From Here To Eternity
Written by Caitlin Doughty
Review by Roy Peak
Everybody dies. That's a fact of life. But it's how we deal with that inevitability that separates us. In From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, author and YouTube Channel celebrity Caitlin Doughty travels the world over researching differing societal death rituals. Doughty is a mortician based in California who makes her mission to give people access to different and more affordable options considering their own, or a relative's, death. Her YouTube show, Ask A Mortician, doles out the hard-edged questions that people want to know but are too afraid to ask: What happens to gold teeth during cremation? What's the worst way to die? What happens to breast implants after you die? Doughty handles all of these and more with great enthusiasm. She's bubbly, honest, a bit goth, a bit kooky, and her shows are always highly informative as well as entertaining.
Doughty visits some exotic places here. Barcelona, Michoaćan, Bolivia, as well as more domestic, but just as interesting, locales such as Joshua Tree, and North Carolina. Doughty braves a 39-hour trip to the island of South Sulawesi in Indonesia to visit the Londa burial caves and personally witness how the inhabitants of Tana Toraja take care of and live with their dead for months, sometimes years, before housing them in tiny, elaborate houses and performing intricate rituals. In Colorado, she takes part in a beautiful and respectful open air cremation, in Tokyo she visits a high-tech Buddhist temple which houses thousands of cremains in special light-up Buddha statuettes. She visits La Paz, Bolivia where the citizens keep the skulls of their relatives — who they say talk to them in their dreams — and then the skulls are blessed by Catholic priests. She describes a Parsi funeral where corpses are eaten by hundreds of large vultures in a thrilling cleansing ceremony.
The illustrations by Landis Blair which decorate the pages of this book are perfect and witty, giving a bit of much needed breathing room between viewer and subject matter.
Doughty's gift with writing is that she finds the beauty, the humanity, the sense of respect and purpose that these people instill into their rituals. If you yourself have been looking for an alternative to the commercialization of the modern funeral "ritual" then please do yourself a favor and read this book as well check out Doughty's website, http://caitlindoughty.com/ for even more information. You will learn a lot and it just might change your outlook on life. And death.
Caitlin Doughty is a founding member of The Order of the Good Death, an "...organization of funeral industry professionals, academics, and artists exploring ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality." Doughty has written a new book titled Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death. Expect a review of that one as soon as I finish reading it.
Roy Peak has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville.