Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mea Culpa

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A couple of nights ago I spit some venom at the National Rifle Association - always an easy target. In the middle of that rant I also took a sideswipe at funeral directors, suggesting that those in Arizona might have lobbied for an especially heinous piece of gun legislation that permits employees to keep their guns in their cars, on company property, even if the company owner objects. The next morning there was a response, a very nice comment from a Mr. James Showers who identified himself as a funeral director. He was supportive of what I had written about the NRA and did not take me to task over my remark about his profession.

The point that I was trying to make was that this stupid law will increase deaths by guns - and of that there can be no doubt. But after Mr. Showers supportive reply to the post, I regret taking the cheap shot at funeral directors.

James Showers left no way to contact him, and I hope that he reads this and sends me an email ( A Google search revealed that he is most likely from Great Britain. I have written about the funeral industry before, especially with regard to green funerals, and I would like to hear how that concept is faring in Britain.

So, Mr. Showers, please accept my apology for disparaging funeral directors. I have known probably a dozen men (they always seem to be men) in this country who serve in that profession, and the ones with whom I have been acquainted have all been very nice. Of course, being pleasant-to-a-fault is practically a job requirement for those charged with dealing with grieving families. Unfortunately, the funeral directors whom I have known have also all been somewhat predatory. They were charming and wealthy, and they were always quick to show their top of the line boxes. It seems like it is just too easy to pick the pockets of those struggling with the loss of a loved one.

The old joke goes that the undertaker shook my hand, and while he was at it, he checked my pulse. (The American undertaker doesn't necessarily wish anyone ill, but if the worst happens he will be quick to roll out his high-end wares!)

Lawrence, Kansas, one of the hippest small cities in America, just set aside part of one of their city-owned cemeteries for green funerals. I'm thinking that I might just make Lawrence my final address.

I may not cheat the devil, but I certainly intend to cheat the staff at the local funeral home!

"No man is completely worthless - he can always serve as plant food!" - Pa Rock


xobekim said...

You realize, of course, that as a veteran your final expenses are covered at one of the national cemeteries.

I grant you that the drug trade and cheap guns will yield more deaths; mostly from poor families. Those folks, many of them, won't be able to pay for a funeral or burial.

I've seen it before, led the family out to a wide open area of a funeral garden and offered them whichever space they wanted. It is a write off.

Maybe someday things will get better for the family and they can come purchase adjacent space. In the short run they get whatever peace of mind the funeral industry can offer.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

If a National Cemetery would take me unembalmed and in a biodegradable box, I might be interested. But barring that, my strong preference is to peacefully rot in a Green Cemetery with an oak or hickory sapling drawing its nutrients from my remains. Or a sour apple tree might be even more appropriate!

Serving humanity does not have to end with death.

xobekim said...

Embalming is normally not required by law. When embalming is not performed, the deceased body needs to be refrigerated until the funeral.

The widespread practice of embalming came about in the aftermath of the Civil War. Families would get a telegraph notifying them of the death of their loved one. The more affluent families sent for their fallen sons, brothers, fathers, cousins or nephews.

Bodies of dead Union soldiers arrived by train to their Northern destination in various stages of decomposition. This proved to be a gruesome task for the men working on the railroad as well as the families; especially in the summer months.

If Missouri law is like Kansas' then your family can tote you to the back forty, put your remains in a suitable hole, sprinkle in a bag of limestone, and cover you up.
Notification of death to the proper officials still needs to be observed.

The National Cemetery nearest you may be less traumatic on those you love. Which is why making all those arrangements ahead of time makes sense.