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Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre---How We Dignify the Dead Hardcover – October 11, 2011
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“An Eat, Pray, Love for the afterlife … Murray tackles an uncomfortable subject with sensitivity, humor and great insight … Making an Exit raises a host of issues worth thinking about … In addition to being a deeply informative book, Making an Exit is also a personal one. Murray’s reflections on her father’s terminal illness and his plans for a no-frills cremation are particularly touching … In the end, as her own experiences show, the rituals we create to honor the dead may say more about the living, and our fears and hopes.”—Rachel Newcomb, The Washington Post
“The death of her father, and his clear orders for an unfussy, secular send-off, prompted Ms. Murray to consider her own long goodbye. The result is not only a fascinating travelogue, but also a personal meditation on loss and fate. Ms. Murray excels in the role of intrepid tour guide. She has an inviting way of taking readers by the hand to explore new cultures and places … there is a wealth to discover within these pages.”—The Economist
About the Author
SARAH MURRAY is author of Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat. A longtime Financial Times contributor, she lives in New York City.
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To her credit, author Murray does a good and sympathetic job of describing religious views and funeral customs of cultures she has visited around the world. She also does an excellent job of introducing us to her dearly-departed and much-missed father, who was also an unbeliever, but similarly not quite able to just leave it at that.
This book is not just an updated rehash of Jessica Mitford's famous book American Way of Death, which influenced many of my views as a future pastor fifty years ago. Mortuaries may not celebrate the light this book casts upon their operations, but they may profit from opportunities it offers, such as arranging trips for people who wish to use or scatter the ashes of loved ones in particular places and ways.
I was particularly glad to learn of a more ecological alternative to cremation called resomation, and specifics on companies offering such services as converting ashes into a diamond, or shooting them into space, or incorporating them into household objects. Personally, I'm signed up to have my body donated to the med school where I used to work, as did my mom. Those interested in such alternatives will find much to Google after reading this volume.
I thank the author for making all this information easily available, and wish her well in her grief for her father and continuing search for meaning at and beyond the end of this life.
Murray details how different cultures in America deal with death, and as a nurse, I have seen first hand some of them myself. From an elderly daughter wailing at the loss of her hundred-year-old mother, so loudly that the entire facility got goosebumps witnessing her agony, to those who immediately divide up leftover cash and feign complete indifference, it's true we all deal with the death of those we love or are responsible for, in our own unique way.
This book delves further into these matters of death, as the author traveled throughout the globe meeting undertakers and casket makers; and also met with religion experts to discuss the after-life and various beliefs held. The book even mentions how much somebody paid to be buried next to Marilyn Monroe! So the author left no tombstone unturned.
The book is well written and if you are interested in reading about the one thing we all do - die and leave our remains behind - I would recommend you read it!