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Death, et seq.
48 minutes | a year ago
Episode 22: NYC Cemeteries & Crematories in the COVID 19 Pandemic
The death care system in the New York City metropolitan area is overwhelmed. In this episode, we speak with Phil Tassi, President of the New York State Association of Cemeteries (NYSAC), and David Fleming, legislative director of NYSAC, to better understand the challenges facing cemeteries and crematories in the state.
46 minutes | a year ago
Episode 21: Death Care in the Time of COVID 19 with Amy Cunningham
Recorded on April 18, 2020, Brooklyn funeral director Amy Cunningham explains how death care is being handled in New York City a month into the COVID-19 pandemic.
52 minutes | 2 years ago
Episode 20: Planning for Incapacity with Jonah Bamel and Greg Volk
Estate planning should involve more than simply creating the appropriate documents to address who will receive your property after your death. Modern estate planning also includes some planning for a period of time prior to death, particularly if circumstances arise that a person cannot manage their own property or cannot make health care decisions for themselves. The vast majority of people will die after a period of some incapacity. If that period is short, then there are few problems. But because that period can be months or even years, many people want to make arrangements with respect to their property and health care in case the need arises. There are three basic documents for planning for the period of incapacity that Jonah Bamel, Greg Volk and Tanya Marsh discuss in this episode: (1) a health care proxy or health care power of attorney; (2) living will or advance directive; and (3) durable power of attorney. Visit www.deathetseq.com for links to additional resources.
67 minutes | 2 years ago
Episode 19: Discussing Cremation with Barbara Kemmis of CANA
On this week’s episode, I am happy to share with you a conversation that I recently had with Barbara Kemmis, the Executive Director of the Cremation Association of North America, or CANA. Cremation is on the rise in the United States. As Barbara will explain, after it was legalized in a handful of states in the 1870s, it took about a century for the cremation rate to hit 5% in this country. For the past several years, cremation has been a more popular option in the United States than burial, which represents a seismic shift in American disposition practices. Barbara and I will discuss the rising cremation rate, some of the reasons that people have been embracing cremation, and research conducted by CANA regarding correlations between demographic information and the cremation rate. I also ask Barbara about the environmental impacts of cremation and she shares some of the research that CANA has done in that area as well. To learn more: Industry Statistics: https://www.cremationassociation.org/page/IndustryStatistics Roaming/Rooted Blogpost Link: https://www.cremationassociation.org/blogpost/776820/280926/Enhanced-Statistics-Enhance-Your-Business-Success Link to all posts about stats: https://www.cremationassociation.org/blogpost/776820/The-Cremation-Logs?tag=statistics
49 minutes | 2 years ago
Episode 18: Music & Mortality: Murder Ballads and The Couldn't Be Happiers
Jodi Hildebran Lee and Jordan Crosby Lee are the Couldn't Be Happiers. Check them out at www.couldbehappiers.com. On this episode, they play murder ballads The Long Black Veil and a feminist re-imagining of Pretty Polly, plus their original song Jackson Square (which may or may not be about reincarnation).
47 minutes | 2 years ago
Episode 17: The Impact of the Protestant Reformation on Burial Practices (with Jordan Artrip)
The Protestant Reformation of the early 16th century changed countless aspects of everyday life for every kind of person across Europe. One of the things most profoundly affected was the popular conception of death. On this episode, I will be speaking with third year Wake Forest University Law School student Jordan Artrip about how the theology of the Reformation caused a paradigm shift for how death and the dead were viewed by society, as well as the practical effects of that shift on life and religious practice. Topics addressed in episode: For everyday people living during Christendom, one’s view of death and the dead was inextricably linked to the teaching of whichever church was dominant in their particular time and region. How did the theology of the Medieval Church shape peoples’ view of death and the dead on the eve of the Reformation? How did this belief in purgatory and the efficacy of intercessional prayer manifest itself in the practices of the Church regarding the dead? How did changes brought by the Reformation impact the level of memorialization that we see today in churches? How did changes in theology impact local burial practices? How did practices change in areas of Europe where the Catholic Church remained dominant? What impact did the Reformation and related changes in burial practices in Christian Europe have on the development of the law and social norms in the United States?
