Saturday, December 11, 2010

Morbid Careers and Green Burials

Today, on my way to work, I was thinking that if life doesn't go well for me as a cartoonist or whatever the fuck it is that I want to be, I might be a funeral director.

I know, morbid right? Well, I've always been a pretty morbid person, and the handling of the dead is an important job. I know I'm generally very blasé about this; sometimes I feel that people revere the bodies of the dead more than is necessary. They are, after all, just the husks of what once was. But I suppose that the body of a loved one is the last link that anyone would have with them, so I can see why people are so uptight about it.

The thing I really don't like is the embalming process. When you die, they drain all your blood out of you and replace it with embalming fluid, which is a pretty harmful carcinogenic chemical. Then they place you in coffins lined with cement, and stick you in a hole six feet under, which is a depth that is too deep for bodies to properly break down anyway. The big problem with this is that you never get a chance to decompose naturally, and as a result, sit in your cement-lined casket for ages and ages, turning into toxic sludge. Not cool, you guys.

A year or two ago, I read this great article about Green Burials. Now, I am the last person you should ever call a hippie, but these eco-friendly burials really appealed to me. I read an article (I really wish I could remember where I read it) that explained it all, and it sounded pretty cool.

Basically, instead of the traditional chemical embalming fluid, they use a vegetable-based one. Then you're placed in a biodegradable "container" (okay, I'll admit that the use of the word 'container' weirded me out a little bit) and are placed in a whole 4 feet deep, rather than 6 feet. Instead of a typical cemetery, the picture in the article showed what looked like a forest that is set aside for burials. There are no tombstones, but families can choose to have a rock or a tree placed on top of the final resting spot. I just thought this sounded so much more... I dunno, peaceful. Pleasant. And I really like the idea that you would be able to break down naturally. To become part of the soil and all other living things is how we can actually achieve immortality.

So, in case life does fail me, I think I will become and eco-friendly funeral director. The only thing that actually put me off the job was all the schooling -- 2 to 4 years! And that part of the courses involve boring computer stuff. Yes, I am more put off by that than by the actual handling of dead bodies.

The only reason I was really afraid of dead bodies before was because of zombies, and now I'm kind of a zombie fan, if you will. I remember seeing my first one. I was 15, and my mum had dragged us to the funeral of a friend of my dad's. I hadn't wanted to go, but my mum said that we had to stick together as a family. Pfft, whatever. It was a Saturday and I had better shit to do, like sleeping in.

It was an open casket funeral, unfortunately. He was an old guy, and he looked... Jesus, grey. It was awful. His face was sagging back against the pillow, I suppose because his muscles weren't holding everything in place. He didn't look like he was peaceful or sleeping at all, he just looked dead dead dead. I was frozen in front of his casket, petrified. I felt ill. After, I cried a little bit, and everyone nodded sympathetically to me. But I wasn't crying because it was sad, I was crying because it had shocked me really badly. Then we had to wait outside as the slowly lowered him into the neatly dug grave. It seemed lacking in any real care though, because they just used a machine to lower him in. I dunno, it seems like it would have been more respectful to do that yourself. Anyway, we stayed after all the people had gone, only to see a mini excavator roll over and pack the earth and turf on top of him. I found it really eerie, like they were erasing all proof that he had ever existed.

I am fairly interested in the trade though. The mortician part might take a little getting used to, but it sounds like you could make a pretty decent living off of it. Funeral directors typically make about $50,000 per year. More than I'd make as some kind of cartoonist, that's for sure.

How did I get so sick and twisted, you may be wondering? That's a good question. Let me know when you figure it out.


  1. You didn't happen to think of this because you lent me Fun House, did you?

  2. Haha no, I was just thinking about the article on green burials that I'd read, and that maybe the world needs a few more atheist funeral directors. It's a grim job, but somebody's got to do it. Plus, you'd never be out of work, haha.