The Order of the Good Death – Being Death Positive While Remaining Genuine About Death

The Order of the Good Death
The Order of the Good Death

This will be a brief post on a great site/idea that I’ve come across in my search of the internet for information on death culture that isn’t too dark or either too campy – a place that’s just REAL about death. Anyways, the website is called The Order of the Good Death. I found out about this group of death-positive morticians, green burial enthusiasts, and advocates for practical funeral planning through a series of videos on YouTube entitled Ask a Mortician in which the eclectic mortician and all-around death culture guru Caitlin Doughty answers any and all questions about death, the dead, funeral planning, and the funeral industry. The videos range from anywhere from “ew, gross” to compelling to laughing out loud. The Order of the Good Death are also active on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Check them out for some entertaining and compelling death-positive content.

Preparation | Making Your Final Arrangements – You're Never Too Young To Plan…Or Die

This is the first in a series of blogs on preparedness. I felt the need to write these because, though I was a Boy Scout, I didn’t very far up the ranks and my preparedness is extremely lacking. As I research these topics, I’ll be sharing my findings with ya’ll. 

dead cartoon face

Everybody dies. Why not plan your own going-away party?

As I kick off this series of blogs about preparedness, I find it necessary to start out with one thing that everyone will experience and should plan for as weird as it seems – your own death. Nobody gets out of this world alive, so why not take some stock in what happens after you kick the bucket? For those who are creeped out by death or don’t want to have to think about it, you’d be surprised how much peace can come out of knowing exactly what will occur with your family, friends, and your remains after you’re long gone. 

“I’m only in my twenties. Isn’t that a bit early to be making final arrangements?”

For the record, I’m only 25. For those of you who think that’s too young to start planning for your own death, keep in mind that we’re not all going to die in our sleep at age 80+. After having been to funerals for friends who have either died in automobile accidents and have been the victims of other tragic mishaps, it’s extremely evident how little thought most younger adults give to their final arrangements. Most people my age don’t even know what kind of options are out there or how much they’re going to end up costing the family you leave behind – especially since most of them have little to no savings at this stage in the game. 

“I’m not married and don’t have any kids. Why should I start planning for death?”

A big argument I’ve heard against making any kind of final arrangements while you’re young is because most younger people have no significant other or no children to worry about including in a living will. Even if you don’t want to mess with legal details, just writing up some form of letter or other document outlining what you’d want your last wishes to be can not only be extremely helpful for the people you leave behind, but can also give you some peace of mind. If you’re married later and have kids, you can always revise the document and make the necessary legal changes down the line. I’ve been to a few funerals that were completely arranged by someone’s family that was a ceremony I know didn’t reflect the person they were mourning. If you’re not sure whether or not this may be the case, just think what kind of service your mom would plan for you if you died tomorrow. Is that really you? Is the burial in line with your current beliefs? 

“Whatever they choose is fine with me. I trust them.” 

Funeral home casket showroom.

In my experience with loved ones who have died as well doing research and talking with a funeral director buddy of mine, people are at their most financially vulnerable when they’re at their most emotionally vulnerable. Nobody wants to be seen as being cheap and even trying to get the best deal on a casket or burial service is seen as being tacky or even disrespectful to the memory of the deceased. This is a ploy that the funeral industry is just fine with as it allows them to mark up their products and services exponentially. People are taken for a ride especially when the deceased had no final arrangements when in actuality, if they were still alive, they’d more than likely yell “WHY ARE YOU SPENDING SO MUCH ON ME?! I’M DEAD!” Because that voice of reason is nowhere to be found for fear of being seen as cheap when wanting to honor the deceased, some of these funeral homes can get away with highway robbery with drastic markups and unnecessary services. By planning before hand and trying to get the best deal for yourself, you can save your loved ones a lot of attentional time, money, and grief. 

“How many options can there possibly be for final arrangements?”

A natural burial green burial site.