81 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 16: Music, Mortality & The Avett Brothers with Tim Mossberger
About a month ago, I sat down with my friend Tim Mossberger in Champaign, Illinois to talk about our mutual favorite band, The Avett Brothers, and a bunch of their songs that deal with topics related to mortality. Tim has a website called As My Life Turns to a Song – The Avett Brothers Archive. He has been methodically collecting and documenting the history of the band, and together with Paul Oehler has created an Avett setlist database that is as comprehensive as possible. And with me, Tim has created Tales of Avett News, a blog where we publish concert reviews, interviews with Avett fans and people connected with the band, and other content of interest to Avett fans. In this episode, Tim and I discuss a number of Avett Brothers songs that deal with various aspects of mortality including: The Fall Talk on Indolence The Lowering Die Die Die Another Youngster Am I Born to Die (cover) Live and Die Life Through My Prayers Once and Future Carpenter Morning Song Murder in the City No Hard Feelings
31 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 15: Death Related Holidays with Tyler Cunningham
Death is celebrated all over the world on annual basis. More than 175 million Americans will celebrate Halloween this year, with total spending in 2018 reaching $9 billion, with the average consumer planning to spend $86.79 on decorations, candy, costumes and more. While celebrated on a mass scale, most Americans likely do not know the history behind Halloween and how it has turned into a billion-dollar industry. Another major death related holiday that is often associated with Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, is actually its own unique holiday, where families spend even more than the average American consumer, as anywhere from two weeks to two months wages are spent on average honoring the dead. Today's podcast will discuss the history and current trends of Halloween and Dias de los Muertos, as well as take a deeper look into some other interesting death related holidays from around the world that our listeners may be less familiar with.
45 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 14: Cemetery Tourism in Philadelphia and Music by Dan Zlotnick
This hybrid episode combines Cemetery Tourism in Philadelphia and the music of recording artist Dan Zlotnick. In Part I, I discuss the history and some of the notable burials in Spruce Street Cemetery, the Old Pine Street Church churchyard, Christ Church churchyard and burial ground, the potter’s field in Washington Square, and Laurel Hill Cemetery. In Part II, singer-songwriter Dan Zlotnick shares two original songs, “Day 2 for Dina,” and “The Man Who Died Here Saved Me,” as well as his covers of The Avett Brothers’ “The Greatest Sum” and the folk song “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me.” Check out Dan's music at https://www.danzlotnick.com/.
49 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 13: Sarah Crews on Conservation Burial, Home Funerals, Music & Mortality
This is Tanya Marsh and you’re listening to Death, et seq. My guest this week is Sarah Crews, the director of Heart Land Prairie Cemetery in Salina, Kansas, the first all natural burial ground in Kansas, and the President of the National Home Funeral Alliance. Sarah also has a background in hospice and music. Links: National Home Funeral Alliance Heart Land Prairie Cemetery
47 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 12: Josh Slocum of The Funeral Consumers Alliance
My guest this week is my friend Josh Slocum, who is the Executive Director of Funeral Consumers Alliance and the co-author of Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death. Josh is a consumer advocate who is also willing to give consumers a little tough love in the face of what he refers to as learned helplessness. At the same time, he argues that the industry should be more transparent with pricing so that consumers are better able to make decisions that are meaningful and affordable.
