[If you’re a regular, you may have noticed that the background changed a bit. Don’t be alarmed, it was just time for an update. If you’re new here, welcome! Hope you’re not intimidated by a little dialogue about death… no, really.]
I get it. I like living in the mountains. I use cloth bags for my groceries. In fact, I advocate ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ in all circumstances. I compost. I cringe at the amount of petroleum used on a daily basis, yet I want a bus-load of kids. I’m obsessed with learning about midwives and morticians. I’m kind of a granola– and that’s ok with me. All of this begs the question: aren’t modern embalming practices anti-earth friendly? The simple answer, yes, unfortunately, they are.
So what of it? There are many unnatural things, and lots of chemicals, involved in preserving a ‘memory picture’ of our loved ones as we view them between death and burial. Without these chemicals, the type of viewing (open-casket) we think of would simply not be possible. The chemicals–formaldehyde, methanol, phenol, etc. offer temporary preservation for the body. After burial, the chemicals eventually reach the earth and probably our ground water. There are also materials used in hospitals, ambulances, the preparation room, and cemeteries that are not sustainable (mostly plastics and precious metals). And then there’s the space taken up by cemeteries, headstones, mausoleums, on and on and on. To think I will actually depend on this way of doing things for my livelihood bothers me sometimes. But, then again, it doesn’t. I get it. I understand why we do it this way. I mean, let’s face it, it’s right in line with our American way of living. Does that mean I agree with it or think it’s for everyone? No.
The bottom line is that we see what we want to see about the funeral business.
If you want to see that our culture has shaped us into being materialistic and shallow, you can fall into the camp that says funerals are obsolete; that the presence of the dead at their own funeral is optional; that all funeral directors do is capitalize on the grief of others.
If you want to sympathize and say open-casket services are essential to the grieving process, you’d be in the group that says embalming is a necessary art, one that is unique to the funeral industry and important for closure for friends and loved ones.
If you want to get hung up on the paperwork and the insurance and the money and the convenient ‘packages’ funeral homes offer, you can and I won’t judge you because I have the same thoughts.
I choose to see that embalming, open caskets, cremations, funerals, gravesides, flowers, thank-you cards, etc. are important. I just don’t think all of it has to be for everyone—And that is what will help me change along with this business.
After attending a funeral directing convention this week, I have some new knowledge of the industry and some new ideas of my own that I will continue to talk about. Please feel free to share your ideas with me too!