too tightly, they tend to give a stern, even disapproving expression. Ideally, embalmers feel, the lips should give the impression of being ever so slightly parted, the upper lip protruding slightly for a more youthful appearance. This takes some engineering, however, as the lips tend to drift apart. Lip drift can sometimes be remedied by pushing one or two straight pins through the inner margin oft he lower lip and then inserting them between the two upper teeth. If Mr. Jones happens to have no teeth, the pins can just as easily be anchored in his Armstrong Face Former and Denture Replacer. Another method to maintain lip closure is to dislocate the lower jaw, which is then held in its new position by a wire run through holes which have been drilled through the upper and lower jaws at the midline. As the French are fond of saying, [i]il faut souffrir pour etre belle[/i].

If Mr. Jones has died of jaundice, the embalming fluid will very likely turn him green. Does this deter the embalmer? Not if he has intestinal fortitude. Masking pastes and cosmetics are heavily laid on, burial garments and casket interiors color-correlated with particular care, and Jones is displayed beneath rose-colored lights. Friends will say "How [i]well[/i] he looks." Death by carbon monoxide, on the other hand, can be rather a good thing from the embalmer's viewpoint: "One advantage is the fact that this type of discoloration is an exaggerated form of a natural pink coloration." This is nice because the healthy glow is already present and needs little attention.

The patching and filling completed, Mr. Jones is now shaved, washed and dressed. Cream-based cosmetic, available in pink, flesh, suntan, brunette, and blond, is applied to his hands and face, his hair is shampooed and combed (and, in the case of Mrs. Jones, set), his hands manicured. For the horny-handed son of toil and special care must be taken; cream should be applied to remove ingrained grime, and the nails cleaned. "If he were not in the habit of having them manicured in life, trimming and shaping is advised for better appearance-never questioned by kin."

Jones is now ready for casketing (this is the present participle verb of "to casket"). In this operation his right shoulder should be depressed slightly "to turn the body a bit to the right and soften the appearance of lying flat on the back." Positioning the hands is a matter of importance, and special rubber positioning blocks may be used. The hands should be cupped slightly for a more lifelike, relaxed appearance. Proper placement of the body requires a delicate sense of balance. It should lie as high as possible in the casket, yet not so high that the lid, when lowered, will hit the nose. On the other hand, we are cautioned, placing the body too low "creates the impression that the body is in a box."

Jones is next wheeled into the appointed slumber room where a few last touches may be added-his favorite pipe placed in his hand or, if he was a great reader, a book propped into position. (In the case of little Master Jones a Teddy bear may be clutched.) Here he will hold open house for a few days, visiting hours 10 A.M. to 9 P.M.

All now being in readiness, the funeral director calls a staff conference to make sure that each assistant knows his precise duties. Mr. Wilber Kriege writes: "This makes your staff feel that they are part of the team, with a definite assignment that must be properly carried out if the whole plan is to succeed. You never heard of a football coach who failed to talk to his entire team before they go on the field. They have drilled on the plays they are to execute for hours and days, and yet the successful coach knows the importance of making even the bench-warming third-string substitute feel that he is important if the game is to be won." The winning of [i]this[/i] game is predicated upon glass-smooth handling of the logistics. The funeral director has notified the pallbearers whose names were furnished by the family, has arranged for the presence of clergyman, organist, and soloist, has provided transportation for everybody, has organized and listed the flowers sent by friends. In [i]Psychology of Funeral Service[/i] Mr. Edward A. Martin points out: "He may not always do as much as the family thinks he is doing, but it is his helpful guidance that they appreciate in knowing they are proceeding as they should . . . . The important thing is how well his services can be used to make the family believe they are giving unlimited expression to their own sentiment."

