‘The Good Death’: Communications Expert Approaches End-of-Life Discussions With Humor

— Communications Expert Approaches End-of-Life Discussions With Humor

Sitting neatly on Christian Seiter’s desk is a pair of salt and pepper shakers shaped like gravestones, each one with its own inscription: “Here lies salt” and “Here lies pepper.” 

Surrounded by death-inspired trinkets and memorabilia, the assistant professor of human communications at Cal State Fullerton calls himself a “death positive scholar” interested in studying end-of-life communication. His research analyzes how different emotions — such as worry and humor — impact people’s willingness to confront their mortality.

By understanding the power of these communication strategies, Seiter’s goal is to encourage people to talk about death and help them work toward what he calls “the good death.”

“Death comes for us all, as harrowing as that can be. Pretending that it’s not going to happen isn’t going to help anybody. In fact, failing to prepare could make the worst day of your loved one’s life unnecessarily worse,” said Seiter. “When time is running short, the gifts that we give are almost all communication-based — things like communicating clearly about what wishes you would want.”

Using Humor to Face Mortality

According to Seiter, planning for a person’s death includes three main steps: reflecting on one’s values and beliefs about the end-of-life, sharing those wishes with loved ones through conversation and formalizing those wishes with documentation, such as advance directives.

Advance care directives include living wills which outline a person’s decisions for medical treatment if they are no longer able to express informed consent, and designating a health care proxy to make medical decisions if a person is unable.

For many, especially young and healthy people, these steps can seem unnecessary or premature, but Seiter said that preparing for the end of someone’s life is similar to packing a spare tire before a long road trip. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

“It’s pretty easy to convince someone who is elderly or someone who’s very ill that this is relevant, but it’s a lot harder to convince college students that they’re not immortal,” he said.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Seiter said that death anxiety has significantly increased. He explained that the constant reminder of death has deterred people from seeking information about end-of-life care.

In a study he conducted in 2020, Seiter found that worry can be used as a mechanism to influence people to take an active role in planning for the end of their life, but in response to the pandemic and high levels of demotivation, he’s interested in another approach to discussing death — humor.

“Humor has the ability to make conversations about death more accessible for everybody,” said Seiter. 

Christian Seiter
Christian Seiter, assistant professor of human communications

This semester, he is working on a research project that evaluates how different levels of humor in a podcast impact listeners’ ability to talk about death and seek out end-of-life precautions. In three podcasts, the speakers talk about advance care planning, but aside from a control episode, one episode adds humor and the third includes humor with profanity.

He is still analyzing the data, but historically, profanity in the death positive movement has been a popular method of encouraging young people to engage with such topics as last wishes and advance care.

Despite Seiter’s best intentions, he knows that there are a lot of reasons why people postpone thinking about their death. For some people, it’s fear that talking about it will invite death into their lives.

No matter the reason, Seiter said it’s important to think about the bigger picture and the additional heartbreak that loved ones could be spared if these conversations occur before it’s too late.

“I’m always amazed by the stories that I hear of people talking about how some of the best days of their lives were some of the last days of their lives because they don’t have to worry about the next steps. Everything is already in place, and they can focus on saying goodbye and leaving with peace,” said Seiter. “Clarity is maybe the greatest gift you could give your loved ones.”

Not everyone is as fascinated with death as Seiter, but there are ways that they can begin to have these conversations in informal and low-risk settings. He said that the first step is to start thinking about one’s mortality and deciding who they would trust to act on their behalf. After discussing those answers with loved ones, people can fill out an advance care directive online without the help of a lawyer.

“I think it’s important for us to step into places of constructive discomfort,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of approaching it with healthy curiosity. If you are curious about it, don’t stifle that. Don’t let societal taboos or myths stop you, and don’t judge yourself for being curious.”

Becoming Death Positive

Seiter found his niche in end-of-life communication as an actor studying medical humanities and bioethics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. His original goal was to design a theater-based workshop that taught participants clinical empathy. During his program, his adviser sent him to the palliative care unit, and the experience altered his perception of death permanently.

