I recently read an interesting book about death. That’s a great first line, isn’t it?
I guess my family talks about death more often than most. This is because my Dad works in the funeral business as a hearse driver predominantly, but also as a ‘transporter’ – picking up dead bodies and taking them to the funeral home. Before he started that job it just never occurred to me how many people die on a daily basis as silly as that sounds. You don’t hear about it often unless it is someone that you know. Especially as a 22 year old, mortality has never been a particularly high concern on my list.
As many of you know I had my own dance with death a couple of months back (read it here if you missed it). Since then I guess I’ve been a bit paranoid. It is only now that I have been able to take time to reflect back on what was a life changing experience. Confronting my own mortality.
During my illness I became suddenly very aware of my own impermanence – we all are living organisms constantly changing. I remember studying this concept when I researched Buddhism but until you experience it first hand it’s difficult to comprehend. The abscess in my body was slowly killing me and there was nothing I could do to stop it. The only way I can describe the feeling was like losing some sort of unexplainable fight, piece by piece.
I distinctly remember lying at 2am in the hospital bed. The only thing I could feel was the abscess somewhere inside of me throbbing, slowly distributing poison throughout my bloodstream. It had swollen so large over such a short period of time that I was so terrified at that moment the abscess would rupture and kill me instantly.
A sort of uncontrollable primal panic seized me.
I wasn’t afraid of death itself, rather, everything that went along with it. Could everybody cope without me? I was sad all the plans I had might not be fulfilled.
I didn’t die, thankfully, and a few weeks into recovery I stumbled across Caitlin Doughty through her Youtube series ‘Ask a Mortician’ where she covers topics on anything from body decomposition to funeral procedures. It was refreshing, insightful and strangely relieving. Death is, after all, as natural as birth. Yet we don’t talk about it.
When I found out she had written a book on her experiences I knew immediately I wanted to read it. ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ is a memoir of sorts, about her work as a mortician and her views on death and the funeral industry – albeit from an American perspective.
It’s a fascinatingly morbid yet captivating read, and I would highly recommend it.
“We’re all just future corpses” she writes with unapologetic frankness.
I guess I got lucky this time.