The religious service may be held in a church or in the chapel of the funeral home; the funeral director vastly prefers the latter arrangement, for not only is it more convenient for him but it affords him the opportunity to show off his beautiful facilities to the gathered mourners. After the clergyman has had his say, the mourners queue up to file past the casket for a last look at the deceased. The family is [i]never[/i] asked whether they want an open-casket ceremony; in the absence of their instruction to the contrary, this is taken for granted. Consequently well over 90 per cent of all American funerals feature the open casket-a custom unknown in other parts of the world. Foreigners are astonished by it. An English woman living in San Francisco described her reaction in a letter to the writer:

[center][size=1] I myself have attended only one funeral here-that of an elderly fellow worker of mine. After the service I could not understand why everyone was walking towards the coffin (sorry, I mean casket), but thought I had better follow the crowd. It shook me rigid to get there and find the casket open and poor old Oscar lying there in his brown tweed suit, wearing a suntan makeup and just the wrong shade of lipstick. If I had not been extremely fond of the old boy, I have a horrible feeling that I might have giggled. Then and there I decided that I could never face another American funeral-even dead.[/size][/center]

The casket (which has been resting throughout the service on a Classic Beauty Ultra Metal Casket Bier) is now transferred by a hydraulically operated device called Porto-Lift to a balloon-tired, Glide Easy casket carriage which will wheel it to yet another conveyance, the Cadillac Funeral Coach. This may be lavender, cream, light green-anything but black. Interiors, of course, are color-correlated, "for the man who cannot stop short of perfection."

At graveside, the casket is lowered into the earth. This office, once the prerogative of friends of the deceased, is now performed by a patented mechanical lowering device. A "Lifetime Green" artificial grass mat is at the ready to conceal the sere earth, and overhead, to conceal the sky, is a portable Steril Chapel Tent ("resists the intense heat and humidity of summer and terrific storms of winter . . . available in Silver Grey, Rose or Evergreen"). Now is the time for the ritual scattering of earth over the coffin, as the solemn words, "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust" are pronounced by the officiating cleric. This can boldly be accomplished "with a mere flick of the wrist with the Gordon Leak-Proof Earth Dispenser. No grasping of a handful of dirt, no soiled fingers. Simple, dignified, beautiful, reverent! The modern way!" The Gordon Earth Dispenser (at $5) is of nickel-plated brass construction. It is not only "attractive to the eye and long wearing"; it is also "one of the 'tools' for building better public relations" if presented as "an appropriate non-commercial gift" to the clergyman. It is shaped something like a saltshaker.

Untouched by human hand, the coffin and the earth are now united. It is in the function of directing the participants through this maze of gadgetry that the funeral director has assigned to himself his relatively new role of "grief therapist." He has relieved the family of every detail, he has revamped the corpse to look like a living doll, he has arranged for it to nap for a few days in a slumber room, he has put on a well-oiled performance in which the concept of [i]death[/i] played no part whatsoever-unless it was inconsiderately mentioned by the clergyman who conducted the religious service. He has done everything in his power to make the funeral a real pleasure for everybody concerned. He and his team have given their all to score an upset victory over death. [/quote]
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I think that funerals are a waste of a lot of money. They are a rip off. Also, another thing, when a person dies and I go to their funeral...I feel no pain or sorrow. I show no emotion. That is how I am. My great uncle, who I was really close to died about a year ago, I didn't appear upset at all. Pets are a different matter though. I am about to go through that with my dog. T_T Anyways, the embalming process, I think, is partly tradition, and partly to make the people whom loved and cherished that now dead person, to feel better. Funerals can be sad, but they also make some people hope for the best in the days ahead.
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[QUOTE][i]Originally posted by Mitch [/i]
But back to the topic at hand--the funeral. Does the funeral provide any amount of closure? I don't think so. Tell me, does seeing your loved one one last time, all dolled up, all superficial, and dead, does this make any closure? I doubt it. [/quote][/b][/size]

[color=deeppink]Personally, I don't think so. But it depends on the person who has died. For the 16-year-old girl I hardly knew who died of leukemia, the funeral brought closure because it seemed like the right thing for me to do; pay my respects and all. For my brother's death, closure hasn't exactly happened yet. The closest thing to 'closure' I have found is being able to visit the grave site and see all of the things friends and family have brought there. It's so great to know that so many people still think of him.[/color]

