HB V

is older than it's ever been and now it's even older

4/03/2001

Death and being dead


When evaluating a potential link to share with the world for blogworthiness, I have a key test. I call it the "mom test," since I consider my mother pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of what offends her. Thus, a little nudity or some language probably is fine, but I wouldn't include anything graphically violent or pornographic (BTW, I'm a firm believer in Potter Stewart's definition of pornography: "I know it when I see it."). On this particular subject, I think my mom's immune to even the most hardcore or gross information, so I'm chucking my usual standard out the window. She is, you know, a respected scholar in the field of gravestone studies, in addition to possessing a nearly definitive knowledge about many issues in death and dying. I recall the last time I visited her, she gave me a book to read that included a chapter about embalming. By about halfway through, I was officially Grossed Out. They do some weird stuff to bodies during this process. But I digress, and I haven't even started yet.

I found this collection of Australian obituaries from 1887 via World New York. These are eminently fascinating, mainly because they include a level of detail about the death that you don't find in newspapers nowadays. That's probably a function of making the families of the decendent pay for the funerary notices, but I can't help but notice it. In terms of when it's published, it makes sense; but for historical value it's really interesting to see what people died of. One of the things that struck me is the number of deaths caused by things that people nowadays wouldn't die from, including tuberculosis, cholera, snakebite, and burns. We really do have it much better than they did. Nevertheless, we still have that most primordial of fears still present, as evidenced by this Wired article, which is the fear of being buried alive (Chopin's last words are to request to be cut open to ensure this fate wouldn't happen to him). This article recounts some of the ways we've tried to avoid this problem, some of which are somewhat ghoulish but nothing like that book of mom's! However, the Wired article submits that a way around this is to use embalming, which is more often than not a waste of time and money.

Embalming costs are just one way that funeral homes defraud their customers, unfortunately. It takes some real vultures to make money off of grieving family members, but apparently there are plenty in the US. The industry uses factoids and figures to defend themselves, like one from that last article where they claim that 80% of customers are satisfied with the process. Unfortunately for them, that's not a very high total. When 20% of an industry's customers feel bilked and unhappy, that should be a key sign that something is wrong. So what should you do?

This article from Death and Dying (.com) suggests that a way to stop fraudulent charges is to prepay for your services. Unfortunately, these prepaid plans are also a target for unscrupulous funeral homes to squeeze extra money out of clients by being as rigid and uncooperative in honoring them as possible. My solution? I suggest getting buried in cardboard or something else very cheap, or being cremated. I'm a fan of the symbolism of my mortal body being returned to fertilize other living things as quickly as possible, so I don't want to be embalmed either. It's sad to me that people need to be vigilent about getting scammed at such a time, but it's just a fact of life.

As a final thought on the matter, I think it's neat that this column could theoretically be dredged up when I die as evidence for my wishes. It'll be part of this whole page, which is itself partially done as a test of the permanence of the new media which comprise the Internet.

A lighthearted (?) followup

After my Chick postings, I've heard it said that those comics read like agitprop designed to discredit Christians. So true, they really do. As Sean remarked, "With friends like that who needs enemies." I thought the same thing as I read this page in support of Creation Science (sic). There are 42 points that supposedly prove the Big Bang theory to be incorrect. I am not an Astronomer (IANAA), but even I can poke holes in most of these. Very funny. At the other end of the spectrum is this page on why Superheroes are evil and un-Christian, which really IS reverse propaganda (via LMG); among the points areā€¦

But it is now known that in the next Spiderman movie, this character will be turned into a teenager who uses his powers to impress girls. He will also smoke marihuana with his friends. It is truly sad that one of America's fictional heroes has been converted into another degenerate. Next thing we know, Hollywood will release a movie about Paul Bunyan being a compulsive masturbator.



Finally, on being almost dead. Sir Alfred Ayer, an eminent British atheist and philosopher, had a profound near death experience in 1988, one year before he really died (via FMH). What he saw/experienced in those four minutes have been in dispute since, but apparently it was enough to alter his beliefs. If you read one of my links today, read this one.

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