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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Book Notes

I found this book on the list from https://medium.com/@Hipstercrite/book-recommendations-for-smart-ladies-who-like-smart-ladies-82d365d9bc28 Having recently read Being Mortal, having recently had to accept the frailty of old age as I watch the grandparents and parents age, and having recently noticed just ALL THE GREY HAIR I've had (really, I've had it for a while, shaving my head rather brought them out), reading this book didn't seem too far out of the current progression.

I am glad I did.

I highly recommend this book. All my family members are getting this book, possibly others. I might buy many copies of this book for the library at work, I think it's that great of a great book.

The book's description includes the paragraph:

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures."

... which I think is a good description of the book. I don't agree with the "strange" and "bizarre" adjectives in the book description, necessarily, but the rest is good. Doughty (gah, I really want to say, "Caitlin," as after reading this book, I would love to have as a friend) does a great job of weaving stories of her life though an inventory of different customs surrounding death. I knew about many of the ones described, but a few were new to me.

At one point in the book, she speculates the lack of customs and mourning around death, has lead to the obsession of youth in the United States. Without any experience or research into the subject, basing my opinion on the cultural views of death gleaned from American literature since the 1700s, I have to say this speculation rings valid to me.

After reading this book, I feel more comfortable in planning the funerals of my parents, and helping with those of my grandparents (hoping all of them are a long way away). We won't be embalming, since that is pretty much an expensive way to keep their bodies around. Embalming is for the living, for those unable or unwilling to let go just yet. I've been trying very hard to let my family know that, with all my failings, I'm doing my best and I love them as best I can.

That my family can have the conversations about funeral arrangements, years before such discussions are necessary, is a gift that Doughty as given us. I can't express my appreciation for that gift enough.

I highly, highly, highly recommend reading Being Mortal and this book. The pair of them, old age care and funerals, wow, such great reads. Incredibly timely.

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