“When I stepped into the very first patient room, I almost fainted and I had to excuse myself. It’s not something that came easily,” said Seiter. “After I composed myself and received a pep talk from my mentor, I reframed the experience and was able to have some of the most meaningful weeks of my life. That’s where I fell in love with the idea of ‘the good death.’”

From that moment on, he shifted his interest away from theater and began his career in academia, conducting research and engaging students with this topic of death.

He brings his expertise into the classroom at CSUF, teaching classes on health communication, processes of social influence and persuasion as well as interpersonal communication and research methods.

“Many people don’t want to admit that we are all a little curious about this, and yet, you would never know because nobody wants to talk about it,” said Seiter. “Especially with COVID-19, we’ve all been living with death very intimately for several years and giving people an avenue to talk about it is a really valuable thing.”

Complete Article HERE!

Making death conversations fun!

“Arriving at an acceptance of one’s mortality is a process, not an epiphany.”
– Atul Gawande

By Althea Halchu

Imagine a group of old (mature) friends gathered for a “girls” weekend in balmy Florida. The friendships started in grammar school and have continued for the better part of 50 years. These women have met at least once a year for more than 25 years and shared life’s ups and downs. On this trip, one of the women pulls out a deck of cards called Talk of a Lifetime, and the play begins. I don’t have to imagine, they were my cards and my friends, and we spent the evening sipping wine, taking turns uncovering questions from the deck, discussing end-of-life topics, and laughing! We learned much about each other’s life and end-of-life goals that night. Who would have thought talking about death could be so much fun?

Conversations with loved ones and providers are crucial to the advanced care planning process. In a recent AARP survey of 2,000 adults, “54 percent had not completed a medical power of attorney or advance care directive, and a whopping 62 percent of those said they had not gotten around to it; 15 percent said they did not know how; and 13 percent said they did not like talking about these things.”

Here is a fun solution for those who have their head in the sand. The following games are designed to help people have those conversations in a painless and fun way. Try them out over the mashed potatoes or wine at your next family gathering.

1. Talk of a Lifetime. Created by the National Funeral Directors Association offers 50 cards with 50 questions to help you learn more about your loved ones. Players share stories about life, the things that matter most, and how they want to be remembered.

2. Hello Game is the easy, non-threatening way to start a conversation with your family and friends about living and dying and what matters most to you.

3. Go Wish gives you an easy, even entertaining way to talk about what is most important to you. The cards help you find words to talk about what is important if you were to be living a life that may be shortened by serious illness.

4. The Death Deck is a party game that lets you explore a topic we’re all obsessed with but often afraid to discuss, DEATH. With a playful tone and a sense of humor, The Death Deck is a game and tool that allows friends and family members to open up and share thoughts, stories, and preferences about life and death in a non-threatening and surprisingly fun way. Players partner up to guess answers to deep, funny, and sometimes weird questions on death. With 112 cards and numerous ways to play, The Death Deck encourages lively conversations and life-changing dialogue.

5. Heart to Heart Cards game is designed to make it easier for a family member, a caregiver, or a health provider to understand what a loved one wants through the EOL. Each card is in English and Chinese and is designed to help reach Chinese-speaking community members. However, they can be used by healthy individuals who want family members or friends to know what they would like when their lives may be threatened by injury or disease.

6. Heart2Hearts: Advance Care Planning cards provide 52 conversation starters about advanced care planning. Be prepared to have the most meaningful conversation of your life. Playing, completing the innovative workbook, and discussing it with your loved ones will give them a priceless gift…peace of mind. They will know your wishes and can follow them if you cannot make health care decisions yourself.

7. Elephant in the Room is a set of 96 cards in 4 categories of scenarios and questions for discussion. Each individual can confirm their preferences, enhance communication with their family and health care team, provide time for family and other loved ones to understand decisions, and relieve uncertainty or guilt about decision-making. These are personal conversations, not medical consultations, and they will require a loving commitment of time and attention from all involved.