[B][size=1][quote]I know that if I would see someone dead-eyed, in their casket, it is not going to make me feel better, it is going to make me feel worse; and it is going to stay in my memories--a memory that is the last time I saw this person before they were forever inhumed, or cremated, or whatever they so sought to do.[/quote][/size][/b]

[color=deeppink]Again, I agree. It seems very unnatural and very uncomfortable, like I'm looking at something that I shouldn't be. My brother [I'll use Eric from now on] looked nothing like he did while he was alive, and this was slightly creepy. It's definitely something that disturbed me more than anything.[/color]

[quote][b][size=1]So, with life support, and whatever else money, one gets one "finale," one last toast to life's good fortune--they get a party where they don't even exist, at least physically, that is all about sadness, eulogies, ineffable emotions, all the things which death is so-set to be.[/b][/size][/quote]

[color=deeppink]Funerals are definitely a part of American culture [and other cultures, indeed]. It's the socially correct thing to do, and the funeral industry thrives off of the fact that people are upset enough to make irrational decisions about money when it comes to righting any wrongs they committed toward the deceased during their lifetime. Emotions are easy to play like that.[/color]

[size=1][b][quote]Realistically, what is death? It's dying. Nothing more. Death is not a funeral, death is not embalming, death is not mourning, death is not being buried in the ground; death is a Fate, one which we must accept on some ground, and go on with our lives until it happens to us. Death isn't some big deal. It's just what it is--it's death--it is not some flowery, fluent, immortalizing, tantalizing thing. It's death. It is "a permanent cessation of all vital functions," it is the ending of a life. [/quote][/b][/size]

[color=deeppink]Literally speaking, you're correct. But it's easy to simplify death when you don't want to think of it as being a big deal. It's hard for me to believe that people can deny death as being an impactful occurance on people who love the deceased party. Simplify it all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that [i]someone[/i] is going to be deeply effected by another person's death.[/color]

[quote][b][size=1]From the graves--tombstones--cosmetics used by embalmers--on and on and on--it's just to the point where I can't even see why people would waste such large amounts of money on such an inevitable thing.[/b][/quote][/size]

[color=deeppink]I find my brother's tombstone to be extremely beautiful, a perfect tribute to someone so young and wonderful. I don't think it was a waste of money at all, it's marking his final resting place for as long as it stands on the earth. It's an object that marks the place where people can come to feel closer to the boy that they knew and continue to love.

I didn't read the article because I don't think I'm necessarily ready to read it yet. Maybe later on when I've come to better grips with the whole death issue.[/color]
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Well, my father died at a rather early point in my life. I was around seven or eight years old, I'd say. The idea of it all was rather strange. Yeah, you expect your parents to generally die before you do, but not at that stage in your life.

I was first told of my dad's death by a family friend who was staying over at the time. I think his name was John, but we all just called him "Low Rider". I've been in a biker family all my life, so nicknames were really commonplace... as odd as they may sound to others.

I think this kind of added to the surreal quality it all had. A guy I basically see once every few years is telling me my dad is gone. My mom left the house to talk to the police or whomever was involved, so there was really no one else who could have told me.

I wound up sitting in the bathroom. I just sat there. I didn't cry. I didn't really think about anything other than "How could this even be true?" Obviously it was. I guess I was in some sort of denial, but I couldn't have realized it at the time.

The funeral didn't help either. It, in and of itself, really offered nothing for me. I walked up to the casket and touched my dad's face... my hand was pulled away rather quickly though. That was basically the end of it. I sat there, yet again.

What I've never understood is the banquet that followed. It was either after the funeral or the wake, but I cannot remember. We were in a massive hall with a huge amount of people. In retrospect, I guess it's supposed to signify moving on and celebrating his life, even after death. At the time, it just seemed like a big party and I just didn't like the idea of it.

As for the graves, Chicago no longer allows impressive ones. I don't know about the rest of the world, but here you're basically forced to get these flat, stone "plaques". The reason is because the groundskeeper can basically just run the lawnmower over them instead of having to dodge huge monuments. It's all about the money, as usual.

As for death itself, I don't concern myself over it. I figure that when I go, I go. I'm not going to concern myself over something that is inevitable... especially when I'm having a hard enough time with my actual life. That's not to say I want to die or anything, I'm just not scared or worried about it. I know this opinion bothers a lot of people. Specifically those who really care about you.