54 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 11: Amy Cunningham and the Meaningful Funeral
Amy Cunningham is a progressive funeral director and the owner of Fitting Tribute Funeral Services in New York City. A former journalist, Amy co-authors a blog, The Inspired Funeral, with Kateyanne Unullisi. Full Transcript: Intro: This is Tanya Marsh and you’re listening to Death, et seq. The Fall semester just started at Wake Forest, so we’ve gone to episodes every other week for a little while, but the students in my Funeral and Cemetery Law class this semester will be helping me with some episodes, so you can look forward to some interesting topics. In the near future, you can look forward to an interview with Josh Slocum, the Executive Director of Funeral Consumers Alliance, and a conversation with my friend Tim Mossberger, the unofficial archivist of The Avett Brothers, about their music and mortality. But today’s episode is an interview with my friend Amy Cunningham, who is a progressive funeral director in Brooklyn, New York. Amy went to mortuary school in her 50s and embarked on this second career with an incredible amount of energy and empathy. She is the owner of Fitting Tribute Funeral Services and she is one of my favorite people. I hope you enjoy our conversation. Tanya Marsh: I am sitting with Amy Cunningham today in Brooklyn. Thank you, Amy so much for joining me on Death, et seq. Amy Cunningham: Hi Tanya. I’m very excited to be here. Tanya: Amy, I think of you as a non-traditional funeral director for a couple of reasons. You don't come from a funeral family. This is your second career. And you actively promote home funerals, green burials, and a number of other of “non-traditional” processes, rituals, and methods of disposition. And you do all of this in a state, New York, whose licensing makes it particularly difficult to be a non-traditional funeral director because of the licensing requirements. So can you just share your story and what motivated you to become a funeral director? Amy: Sure, it started with my father's death in South Carolina in the care of hospice and you know down there it's obvious to people in the small towns who to call when they need a funeral director—they know the funeral director from the Chamber of Commerce, from Rotary. So when my dad died we gave him a magnificent music-infused funeral service in the Presbyterian Church. I was amazed by the sweetness of the funeral director down there. I came back to Brooklyn. I was then a journalist writing about Buddhism meditations, spirituality, the new spiritual marketplace in the United States, how families were into marrying and mixing faith within their family system. I came back to Brooklyn after Dad's funeral and said to my husband, “gosh I admired that funeral director so much. I wonder what it would be like to be a funeral director. I wonder how you go about doing that.” That was in 2009, and six months later I was enrolled in mortuary school here in New York. It was a very rigorous demanding year and far more embalming and chemistry and science education than I ever anticipated. I'm not bitter about that now, but I was then. I got through all that and then took six months to, at the age of 54, not many funeral homes are eager to hire a mother of two who's had a career in journalism that doesn't seem applicable to the funeral biz. So it took a while to get a residency. But I did land a good one with a marvelous man who trained me and then I stayed there for three years and was always consistently interested in meeting the needs of families with a lot going on in terms of their faith constellation. The average family I meet with in Brooklyn these days—someone's a lapsed Catholic, someone's Jewish, someone's going to Buddhist retreats and practicing yoga. And they're trying to figure out how to arrange a funeral for a grandmother who had no faith at all, but then became a Mormon in the nursing home where she fell in love with the chaplain who was a Mormon and people come to me in that state. And when I sit with the family like that I feel I'm really in my sweet spot that I can truly help validate them and show them that they are not atypical that this is really the way we are right now in the United States. We can build a good ceremony. Tanya: I like that phrase “faith constellation” because that kind of pushes back on the notion—a notion about America in general, but maybe Brooklyn in particular, that we are increasingly unchurched and without faith. But that's suggesting that you actually have this sort of diversity and these mixed families of different ritual backgrounds, different faith backgrounds and so trying to find the middle ground or factors that are common to all of them, something that's meaningful. Amy: And yes there's a core of spirituality there and there may even be prayers or poetry that is loved within that family. So it's finding the right mix of language and music and the flowers and the right casket for that kind of group. They've got a lot going on so they want to keep it simple. And they're terrified about being ripped off or paying too much and too many people come in quite uninformed so to guide that kind of family through an experience that that then leaves them in an exalted, uplifted place is very meaningful work and I love it. Tanya: So what would you say your goal is as a funeral director with respect to families and the funerals that you're trying to accomplish. Amy: While I do a lot of alternative services, home funerals, green burials, witnessed cremations, I start out a bit simpler than that. I just want to give them a kind of ritual, a separation ritual that will be meaningful to them and that will endorse or include the values of the deceased and also send them out of the cemetery or out of the crematory that day off to their luncheon or whatever meal they're going to have after the service send them off in a place where they feel that that deceased person was loved, honored take good care of, and that we really