You must have a strong stomach and an open mind. As the title of the book, “Crematory Confessions,(Dark Side Publisher, 2016) written by the Hawaiian Caitlin Doug explicitly states, exactly that: the backstage of the funeral industry, more specifically a crematorium in San Francisco, California, where the author, a scholar of history, rites and myths surrounding the death, went to work at 23 years old. “This book is about my first six years working in the United States funeral industry. A person who does not want to read realistic descriptions of death and bodies got the wrong book, “warns Caitlin in the introduction. Her report is at once direct and sensitive, with strong descriptions and deep reflections about the process of preparing and caring for bodies after we die.
Because of some passages that may impact for it’s realism, I thought that recommending it here on the site might not be a good idea. But I concluded that if our mission is to break taboos I could not fail to talk about a book, bestseller in the United States, that has the courage to narrate without prejudice the routine of funeral rituals and make us reflect about the end. “Looking directly into the eyes of mortality is not easy. To avoid this, we chose to remain blindfolded in the dark about the realities of death. However, ignorance is not a blessing – it’s just a deeper kind of dread, “writes the author.
Caitlin Doughty felt the dread on her skin. At 8 years old, she witnessed a scene that would mark her childhood in Honolulu, Hawaii. When strolling in a mall, she saw a fatal crash of a little girl who had just climbed the escalators and fell off the second floor. The sight of the child plunging to death before her eyes; caused serious disturbances in Caitlin who developed an obsessive compulsive disorder that led her to develop a series of rituals to “prevent her parents from dying.” The fear of death and compulsive tics were later turned into academic curiosity. She went to study anthropology and the history of death through the ages. Her job as a funeral agent and the experience of caring for the remains of strangers is part of this journey, which she describes in details in her book.
With touches of humor and daring, but also with a lot of affection and genuine respect for corpses, Crematorium Confessions lead us into a territory that is forbidden to most of us. As it is written on the cover with the same honesty that marks all its pages, this is “A book for those who plan to die one day”.