However, I think that when someone dies, there really should be some sort of service. No, it's not about dying or caskets or embalming or what have you. It's about remembering this person with a group of people who also felt strongly about the deceased... something you most likely won't have a chance to do again. You can always think about it yourself or talk to some close people in your life about it... but you're not really going to have that sense of community around it all.

You're not going to see this person in this state ever again either. After this day, the body will be in the ground and you'll never again be able to see the finality of it all. The fact that this is real and irreversible. I think this is rather important in ending things for people.

I think that in and of itself can help you get over it more than people realize. The idea that others cared for this person enough to come and that they're all also striken by this. Sure, the funeral itself may not help some people, but the people there sure can. I think that you may realize more about this person thanks to this than you would have simply moping in a corner alone.

You're thinking too logically about this. It also seems like more of an attempt to close yourself off from actual emotions and feelings. I know you like to think you're the definition of apathetic sometimes, but you're not heh. Nothing good results from that.
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[size=1]Mitch, I swear, you must have said the same thing about 3 times. Perhaps you don't like funerals, but you're driving the point home and it doesn't need to be.

Australia, as far as I know, does not have open caskets.

I don't see funerals as a waste of time. And I don't believe the point of a funeral is to over-romanticise. And I do believe that it brings closure.

The thing is, I can see you've analysed it all logically. But there's a very important factor in there: emotion, and human fear. People go to funerals to respect the dead, and, more importantly, the dead's family.

The death of loved ones [i]hurts[/i]. People might say that they don't care, or they won't show emotion, but it [i]really[/i] hurts. It takes a long time to get over it, and even then the stupidest things can make you upset again. A funeral is there to comfort those who lost. It's hard to let go, and making sure that your loved one is well taken care of is an emotional thing. It comes from taking care of them in life, and it carries on in life. I'm sorry, but I'd rather not think of my father rotting in the ground, carcass infested with worms. A personal choice, you understand. Even a cremation has a funeral, but instead of being buried, they're burnt.

So the people come to the funeral, to mentally say goodbye and to remember the person they used to know. To see a coffin makes it all so much more [i]real[/i]. People have lived in denial because they didn't think it was real.

And, too, death brings home ones own mortality. And who wants to be forgotten when they die?

I don't know about you, but I do to a funeral to help the family of the person who died, to try to help them grieve.

[By the way, 'debase' means humiliate, demean or degrade. The word you're looking for is 'digress': to get off the topic, to go off on a tangent.]

Look, I'm sorry if this has come across as harsh or something. But you know those stupid things that make you upset that I mentioned? Well...this was of them.[/size]
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[size=1][color=indigo]First off, pardon the appearance of this post, which I'm sure will suck; I'm experimenting with tags. ^^;

Anyway, Mitch, when I read what you had to say, I noticed the word [i]I[/i] in there a lot. "I believe", "I don't think so", etc. That's cool; [i]you've[/i] got an opinion. And you're certainly entitled to it.

However, just because [i]you[/i] react a certain way to Death does not mean that [i]I[/i] or anyone else does. Perhaps funnerals provide no clousure to you; they might to others. (Not to me, personally, butt hat's a tangent.) If spending money on a funneral or a wake makes someone better come to grips with what has happened, why shouldn't they?

Also, to say that "Death is nothing more than Death", quite frankly, is a horrible outlook to take. If you're going to minimize such an important and final thing as Death, then perhaps the people who hold elaborate funnerals aren't the ones who have problems with Death; it [i]is[/i] a big deal.[/color][/size]
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Recently I had to write my own eulogy for English and read it out loud to the class. The girl that went before me requested that for her funeral her casket be marble, her hair be tied up and her make-up done in natural brownish tones. I think she basically mentioned every detail and I found it rather funny that even in death she could be so materialistic. I never liked the idea of the open casket funeral, the unreal doll like quality of the body has always bothered me.