did as a group the best job we possibly could. Tanya: Do you tend to deal with people more on a preneed basis? Do you have a lot of people come to you in advance to arrange their own funerals, or do you find that you're dealing more with families after the fact, or is it a mixture. Amy: Increasingly, as I get better now I've been very fortunate to have some good press, people are coming to me in advance. But I would say more frequently they're calling me the night of or two days prior to the death and the care of hospice occurring. A lot of my folks are dying in the care of hospice. I'm making inroads through hospice and getting known to hospice workers as someone who will take not only take great care of the deceased person but manage that complex family constellation. Tanya: And so mostly you're serving people in Brooklyn? Amy: Brooklyn and Manhattan, and Queens recently. Tanya: And then where are their families located? Are the families predominantly local. Or is an aspect of it that … I mean is part of the reason that people are calling you sort of at the last minute because the families coming in from out of town and nobody has made any arrangements. Amy: Some of that. I'm calling people who are in hospital corridors. But the cell phone will say they live in Portland or Cincinnati or Florida. So a lot of kids with parents dying here in New York because that's got that's got to be a challenge. Tanya: If you're not from a funeral family, you're not inheriting a funeral home or buying into an existing funeral home that has a book of business. Amy: Right. Tanya: Because most funeral consumers, the studies show, don't shop around. And there's an incredible reliance on using the funeral home that you've gone to funerals at before, to stick with a funeral director or a funeral home for multiple generations. So what are some ways just from a marketing perspective, getting started as a new business owner that you've tried to use to combat some of that. Amy: I used my background in journalism to develop some PowerPoint presentations that are purely educational or are not sales pitches. I just show people what a cremation is. What is cremation history. What did cremations look like in ancient Rome. And I started delivering those presentations at the Park Slope Food Co-op. Now we have 15,000 members in an alternative grocery store here in Brooklyn. And then my little show kind of took off and went on the road and Greenwood Cemetery now has me giving those kinds of workshops monthly and that's been great for all of Brooklyn. If someone asks me for a business card I may give it to them but it's not about spreading the word of my company, it's more about just giving them the facts because I think all funeral directors need to see themselves as educators. Death is a rather complicated today and there are a lot of important decisions to make involving thousands of dollars. And families will really feel cared for when they feel like they've been educated not just sold a bunch of goods. Tanya: Is it that younger people? Older people? Amy: It's neat. A lot of older people sometimes maybe couples in their 50s, 60s, 70s saying to each other “we really got to get going on this. We want to spare our children the struggle of putting a funeral together for us.” But then also I'm seeing people in their 20s and 30s are interested in funeral planning but also looking at careers in the end of life sphere. And I love these kids. I'm really impressed with the young people I'm meeting. I tell older people are in good hands because these are the people who are going to be taking care of us. And I think the book has not yet been written on how 9/11 influenced a whole generation of people. and deaths awareness and Caitlin Doughty’s books and all the great articles that have been running in The New York Times about getting ready for death and how to face it with dignity and courage. All of that is feeding a culture of young people who really want to get involved and
36 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 10: Cemetery Tourism in NYC and Boston
Episode Transcript: My name is Tanya Marsh and you’re listening to Death, et seq. We’ve been talking about funerals a lot on this podcast so far, and I wanted to switch gears this week and talk about one of my favorite topics – cemeteries. I love cemeteries. As my friends and family will attest, I am a semi-professional cemetery tourist. When I visit a new place, I want to check out the historic cemeteries. When I visit a place that I’ve been dozens of times, I still want to check out the cemeteries. So in a new series that I’m going to call “Cemetery Tourism,” I’ll be looking at different clusters of cemeteries that share similar characteristics or a similar history. I’m going to start the series in the Northeastern United States, in two of our earliest urban centers — New York City and Boston. Both of these cities were founded in the mid-1600s, and their early cemeteries share some common characteristics, but they also differed in important ways because of the people who founded those two cities. American cemeteries are different from cemeteries anywhere else in the world, for a couple of reasons. In the colonial era, we were obviously heavily influenced by the law of England and the social norms that had been established there and carried here. The England of the 17th century had an established church – the Church of England. The theology of the Church of England placed great importance on burial in consecrated ground. So the law of England reflected the assumption that all people in good standing with the church and entitled to burial within the church would be buried in their local parish churchyard. There were people that weren’t in good standing, or members of other religions, so allowances had to be made for them too, but the vast majority of people were buried in the local parish churchyard owned by the Church of England. That’s just how it was set up. But colonial America was a fairly diverse place. For