Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek
benpeek

The Business of Death.

I'm pushing round the idea of writing a story in a funeral home. I'm not quite sure what it is going to be yet, but I have a basic idea, and a character, and that's usually enough to get me into it. A little bit of research covers me for the parts I don't quite know.

One of the things I've found interesting is the Institutionalisation of Death, as it's being called. Apparently, most funeral homes are family businesses, which I suppose makes sense, given the nature of the work--it would be hard, I think, to not have it seep into your personal life, waking you up at two in the morning, pulling you away from a family dinner, and the like. Dying is one of those things that's terrible for time management, really. At any rate, it's not very difficult to see how the family would get drawn into the work, and that the business would be handed down to willing (and probably unwilling) children. However, it seems that the family business funeral home is coming under threat from larger, multi-national funeral companies, who employ a number of people and handle a number of bodies. Just in poking around, nothing I read says that this is being met with approval. I can't say I'm surprised: ignoring the general negativity people have towards large companies anyhow, death has always been considered a family thing, and one that does not invite outsiders. Following that logic, it's not surprising that people would prefer family funeral homes, since though you may not know the family, it does imply that closeness and closed in nature that a death in the family often conveys.

I think Thomas Lynch, the undertaker poet turned undertaker essayist, wrote something about this in one of his collections. Reckon I'll track it down--not that I need any particular reason to go flipping through Lynch's work. The Undertaking remains one of my favourite books.

(crossposted)
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