8. Death Conversation Game facilitates open thinking and conversations on death in safe, respectful environments of chosen friends, family, students, clients, colleagues, or strangers. The depth and breadth of the conversation depend on you. Whether it’s death-related theology, ideology, metaphysics, bookish details, relationship considerations, bereavement, and a number of other subjects. Available online only through Apple or Android.

9. GraveTalk from the Church of England offers 50 unique cards for use in small groups, each with a thought-provoking question to start the end-of-life conversation.

Life: What is important in your life? How would you like to be remembered?

Death: What experiences of death have you had so far? What do you think death means?

Funerals: What will happen when you die? Do you need to make any plans or choices now?

Let the games and conversations begin!

Complete Article HERE!

The best medicine?

Humour can be a double-edged part of grieving

For people who have recently lost a loved one, humour can trigger episodes of intense grief–but it can also help in the recovery process, according to a new study.

A University of Alberta study uncovers an often-overlooked trigger for both grief and healing in people coping with the loss of a loved one.

By Gillian Rutherford

When Donna Wilson pulled up to visit her aunt and uncle on their farm near Eatonia, Sask., a few years ago, she came across a comical scene: Her uncle Doug was running around the yard chasing turkeys. The birds kept jumping up on his dog and he was trying to shoo them away with a broom.

It’s a memory Wilson plans to remind her aunt Doreen of soon. Doug died over the winter, and her aunt is grieving. Wilson hopes that sharing a funny story about him will help them both.

“I loved my uncle Doug, and I remember he was always smiling and laughing about something,” said Wilson. “Hopefully we will laugh together and it will be healing.”

Wilson, a nursing professor at the University of Alberta, recently published study findings that show humour can trigger moments of intense grief for people who have recently lost a loved one, but humour can also be helpful in the recovery process.

The key–as always with humour–is timing, plus you’ve got to know your audience, says Wilson.

The study was part of a larger inquiry into grief triggers–thoughts, memories, or events like anniversaries and family gatherings, special places, songs, even jokes. Very little research has been done on triggers and how bereaved people manage them, Wilson says, but they can be incapacitating.

“You can be driving past the hospital where your husband died, and suddenly have a massive grief trigger and have to pull over,” she said. “Now think about if that’s a pilot who’s flying a plane, or a surgeon, or a truck driver going down the highway.”

Working through the stages of grief

Researchers report there are nearly 300,000 deaths each year in Canada and on average 10 people grieve each death. For the study, Wilson and her team did in-depth interviews with 10 middle-aged and older Canadians who had lost a parent, child, sibling or spouse within the past two years, asking about their experiences with grief and recovery.

They all described being completely overwhelmed by grief at first, then being frequently hit by “hard-grief” triggers. Most found a way to reshape their lives without the loved one after about a year, and over the next year they were able to welcome good memories of the deceased person without triggered episodes of crying or extreme sadness. Eight of the 10 interview subjects said humour helped with their recovery.

“I think nobody realized humour is present for our mental health, even in grief,” said Begoña Errasti-Ibarrondo, associate professor with the University of Navarra and a visiting academic at the U of A. “In Spain, for example, at funerals sometimes we make jokes if it is appropriate and we tell funny stories about the person or the tricks they used to play.”

“Humour is what made it possible for me to live,” said one interview subject quoted in the paper. “I looked forward to the times I could laugh or smile; I could get a break from my grief.”

Researchers say when you are supporting someone who is grieving it is important to talk to them about the person who died. However, they caution it’s best to check first with the bereaved person before turning to humour, as some may not be ready or may find it inappropriate.

“Grief is very personal and so is humour,” said Errasti-Ibarrondo.

The saying “laughter is the best medicine” dates back to the King James Bible, originally published in 1611. We now know laughter releases endorphins and positive hormones that contribute to physical and mental health.

For her part, Wilson will continue to remember how her uncle Doug liked to use humour to cope with the frustrations of daily life. Once he was planning to take his family out for a drive when he noticed one of his car tires was deflated. “Well, at least it’s only flat on one side,” he told them with a laugh.

Complete Article HERE!

