When I started my little journey into the alternative death care movement I devoured any and all information, which I would place on my Facebook page with header about how interesting I thought these topics were. I can’t tell you how many parties in this early stage I brought to a screeching halt with my talk about shrouds or embalming, and how icky I though that process was. I found it odd that not everyone was as interested in the practices of the care for the dead, or how insane I thought the conventional industry was. I started to change my language because I noticed how I had been carefully trained by my culture to accept conventional death care. I began to use the word coffin, not casket, and natural body, not unembalmed. I also realized that almost everyone I knew was not as aware of the problems. I had, of course, my death partner Juliann Salinas who was just as interested as me. We could chat for hours about the industry and what we wanted to do to change the perceptions of death. How I would love sitting in a coffee shop with her discussing promessa or resomation. Oh, the looks we would get discussing the details. We still get looks when we are in public and we start talking about death practices.
As a society we are held captive to our fear of death. We fear it so much that we have let an industry grow up that in some states demands our participation in to it. We are so fearful of death that we have allowed an industry to persuade us that it is proper and loving to embalm our dead- that we must open their bodies and pump chemicals into it. We have let an industry convince us that us we must place our dead in a coffin and then in a vault to protect the body. Have we come so far down the denial of death path that we imagine our bodies will never decay if we do these things? Even with chemicals and metal coffins our bodies will begin to break down. When we deny death for so long, we just don’t know what to do anymore when someone dies. We do what we must to move through the shock of loss. Sometimes this kind of shock leads people to take a good look at death and what happens to a family after death. In general, I believe that most people are interested in death on some level, even if they have some fear of it. In the back of our minds we know that at one time we will have to face our death or the death of someone we love. It’s a hard thing to face.
In our culture of denial and fear of death, I request that you to speak freely about death, the industry, and your views on them. I ask you to read, and research because that is how we lift together the pall that we have placed over the discussion of death. This blog is a good place to start research, and so is the Midwest Green Burial Society’s reading list. It’s a little act of rebellion of counter culture that leads to change. Speaking about death places you a little bit on the outside of things for a time. Once you are comfortable talking about this societal taboo, others might feel freer to speak openly too. Speaking freely and openly is no small thing. By it, you will be allowing people to break their own fears and decide for themselves what is appropriate at the time of death is such an important change that needs to take place. Death Care is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. They have a powerful lobby in the US. Speaking freely and without fear is no small thing against such power. Taking small steps, speaking freely about death practices and your own views is just the thing to shed light on the darkness that our society feels about death. Do not underestimate the power of shedding light where there is none, or standing against fear. In our little acts of rebellion, true change will take place. Changing people’s perceptions and giving them a safe place to speak is a great gift of love we can share with those around us. Sometimes the action is small, and sometimes we have no idea the amount of change we might be making in people’s lives, but once we act in love and gentleness, fear recedes.