I've been to about three funerals in my life time and 2 out of 3 of those times I spent the night at the funeral home sleeping in the same room as the body. I'm very stoic during the whole situation, but what has always made me cry is the lowering of the body into the earth. It's my breaking point, where I finally realize 'this person I cared for is really dead and they're not coming back.'

I hardly think that a funeral is a waste of time, some people need that, sort of like what Semjaza said, the sense of community. As for me, I've always thought I'd like to disappear. I'm not sure why, but the thought of knowing about my death before-hand, and then leaving so that no one know for sure what happened to me seems appealing.
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[color=indigo]When I was younger I remembered hating funerals. I thought that it was incredibly inappropriate to throw a reception when someone near and dear died. However, when my grandfather (who was more or less a second father) passed away, I realized that the reception/wake/funeral process really helps and forces a person to except that their loved one isn?t alive. I guess being among my grandfather?s old friends and family and listening to them tell tales of him that dated to his childhood calmed my grief.

I have never been a fan of the embalming process, however, but my family seems to have always favored cremation and the scattering of ashes. The few funerals I have been to that have had open caskets were for people I really didn?t know well. I always found it disconcerting to see a lifeless body as the focal point of a room, but again it is a tradition, and I am sure it does help people to cope sometimes.[/color]
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[color=#707875]I attended my grandfather's funeral last year...and I was very close to him. It was really the first time that someone very close to me had died. I mean, a friend of mine from school died several years ago and I went to his funeral as well...but he wasn't as close to me as my grandfather.

Generally, I don't like funerals. I don't like them because they upset me. Being surrounded by such obvious pain isn't an easy thing to deal with. It makes me feel very overwhelmed at times.

And to add to that, funerals don't give me any kind of closure. I don't know who invented that word...but whoever invented it is an idiot, in my opinion. lol

I almost feel like it's some silly tabloid saying that everyone uses now. "Closure" -- as if it's that simple.

It's not. While there are events that will help you to settle with the reality of what has happened, "closure" in a black and white sense does not exist. At least, in my experience it doesn't. That word is thrown around so much and it's become some stupid catchphrase -- it's something that demeans the depth and complexity of emotion, in my view.

At my grandfather's funeral, I felt upset. When I heard that he'd died in hospital and up until the funeral, I felt completely numb. It was only at the funeral itself that I actually [i]realized[/i] that he was truly dead.

My mother asked me if I wanted to see him (his casket was open before the proceedings; it wasn't open during them) and I immediately said no. The very thought of that made me want to be violently ill. Having the possibility in front of me felt alien and bizarre and awful. And I didn't want to put myself through that.

If it had been an open casket ceremony, there is no way I could have handled it. The whole idea of seeing a loved one laying at the front of the room dead, is just a really gruesome idea to me. So I'm glad that it isn't really a tradition in this country.

Having said all of that...when the service ended and I walked outside for some fresh air, I felt a [i]lot[/i] better. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

It wasn't just because I'd gotten out of there, either. It was because I had felt "closure" in a tangible way, I guess. The funeral had been depressing and upsetting, yeah. But it had also been a celebration of my grandfather's life and achievements. And to me, that was the most important part of the entire thing.

So, I don't see death as some on/off, black/white issue. How can I? I'm a human being with emotions. If someone close to me died and I said "Yeah, whatever, just throw 'em in the dirt"...I would have to question what kind of human being I really am.

It's not because death is some mystical thing that everyone should cower over. It's that the death of somebody is a significant event in itself; it [i]always[/i] deeply affects somebody, whether it's me or someone else.

I am sure that if the funeral had never happened, I would still feel numb today. Maybe I'd have a nagging feeling at the back of my mind about it. I don't know.

But I do know that the funeral was a catalyst for me personally. It allowed me to absorb the gravity of what had taken place...and it also allowed me to both face the reality that someone close to me had died and also that their life is something that should be remembered.

So, I guess that's a pretty garbled/random response...but I think that anyone who has ever had a close family member die cannot possibly be completely apathetic about funerals or the whole process that surrounds death. If you have any sense of emotion or humanity, I don't know how you can remain unaffected by it.[/color]
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[size=1]I also had to write my own eulogy for a psychology class once, and that was more than a little disconcerting. Talk about an out-of-body experience. It makes me sort of glad that I won't be alive to see it happen a second time.