example, Puritan colonists from England of course settled Massachusetts Bay Colony, while a more diverse group of English, Dutch, and German immigrants settled the former New Amsterdam, there were all kinds of ethnic groups and faiths on William Penn’s land, and the English Virginia Company established settlements focused on economics rather than religious liberty. Each of the colonies was different from the English system, but they were also each different from each other. These realities forced Americans to innovate. Massachusetts established (and still retains) a law that each town must create a burying ground for the use of residents and strangers. Unlike the English system, these are secular cemeteries, owned and managed by the government. In the densely populated cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, cemeteries were established downtown and despite practices designed to maximize the capacity of cemeteries, soon became overcrowded. In the Chesapeake, where the population was more widely dispersed, family burying grounds were established in addition to more traditional churchyards. Although the location of American burials differed from the uniform English precedent, other aspects of the process were the same during colonial times. Remains were wrapped in a shroud or encased in a wood coffin, then placed in the earth, a family tomb, or a mausoleum. Americans originally followed other European Christian customs—most graves were not individually memorialized and many contained the remains of more than one person. American disposition practices shifted after the Civil War. Embalming was rarely practiced before the war. During the war, a crude method of embalming was used to stabilize the remains of wealthier men, primarily on the Union side, so they could be sent home for burial. After the Civil War, undertakers trained in embalming evolved into funeral directors. Into the twentieth century, death moved from the home to the hospital; and the ceremonies surrounding death moved from the parlor to the funeral parlor. Undertaking had once been a complementary profession for carpenters—they could build the coffin and transport the remains to the cemetery. But the Industrial Revolution moved casket production from small workshops to factories, particularly after World War II. “Modern business principles” were applied to create modern cemeteries, owned by for-profit companies in many states, larger in scale and designed to minimize the costs of maintenance. These companies benefited from laws that gave great deference to cemetery owners—traditionally families, religious organizations and municipalities—to establish their own rules and regulations. Modern cemeteries adopted rules that required concrete and/or steel vaults or grave liners that would encase the coffin and prevent the uneven terrain that follows grave collapse. These companies also adopted rules that limited graves to a single interment. The cumulative effect is a very different set of practices than existed before the Civil War. Nearly all modern graves in the United States are dedicated in perpetuity to the remains of a single individual, memorialized with a tombstone. On today’s episode, I’ll talk about the history and development of cemeteries in New York City and Boston. If you’re interested in photographs and maps, be sure to check out the show notes at the podcast’s website – www.deathetseq.com. The Dutch first settled New Amsterdam, then just the southern tip of Manhattan, in 1624. A detailed city map called the Castello Plan was created in 1660 – it shows virtually every structure that existed in New Amsterdam at that time. In 1664, four English frigates sailed into New Amsterdam’s harbor and demanded the surrender of New Netherlands. Articles of Capitulation were signed that September and in 1665, New Amsterdam was reincorporated under English law as New York City. The settlement was named for the Duke of York, the brother of the English King Charles II who later became King James II. During most of the 17th century, even after the English took over, the Reformed Dutch Church was the dominant religious authority in New Amsterdam/New York. There were scattered Congregational, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches in the region, as well as Quakers, Catholics, and a few Jews. With the English in 1665, however, also came the established Church of England. One of the first significant cemeteries in New York City was established in the 1630s on the west side of Broadway, a little north of Morris Street. It was referred to as the “Old Graveyard” In 1656, there was a petition to “divide the Old Graveyard which is wholly in ruins, into lots to be built upon, and to make another Graveyard south of the Fort.” Apparently it persisted until at least 1665, when a collection was made to repair the graveyard because it was “very open and unfenced, so that the hogs root in the same.” By 1677, however, the graveyard had been cut up into four building lots and sold at auction to the highest bidder. There is no record regarding where the graves from this “Old Graveyard” were moved, but construction on the site more than a century later uncovered “a great many skulls and other relics of humanity,” so it sounds like perhaps they weren’t moved at all. Some things in Poltergeist are real, people. In 1662, the Dutch established a new burial ground on Broadway, on a parcel that was then located outside the city’s gates. That burial ground became a part of the Trinity churchyard when Trinity Church was established in thirty years later. In 1693, the New York Assembly passed an act to build several Episcopal churches in New York City and “all the inhabitants were compelled to support the Church of England, whatever might be their religious opinion.” In 1696, a plot of land stretching 310 feet from Rector Street to the Dutch burial ground that had been established on Broadway in 1662 was acquired by the Episcopalians and the Charter of Trinity Church was issued