The Wastefulness of Death.docx

It may difficult for modern america to accept but

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It may difficult for modern America to accept, but something has to change regarding the practices and ethics of funeral homes and their impact on the environment. Lastly, many Americans find it to be a source of comfort, to see their loved ones posed as if simply sleeping before they are lowered into the ground, with the knowledge that they have layers of fabric, wood, metal, and concrete between their bodies and the natural world. Part of this obsession with wasteful burials was examined by Professor Andrew Bernstein from the University of Hawaii. Andrew Bernstein found that internationally, the practice of burial does not often involve embalming or elaborate caskets, but often follows the same practice of a simple wooden casket, with no funeral showing beforehand. This has very much to do with America’s sterilization of death, and the increasing commonality of embalming as well as funeral showings. In fact, because many Americans know very well how expensive and costly funerals are, they do not want to feel as if they are ‘cheaping out’ on their loved ones, and want to feel as if they are giving their deceased family and friends a proper goodbye. Andrew Bernstein also found that embalming helps many people to “come to terms” with the death of their loved one - seeing them lying as if simply asleep helps to acknowledge that they are really gone (Bernstein 27). Phil Olson, a funeral director, expands on this skewed perception that modern Americans have of death and the natural connection of human bodies and nature. After all, we are born in sterile, hospital environments and often die in sterile, hospital environments - we have become so distant from nature that it is hard for us to envision the process of decomposition. Phil Olson, a funeral technician, says that when people opt for cremation or for ‘natural’ burlap burials, they feel as if they are ‘setting grandma on fire’ or ‘leaving grandma out in the cold’, whereas when people opt for a funeral viewing and casket, they feel as if they are simply putting grandma to bed, where
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she will be safe and comfortable (Olson 1).
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  • Fall '09
  • DeCourcy
  • Cemetery, Funeral, Professor Andrew Bernstein

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