 

The funeral industry is constantly looking at new ways to customize and personalize the final arrangements of its clients. One reason for this is to deliver the most meaningful service possible to their clients, but other one is simply because it allows them to sell your family more products and services. These days, most people in America are embalmed, prepped for a viewing and/or open-casket service in a sanctuary or funeral chapel with them in an air-tight casket, and then are buried inside a concrete vault in a grave in a well-manicured cemetery. The second most popular opinion is being cremated with the cremains (cremated remains) stored in a decorative urn either with the family, scattered, or buried in yet another well-manicured cemetery. Most people aren’t even aware that there are even more options out there. Another form of funeral and burial option becoming more popular with the economically and environmentally conscious is natural burial, also called “green burial.” With this option, the body is not embalmed and is buried in the ground in a biodegradable casket or burial shroud directly in the ground in a “green cemetery” – a burial grounds that resembles a nature reserve for it’s lack of grave markers and landscaping. Other options for burial are only limited by local laws and finances, but doing a just
a little bit of research can go a long way towards helping you decide on what method best reflects your last wishes and/or the amount of money you want to drop on your burial or other funeral arrangements. From being shot into space to being dumped in a hole while wrapped in a sheet, check out your options. 


“Thinking about my final arrangements creeps me out. I don’t want to think about dying.”

A hearse at a cemetery.

Most people, especially younger people, just don’t want to think about dying. They’re in the prime of their lives and feel the most alive, so they feel that preparing for their own death can almost drag them down. For these people, it’s important to remember this fact: everybody dies. Everybody will die. You will one day no longer be alive and your body will either be ashes, decomposing in the soil, or slowly withering away inside an air-tight casket…which will, one day leak and fill with water. Still, when it comes to making your final arrangements, there are two benefits to doing this now: 

1. Making your final plans now will save your family the hassle of trying to figure out what you wanted. Your family will be devastated by your passing – the last thing you want to do is force them to try and figure out what you may have wanted at a price that won’t put clean out their savings. Today, you’re in your right mind and you want the best price. Your family will be beside themselves and won’t want to be seen as being cheap. 

2. At times, some people aren’t as creeped out by the concept of dying as they are about what happens to their bodies after they die. Lots of unknown pieces of information can make people anxious about dying. 

 “Where do I even begin in making final arrangements?”

Many think that making your final arrangements is an appointment with the funeral home to look at caskets. Giving your loved ones an idea of what you want can be as simple as writing up a grocery list of things you want and things you don’t want. It can be a letter or a note just leading your family in the right direction. You don’t have to choose between a periwinkle blue steel and mahogany in order to start making final arrangements. It can be as simple as some of my own personal arrangements I’ve made know with my wife and other members of my family:

“Upon my death, if health regulations allow, I desire to have my body returned to my family for final preparations for burial. This should only be the case if I die in such a manner that my body is not severely disfigured or in a way where a home funeral is not possible. If the cause of death makes a home funeral not possible, my body can be washed, dressed in plain clothes, and placed in a burial shroud by funeral professionals where is it not visible. Under no circumstances is my body to be embalmed. If the condition of my body allows, it is my desire for my body to washed and prepared for burial and dressed in plain clothes by my family members and close friends. In a room removed from the rest of the house, those who desire to see my body and spend time saying good-bye and obtaining closure should be allowed to do so, but this decision is to be left up to the individual as the appearance of the body may be disturbing to some due to a lack of embalming. The funeral service is to take place in the home, the body is to be completely covered by a burial shroud. It is my wish to be buried in a natural burial or green burial cemetery with no vault or grave liner. The Shema and other assorted passages from Psalms and prayers are to be recited before the grave is dug. Able-bodied family members and friends are to dig the grave, lower the body into the grave, and shovel the soil back into the grave. If there is any grave marker, it is to be something natural, such as an inscription on unhewn stone or a planted tree.”
 
With a little bit of research and planning, some very simple steps can be made on your part to save your family lots of money and grief as well as give you a little bit of peace of mind.