on May 6, 1697. The charter declared: “[Trinity Church] situate in and near the street called the Broadway, within our said city of New York, and the ground thereunto adjoining, enclosed and used for a cemetery or church-yard, shall be the parish church, and church-yard of the parish of Trinity Church … and the same is hereby declared to be forever separated and dedicated to the service of God, and to be applied thereunto for the use and behalf of the inhabitants … within our said city of New York, in communion with our said Protestant Church of England.” By the time of the Revolution, the churchyard at Trinity, including the old portion that had been the Dutch burial ground, was said to contain 160,000 graves. In 1847 a proposal to extend Albany Street to connect it with Pine Street would have disturbed the northern portion of the Trinity Church churchyard, part of the 1662 Dutch burial ground. A government report advocated against the extension: “[The burial ground] was established by the Dutch on their first settlement... It is nearly a century older than the other sections of the yard. It was originally a valley, about thirty feet lower at its extreme depth than the present surface, and has undergone successive fillings, as the density of interments rendered it necessary, to raise the land until it reached the present surface: so that the earth now, to a depth of several feet below the original, and thence to the present time of interment, is in truth filled with human remains, or rather composed of human ashes. The bodies buried there were [approximately 30,000 to 40,000] persons of several generations, and of all ages, sects and conditions, including a large number of the officers and soldiers of the Revolutionary War, who died whilst in British captivity; and almost every old family that is or ever was in this city, has friends or connections lying there.” In an
41 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 9: Lee Webster on Home Funerals, Green Burials & Social Justice
Lee Webster discusses her educational and advocacy efforts in the "neo-traditional" home funeral and green burial movements. Links to organizations and resources mentioned in this episode: Green Burial Council National Home Funeral Alliance New Hampshire Funeral Resources, Education & Advocacy Changing Landscapes: Exploring the growth of ethical, compassionate, and environmentally sustainable green funeral practice Selected quotes: Home funerals are “family led and family directed.” “We don’t recognize death as an emergency.” “One of the main characteristics of a home funeral is that it’s okay for people to look dead. We’re taking the time to be present and nearby and to engage with what’s happening. It’s taking the time to be with them.” In green burial, “we do nothing to impede decomposition. That’s pretty basic. No concrete, no metal, no exotic woods, no embalming, no toxic chemicals of any kind. We are letting nature take its course at its own pace.” “Green burial is bringing back ritual to a society that has been losing it because we’ve been trying to avoid the heavy costs of funerals and going with direct cremation.” We want people to think about “what is truly authentic about the life of the person they’re honoring.” "Funeral reform is very much needed. There are certain practices within the industry itself that do need change in a very big way." “People are hungering for this information.” "One of the largest issues for me is simply access." "The sooner we can get grassroots activism going, the sooner this will all be a moot issue." "The Catholic Church is really leading the way in green burial because we're getting back to full body burial. They never wanted cremation." "Unitarian Universalists, from the very beginning, have been big leaders in funeral reform."
57 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 8: Bob Fells of ICCFA on The Value of the Traditional Funeral
One of my major goals with this podcast is to introduce listeners to a variety of perspectives on the funeral industry and changing death practices. In Episode 3, I talked to Dan Isard, who is a management and financial consultant to funeral homes. In Episode 4, I talked to Caitlin Doughty, who is a non-traditional funeral director in Los Angeles with a critique to the status quo. In the next few weeks you’ll hear from Lee Webster, who has been very active in the home funeral and green burial movements, and from Amy Cunningham, who takes a very thoughtful and non-traditional approach to her second career as a funeral director. Several questions have emerged from my conversations with these folks, and some fundamental tensions have been revealed in their answers to these questions. Are funerals for the living or the dead? What is a “good” funeral? Are people less interested in rituals than they were before and, if so, why? What are the pressures facing the funeral industry and how should the industry react? Today’s podcast touches on many of these questions, from the perspective of a long-time leader of a funeral and cemetery industry trade association. There are three major trade associations that represent participants in the funeral and cemetery industries in the United States – The National Funeral Director’s Association, known as NFDA, the Cremation Association of North America, known as CANA, and the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association, known as ICCFA. ICCFA was founded in 1887 as the Association of American Cemetery Superintendents. Today it has more than 9,000 member businesses representing all segments of the cemetery, funeral services, cremation, and memorialization profession. Today’s podcast features my conversation with Bob Fells, who is the General Counsel of ICCFA. Bob was formerly the Executive Director and General Counsel of ICCFA, retiring from his role as Executive Director in 2017. Bob joined the staff of ICCFA in 1983 and has been working on behalf of the funeral service profession on legal and legislative issues since 1975.