How ‘I’m Dead’ Became a Good Thing

Dying of laughter is an exaggeration, but something about it has rung true over the centuries.

By Caleb Madison

On a literal level, it should be impossible to make sense of someone saying “I’m dead” unless you’re attending a successful séance. Yet here we are in 2022, not only proclaiming our own expiration but reveling in it. Far from speech beyond the grave, “I’m dead” has come to communicate one of the highest pleasures of life: the giddy throes of uncontrollable laughter. When someone says “I’m dead” or even just “dead” in 2022, they’re telling you that they couldn’t be more tickled by what just happened. So how did being dead become a good thing?

Death and laughter have been strange bedfellows since ancient Greece, where, legend has it, the fifth-century-B.C. painter Zeuxis died from laughing at the portrait he was painting of a supposedly ugly old woman—a hilarious anecdote later immortalized in an equally hilarious painting by the Dutch master Arent De Gelder. And Zeuxis’s isn’t the only classically depicted death by laughter. The Stoic philosopher Chrysippus, by several accounts, kicked the bucket because he couldn’t stop laughing after witnessing a donkey eating his figs. Bizarrely, King Martin I of Aragon is said to have died laughing at a joke also concerning an animal eating figs. Legends of giggly demises litter history; as recently as 1989, a Danish audiologist is said to have passed away guffawing during a screening of A Fish Called Wanda. Apparently, the best medicine is also sometimes the sweetest poison. Although I admit it would be a great way to go, I myself will be avoiding all zoo-adjacent fig farms in the near future out of an abundance of caution.

The connection between death and laughter was consummated in English by—who else?—Shakespeare. In his comedy The Taming of the Shrew, after the exit of the vivacious and eccentric couple Petruchio and Katharine, Petruchio’s servant, Grumio, says, “Went they not quickly, I should die with laughing.” From then on, the phrase to die laughing was part of the language as a hyperbolic idiom—we all know it’s an exaggeration, but something within the fiction rings true to our relationship with laughter and death. The fatal violence of hilarity proliferated in English over the following centuries. From the 1930s slang to bust a gut to the idea of being “in stitches” to the ironic Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield–ism “That killed me,” there’s something about the experience of uncontrollable laughing that seems to put us into close contact with our inevitable nonexistence.

And it makes sense. Intense laughter expresses itself in violent convulsions and temporary loss of bodily control. Who among us hasn’t been part of a tickle-fest that verged on sadomasochistic brutality? Times when I laugh so hard that I cry can feel like an out-of-body experience—a sublime mania that temporarily relieves me of the burden of consciousness. Perhaps we say “I’m dead” because we’ve intuited that deep and frenzied laughter gives us a taste of the eternal unknown toward which we’re all always hurdling. This sense of comatose comicality yielded our Friday-level clue “That’s so funny I can’t even function.”

Complete Article HERE!

A Comedy About Death

– KnifeRock’s ‘Moon Manor’ Official Trailer


“If I can’t be me – and I mean everything that that means – I just don’t want to be.” Good Deed Ent. has revealed an official trailer for Moon Manor, a “comedy about death” made by the filmmaking duo known as “KnifeRock” (Erin Granat & Elizabeth Brissenden). This first premiered last year at a festival, and will be dropping on VOD starting in March to watch. Today is Jimmy’s last day alive. His Alzheimer’s is worsening, so he’s decided to die like he has lived – with intention, humor, and zest. In his last day on Earth, Jimmy will show an obituary writer, his death doula, his estranged brother, his caretaker, a surreal being, and guests at his fabulous “FUN-eral”, that perhaps the art of living is the art of dying. It’s “inspired by a true-ish story.” The film also marks the first original score by Coldplay producers The Dream Team. Moon Manor stars Jim Carrozo as Jimmy, with Debra Wilson, Richard Riehle, Lou Taylor Pucci, Reshma Gajjar, Galen Howard, Ricki Lake, and Heather Morris. Looks so wacky and fun and clever and fresh! I dig it.

