Death is part of every health practitioner’s job. How they – and our society – navigates it is explored in fascinating, sometimes funny, and macabre detail in Caitlin Doughty’s book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory.
Doughty, who took a job at a crematorium at 23 with zero experience, chronicles the strange and fascinating details of the crematorium’s inner workings, her daily duties, and how cultures around the world navigated death and dying over the centuries.
Between the riveting details on how exactly a body burns during cremation and the history of embalming in America (spoiler alert: it began during the Civil War), Doughty also invites us to take a long look at our cultural fear of death and the ways in which societies continue to distance us from the journey we’ll all one day make. It all makes for incredibly interesting reading and discussion.
In addition to being an author, Doughty is also a certified mortician and founder The Order of the Good Death, a group of funeral industry professionals, academics and artists determined “to prepare a death-phobic culture for their inevitable mortality” through talks, roundtable discussions and “death salons,” where people meet to chat about their inevitable doom. She also owns and operates Undertaking LA, a progressive funeral home in Los Angeles.