A couple years ago my grandmother died around Christmas, and I remember being completely numb throughout the entire funeral. I didn't cry once. We never really lived near her, though towards the end of her life she took to visiting us during winter every year for the warm weather. Even so, we weren't as close as I wish we could have been, and even after she died, it took me a really long time to come to terms with it. It was just more comfortable to think that she was still in Ohio, miles away, and that would be the only thing that stopped me from seeing her.

In retrospect, I really, really wish I would have cried. Instead of allowing people to comfort me and support me, I became stoic and closed off and that only made it ten times worse. I'm only just starting to get to the point where I can fully understand everything that went on then. So I have to agree with what many others have said before - the funeral [i]is[/i] important. It's not just a waste of money. It's a way to bring all those who loved the deceased together to share their memories, their happiness, and their sadness, and accept death for what it is.[/size]
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[QUOTE][i]Originally posted by Arcadia [/i]
[B][size=1]It was just more comfortable to think that she was still in Ohio, miles away, and that would be the only thing that stopped me from seeing her.
[/size] [/B][/QUOTE]

[color=deeppink]That's exactly how I had been dealing with my brother's death throughout an intense period of personal denial. It [i]is[/i] way easier to pretend that they're simply 2000+ miles away, still living, still breathing, still making people smile. I suppose I still think of it this way to some extent, but being home for three weeks at Christmas helped me come to further terms with the ordeal, and being able to visit the grave site lessened the denial a great deal.

But yeah, coming to terms with death is hard. I know that it'll take me a long time to fully understand how I feel about it. I know that the worst thing someone can do is close themselves off from any emotion that they may be feeling, because that's what I've done and it's been horrible. Just recently have I realized that it's ok to simply break down and cry about it; no one is going to think any less of me for having human feelings.[/color]
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For my own death, I don;t really care what they do with my body. I won't be needing it.

But I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm not affected by the deaths of those around me. I know if I were to lose a close family member, I'd be just as inclined to spend a ridiculous amount of money to have a proper funeral for them(note, however, that I do consider it ridiculous) as the next person. Not that it brings any kind of end to anything. It's just doing what you can to see that a final favor is done--or something.

As I said, I won't be needing my body when I'm gone. I'll be getting a newer, better one. They can throw mine in a dumpster for all I care.

EDIT: I forgot to mention something: I do find the presentation of the body to be very disturbing, though. Not because I'm afraid of it, but simply because, as previously stated, I'd rather remember the person as they were alive, rather than 'prettied-up' like they do at the funeral homes.

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[color=003333][size=1]A funeral, aye...

Nah, that's ok. You can just burn me and toss my ashes somewhere or another. Just don't keep them on the mantle. i would hate to think what might happen if they fell down one day and you had to vaccume me up... Eternity in a Hoover... I don't know about that. Sitting there next to the dust bunnies, assorted legos, and Barbie shoes... *shudder*

As for funerals, I find the funeral itself to be a pretty fair thing. People congregate in a room decorated with modest, but cheap, paintings and either remember the dead person or say "Hey there! Haven't seen you for about three years, though I wish this had been under better circumstances..."

The presentation of a body seems to be a rather vulgar ritual. You dress someone up like they have just been to a wedding, makeup them, pinch, pull, tuck, splint, stitch, break, drain, and pump them just for a look that ends up being absolutely nothing, or very little, like what they've looked like in the past. The end cost, to some a monument, ends up being quite costly and, in my opinion of course, extremely unnecessary.

If you loved someone, truely loved them, then why should you subject their loved ones to the tears and grief that is created by it's display? I would much rather remember the deceased family member laughing, smiling, and having fun than in a casket with a bunch of chemicals and other assorted foreign matter in their body. How gruesome.

As per my original funeral related opinion, the funeral itself is great. People are generally in good spirits until it comes to the viewing of the corpse, my own experiances remember. I've been talking to people that have been in a very good modd before they've made that small trek to the casket. Then they've come back downtrodden and dreary.

