Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

Posted on Jan 10, 2018 | 0 comments

Did you know your posthumous options are greater than pumping your heavy metals into the atmosphere and enclosing yourself in many thousands of dollars worth of metal box inside a concrete box only to turn into a hot stewy mess? For the most part, I didn’t.

This book dives into those alternatives, provides the history of them and the current funeral industry (hint: it’s mostly a product of the past century), and ultimately left me curious to find out more. How can I save my family money, time, effort, and give back when I’m already gone? All of these things are appealing and there are ways.

I won’t go into the various methods that are better than what we currently have at our disposal (hah), but suffice to say I have reached out to a local cemetery that is the largest in the country [and that I happen to often ride my bicycle through] performing “natural” burials.

With the subject of death being taboo in general, I found myself unable to put this one down as I was learning new things left and right. I won’t lie, I’m fascinated by the mortuary arts, but only in text; absolutely no desire to do that stuff. Anyway, after a few days, I did find myself a bit burned out on the subject of dying and decaying so my reading did slow, but the author wrapped it up nice and tight and drew things to a close before dragging on.

Highly recommended read. Even if you don’t, you should probably think about “life” after death. Never hurts to have plans. We’re all gonna die.

Raw Notes

  • The idea is to allow the body to rejoin the elements, to use what remains of a life to regenerate new life, to return dust to dust.
  • Cremation, with its consumption of natural gas and electricity and release of mercury and other potentially hazardous emissions into the atmosphere.
  • Brackish blood streams from the tube and spills into the gutter that rims the embalming table. From there it flows into a porcelain basin at the head of the table called a “slop” sink and gurgles down the drain on its way to the city sewer system.
  • No federal law requires that a body be embalmed.
  • The few studies that examine the public health benefit to embalming show decidedly mixed results.
  • The state of Hawaii prohibits the embalming of a body infected with any of half a dozen communicable diseases.
  • Formaldehyde is nonetheless a human carcinogen, and because of its potentially toxic effect when released into the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates it as a hazardous waste. The funeral industry, however, legally buries over three pounds of the formaldehyde-based “formalin” embalming solution every time it inters an embalmed body.
  • The growing middle class worked to emulate the refined lifestyle—and the more involved funeral etiquette—of its “betters.”
  • When it came to elaborating on the simple funeral, capitalism and gentility proved a winning combination.
  • Areas of Anglo-Saxon Britain, where the dead were burned upon the “bone fires” from which we inherit the less funereal English word bonfire.