Sometimes learning how to live, is learning how to die. On his last day alive, Jimmy (Jim Carrozo) will show his estranged brother, a salt-of-the-earth caretaker, sharp-witted death doula, an obituary writer, a cosmic being, and the guests at his FUNeral that sometimes the art of living just may be the art of dying. An exploration of what it means to have a “good death” and inspired by the life stories of 84-year-old lead actor James Carrozo. Moon Manor is co-written and co-directed by filmmakers Erin Granat & Machete Bang Bang (aka Elizabeth Brissenden – director on the series “I.R.L.”), collectively known as “KnifeRock”, both making their feature directorial debut after a few short films previously. Produced by John Humber, Bay Dariz, Erin Granat & Machete Bang Bang. Featuring a score by Coldplay producers The Dream Team. This first premiered at the 2021 Atlanta Film & Video Festival last year. Good Deed will debut Moon Manor in select US theaters + on VOD starting March 11th, 2022 coming up soon. Drop by the film’s official site.

Complete Article HERE!

‘The bawdy, fertile, redheaded matriarch has kicked it’

— Son’s hilarious obituary goes viral

The obituary concludes with details of a planned funeral service in May next year, ‘a very disrespectful and totally non-denominational memorial … most likely at a bowling alley in Fayetteville.’

Son writes loving and unusual 1,000-word tribute to Renay Mandel Corren, who died in El Paso, Texas at age 84


Some obituary notices open with the grand achievements of a life well-lived, or the tender details of a person’s passing with loved ones at their side. The death in El Paso, Texas, of Renay Mandel Corren, however, was marked in somewhat more unorthodox fashion. “The bawdy, fertile, redheaded matriarch of a sprawling Jewish-Mexican-Redneck American family has kicked it,” it read.

According to the family’s obituary published in the Fayetteville Observer, Corren, who died on Saturday at the age of 84, will be mourned “in the many glamorous locales she went bankrupt”.

They include her birthplace of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, “where she first fell in love with ham, and atheism”; Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, “where Renay’s dreams, credit rating and marriage are all buried”; and Miami, Florida, “where Renay’s parents, uncles, aunts, and eternal hopes of all Miami Dolphins fans everywhere, are all buried pretty deep”.

The remarkable – and hilarious – 1,000-word obituary was written by Corren’s son Andy, and quickly went viral after it was published on Wednesday.

The tribute to a mother known fondly to her family as “Rosie” is a partly tongue-in-cheek account of a long and eventful life, liberally sprinkled with anecdotes and encounters, some of which Mr Corren admits might not even be true. But the banter represents a loving tribute to a lady they still can’t quite believe has actually died.

“Renay has been toying with death for decades, but always beating it and running off in her silver Chevy Nova,” the obituary states.

“Covid couldn’t kill Renay. Neither could pneumonia twice, infections, blood clots, bad feet, breast cancer twice, two mastectomies, two recessions, multiple bankruptcies, marriage to a philandering Sergeant Major, divorce in the 70s, six kids, one cesarean, a few abortions from the Quietly Famous Abortionist of Spring Lake, NC or an affair with Larry King in the 60s.”

It also lists her many talents: “She played cards like a shark, bowled and played cribbage like a pro, and laughed with the boys until the wee hours, long after the last pin dropped.”

“Renay didn’t cook, she didn’t clean, and she was lousy with money, too. Here’s what Renay was great at: dyeing her red roots, weekly manicures, dirty jokes, pier fishing, rolling joints and buying dirty magazines.”

She lived her final days “under the care, compassion, checking accounts and, evidently, unlimited patience of her favorite son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Lourdes Corren, of [the] world-famous cow sanctuary El Paso.”

Among the numerous family members she leaves behind, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is her “favorite son”, namely “the gay one who writes catty obituaries in his spare time, Andy Corren, of – obviously – New York City.”

The obituary concludes with details of a planned funeral service in May next year, “a very disrespectful and totally non-denominational memorial … most likely at a bowling alley in Fayetteville.”