In truth, bodies have never bothered me. If I go to funerals, what makes me cry is the other people that are close to me, crying. Mob mentality, if you will. Cadavers, on my recent trip to a morgue, don't bother me. Why should these? They're just cadavers with pancake makeup and sutures in their lips.

On the subject of reconstuctive surgery on dead bodies, I'm not quite sure if it was mentioned in the article for I read it rather fast, people can do amzing things. I attended the funeral of a good friend of mine last year. He had commited suicide by placing the barrel of a gun on his left temple. The right side of his forehead was completely gone. But in the casket, his head looked [i]almost[/i] normal. You could tell where the reconstuctive plastic had been put but if you weren't looking for it, you wouldn't have seen it.

The funeral industry and dermasurgeons are really doing nothing but preying on the mindset of grief and societys in-ability to get over it. And truthfully, more power to them. They're using a completely in-exaustible resource to make their chunk of cash. People will always die. And there will always be people there to make the dead people look good.

But personally, I prefer the ancient Gaelic funerals. Everyone get's drunk and sings. :)[/size][/color]
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  • 2 years later...
Firstly, let's dispense with motives...I don't care weather you want to be buried, burned or shot out of a cannon. It's your funeral, not mine, as they say. I happen to like the elaborate, old fashioned, 'spooky' funerals. But, in any event, if you have lived your life in a caring way towards someone, your dying is going to cause some pain to someone. Americans, for better or worse have adopted a loathing for this "whole death thing" no matter what the cost. Funerals have been replaced by fuzzy non-events 'memorial services' that have all the coziness of a weekend cocktail party or barbaque, save for the real, yet hidden fact...somebody is dead! and a vital link in this chain is gone. Forever. Death causes those left to feel bad, at least that's been my experience. And you should feel bad, cry, scream, have stomach upset, yell and be haunted by the one you've lost. In other words... You Should Feel It. You can try to ignore reactions but they tend to stick with you.Why the attempt to circumvent grief??? Especially if this was someone you cared about and for? The time before death is a another odd event for the American, who is conditioned to recieving 'options'. Today, the American New Age Trend is to dump your elderly. Stick them into a holding cell until they expire. Why, my kids can't stand to see their family member wither and die. And they're better off anyway.... This 'brand' or type of denial is widely popular. Funerals are an easy target. This is because they are linked with the death, in other words, "My mother/father has died, I feel helpless for the first time in my life, and I want this to go away. so I want to dispose of the remains in the nearest incinerator, none of these funerals! and go from denial to acceptance in 10 easy seconds leaving me to return to my vapid little suburban 'lifestyle' before the next commercial. If I can say I've succeeded in eliminating the Old-fashioned, spooky, expensive, (fill in whatever YOU want) funeral I'll have scored over death!" Well, actually the person is still most surely, and eternally dead (and even though you all like the anti funeral bandwagon, no thing any embalmer can do makes anyone look alive and that was never the objective in the first place...)seeing it is believing it. I know this person is gone from my life because I have seen it with my own eyes. Now, I can feel bad, feel relieved, feel giddy but the door toward acceptance is open. And the cost factor is another favorite of American society. Pay no attention to the fact that I (American ) waste at basically the speed of sound, I drive, work, play and spit it out to start in again daily, (knee jerks)I now have become 'concerned' about burials being a waste of land...I 'm an instant conservationist. I spend more on Merlot in one year, have a cell phone with a camera, an iPod and cables for eveything in the house,have gym memberships,take 3-4 vacations a year, watch TV 5-6 hours a day, steal music online, drive a late model Lexus, and Lo! and behold, I am worried about a funeral being a waste of money. What a society...

I recently listened to a man talk continuously, I mean not even a breath, about his vacations and resturants he's been in while standing in front of a family member at a visitation or "Wake". No shutting up for a second. Not one moment of letting the person (family member) talk about what was going on with their lives now, the dead person was 10 feet away, and the only thing in the room was HIM. That was how vacuous this little boomer was... It was all about him. So I don't feel hopeful this is getting through to any of you. But, let it be a record for the future.

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