Meanwhile, Mr Corren says he and his five siblings have given up on receiving an inheritance. “The family requests absolutely zero privacy or propriety, none whatsoever, and in fact encourages you to spend some government money today on a one-armed bandit, at the blackjack table or on a cheap cruise to find our inheritance,” he writes.

“For Larry King’s sake: LAUGH. Bye, Mommy. We loved you to bits.”

Complete Article HERE!

Planning your funeral doesn’t have to be scary, says the author of ‘It’s Your Funeral: Plan the Celebration of a Lifetime Before it’s Too Late’


The pandemic has forced many to rethink and readjust their present with their future. Some have left jobs that provided steady paychecks and a predictable complacency for unknown, yet meaningful passion projects. Others are are taking more control of their destinies as they see fit. Unwilling to settle in life anymore. So why would you settle in death?

That’s the question Kathy Benjamin, author of “It’s Your Funeral! Plan the Celebration of a Lifetime — Before it’s Too Late,” asks. Amid the book’s 176 pages, Benjamin exposes readers to death in a light, humorous, and practical way, akin to a soothing bath, rather than a brisk cold shower.

The Austin-based writer’s niche is death (her last book centered on bizarre funeral traditions and practices). Having panic attacks as a teen, Benjamin said enduring them felt like she was dying. It was then that she started wrestling with the idea of death.

“I feel like I’m actually dying all the time, so maybe I should learn about the history of death and all that,” she said. “If I’m going to be so scared of it, I should learn about it because then I’d kind of have some control over it.”

It’s that control that Benjamin wants to give to readers of this book. She introduces readers to concepts and steps one should contemplate now, in order to make sure the last big gathering centered on you is as memorable as you and your loved ones wish. Poring over the book, one finds interesting final resting options such as body donation that goes beyond being a medical cadaver, “infinity burial suits” that lets one look like a ninja at burial, but also helps nourish plants as decomposition begins; and quirky clubs and businesses that allow one to make death unique (as in hiring mourners to fill out your grieving space and time, and designing your own coffin).

Kathy Benjamin knows death can be scary, but she's determined to show that planning your own funeral doesn't have to be.
Kathy Benjamin knows death can be scary, but she’s determined to show that planning your own funeral doesn’t have to be.

Now before you think this is all a bit macabre, Benjamin’s book also serves as a personal log so you can start planning your big event. Amid the pages, she offers prompts and pages where you can jot down thoughts and ideas on fashioning your own funeral. If you want to have a theme? Put it down in the book. You want to start working on your eulogy/obituary/epitaph, will, or your “final” playlist? Benjamin gives you space in her book to do so. It’s like a demise workbook where you can place your best photos to be used for the funeral and your passwords to your digital life, for your loved ones to have access to that space once you’re gone. If all the details are in the book, a loved one just has to pick it up and use it as a reference to make sure your day of mourning is one you envisioned.

As Benjamin writes: “Think about death in a manner that will motivate you to live the best, most fulfilling life possible. By preparing for death in a spiritual and physical way, you are ensuring that you will succeed right to the end.”

“Everyone’s going to die, if you’re willing to be OK with thinking about that, and in a fun way, then the book is for you,” she said.

We talked with Benjamin to learn more about the details of death and thinking “outside the coffin” for posterity’s sake. The following interview has been condensed and edited.

‘It’s Your Funeral! Plan the Celebration of a Lifetime — Before it’s Too Late’ is by Kathy Benjamin, Quirk Books, 176 pages, $14.40.
‘It’s Your Funeral! Plan the Celebration of a Lifetime — Before it’s Too Late’ is by Kathy Benjamin, Quirk Books, 176 pages, $14.40.

Q: How much time did it take you to find all this data about death? You share what was in the late Tony Curtis’ casket.

Kathy Benjamin: I have shelves of books that range from textbooks to pop culture books about death, and it’s something that a lot more people than you think are interested in so when you start doing online research you might just find a list of, here’s what people have in their coffin and then from there, you’re like: ‘OK, let’s check if this is true.’ Let’s go back and check newspaper articles and more legitimate websites and things and those details are out there. People want to know. I think of it as when you see someone post on Facebook — somebody in my family died. I know for me, and based on what people reply, the first thing is: What did they die of? We want these details around death. It’s just something people are really interested in. The information is out there and if you go looking for it, you can find it.

Q: Was the timing for the release of the book on point or a little off, given the pandemic?

KB: That was unbelievable timing, either good or bad, how you want to look at it. I ended up researching and writing during that whole early wave in the summer (2020) and into the second wave, and it was very weird. It was very weird to wake up, and the first thing I would do every morning for months was check how many people were dead and where the hot spots were, and then write … just a lot of compartmentalization. My idea was because people who were confronting death so much, maybe it would open up a lot of people’s minds who wouldn’t normally be open to reading this kind of book, they’d be like: ‘OK, I’ve faced my mortality in the past year. So actually, maybe, I should think about it.’

Q: Is there anything considered too “out there” or taboo for a funeral?

KB: I always think that funerals really are for the people who are still alive to deal with their grief, so I wouldn’t do anything that’s going to offend loved ones. I can’t think of what it might be, but if there’s a real disagreement on what is OK, then maybe take the people who are going to be crying and keep them in mind. But really, it’s your party. Plan what you want. There are so many options out there. Some people, they still think cremation isn’t acceptable. Because death is so personal, there’s always going to be people who think something is too far, even things that seem normal for your culture or for your generation.

Q: You mention some interesting mourning/funeral businesses, but many seem to be in other countries. Do we have anything cool in the U.S. as far as death goes that maybe other places don’t have?

KB: One thing we have more than anywhere in the world is body farms. We have a couple and just one or two in the entire rest of the world. The biggest in the world is at the University of Tennessee. For people who don’t know, body farms are where you can donate your body as if you would to science, but instead of doing organ transplants or whatever with it, they put you in the trunk of a car or they put you in a pond or they just lay you out and then they see what happens to you as you decompose. Law enforcement recruits come in and study you to learn how to solve crimes based on what happens to bodies that are left in different situations. I think they get about 100 bodies a year. I always tell people about body farms because if you’re into “true crime” and don’t care what happens to you and you’re not grossed out by it, then do it because it’s really cool and it’s helpful.

Q: You mention mummification and traditional Viking send offs, what about the burning of a shrouded body on a pyre? Have you heard about that? It was the way hunters were sent into the afterlife on the TV series “Supernatural.”

KB: I haven’t heard of anyone doing it in America but obviously that’s a big pop culture thing. For Hindus, that’s the way it happens in India … you go to the Ganges, and they have places specifically where you pay for the wood and they make a pyre and that’s how people go out. I doubt there’s a cemetery or a park that would allow you to do it in the U.S., but on private land, you’re pretty much allowed to do whatever. I would definitely check on regulations. You would have to get the pyre quite hot to burn the body to ash, like hotter than you think to make sure you don’t get a barbecued grandpa.

Q: In your research, have you come across anything that completely surprised you because it’s so unheard of?

KB: There’s been things like funerary cannibalism, which is where you eat loved ones after they’ve died. But once you’ve read the reasons why different tribes around the world have done it, you’re like ‘OK, I can see why that meant something, why it was meant to be emotional and beautiful.’ Things like sky burial in Tibet, they have a Buddhist monk chop up the body and lay it out for the vultures to come get. Part of it ties back to Buddhist tradition but also it’s Tibet, you can’t dig holes there in the mountains. So, there’s a logical reason for it. When you look at these things that originally seem gross or weird, once you learn the reasons behind them it all comes back in the end to trying to do something respectful for the dead, and trying to give the living that closure.

Q: What are your plans for your funeral?

KB: I definitely want to be cremated. I don’t know if I want people to necessarily come together for a funeral for me but like I have a playlist, and even before the book I had a whole document on the computer of what I wanted. I want all the people to know about the playlist and then they can kind of sit and think about how awesome I am while the sad songs play, and then there’s different places that I would want my ashes scattered.

Complete Article HERE!