56 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 7: A Preview of Dark Archives with Megan Rosenbloom
Megan Rosenbloom is Associate Director for Instruction Services at the Norris Medical Library of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and the co-founder and director of Death Salon, the event arm of The Order of the Good Death. Rosenbloom is writing a book called Dark Archives, anticipated to be published in 2019, which describes the history and discusses the ethics involved in "anthropodermic bibliopegy," books alleged to have been bound in human skin. Megan recommends the book Death, Dissection, and the Destitute by Ruth Richardson for more information on the Anatomy Acts. Here is a brief explanation: Throughout history, the use of cadavers has been hugely important to medical innovation and advancement. The demand for cadavers often vastly outweighed the available supply. Religious, moral and legal concerns often bred a reluctance to address the issue. With a relatively small supply of legally-obtained cadavers, some enterprising individuals turn to grave-robbing to cash in on the high demand. In few extreme cases, certain individuals even resorted to outright murder to generate a cadaver supply. The imbalance between demand and supply eventually forced lawmakers to act. The Murder Act of 1752 passed by Parliament in the United Kingdom allowed doctors and medical schools in need of cadavers to use the bodies of executed convicted murderers. As executions declined in number and demand for cadavers continued to increase, this solution proved insufficient. Growing public awareness and aversion to the corpse trade ushered in a climate of acceptance toward the Anatomy Act of 1832 in England. This Act gave doctors, medical students and the like more access to the cadavers of those who died in the care of the state. The 1832 Anatomy Act in particular had a strong influence on state legislatures in the United States. Even though grave robbing was illegal in colonial America, the practice grew with demand as it did in Europe. In 1788, riots broke out in Manhattan when someone discovered mutilated remains in the medical school at Columbia University. New York’s legislature responded by outlawing grave robbing and ordering that remains of executed criminals may be dissected. For an example of a U.S. statute, see Ohio Rev. Code § 1713.34: “Superintendents of city hospitals, directors or superintendents of city infirmaries, county homes, or other charitable institutions, directors or superintendents of workhouses, founded and supported in whole or in part at public expense, superintendents or managing officers of state benevolent institutions, boards of township trustees, sheriffs, or coroners, in possession of bodies not claimed or identified, or which must be buried at the expense of the state, county, or township, before burial, shall notify the professor of anatomy in a college which by its charter is empowered to teach anatomy, or the secretary of the board of embalmers and funeral directors of this state, of the fact that such bodies are being so held. If after a period of thirty-six hours the body has not been accepted by friends or relatives for burial at their expense, such superintendent, director, or other officer, on the written application of such professor, or the secretary of the board of embalmers and funeral directors, shall deliver to such professor or secretary, for the purpose of medical or surgical study or dissection or for the study of embalming, the body of any such person who died in any of such institutions from any disease which is not infectious. The expense of the delivery of the body shall be borne by the parties in whose keeping the body was placed.” Ohio Rev. Code § 1713.38: “The bodies of strangers or travelers, who die in any of the institutions named in section 1713.34 of the Revised Code, shall not be delivered for the purpose of dissection unless the stranger or traveler belongs to that class commonly known as tramps. Bodies delivered as provided in such section shall be used for medical, surgical, and anatomical study only, and within this state.” Ohio Rev. Code § 1713.41: “No superintendent of a city hospital, city infirmary, county home, workhouse, hospital for the mentally ill, or other charitable institution founded and supported in whole or in part at public expense, coroner, infirmary director, sheriff, or township trustee, shall fail to deliver a body of a deceased person when applied for, in conformity to law, or charge, receive, or accept money or other valuable consideration for the delivery.”
55 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 6: History, Music, and Mortality with David Childers and Phil Chaney
In this week’s episode of Death, et seq., I am talking to two of my favorite people about two very different topics. First, I’ll be talking to my uncle, Philip Chaney, about his experience growing up in a funeral family in a small town in Nebraska in the mid-20th century. There were two funeral homes in the county — one Catholic and one Protestant. The funeral homes were both combined with furniture stores, because there weren’t enough calls to make funeral directing a full time job. Another sideline for the funeral directors was running the ambulance service which Phil, as a teenage employee of the furniture store, also was involved in. We will talk about the history of the funeral and cemetery industries quite a bit in this podcast, because the human stories of how these industries developed can help us understand the legal rules and social norms that govern us today. Second, I’ll be talking to my friend David Childers, a recording artist on Ramseur Records, the singer and guitar player that you hear along with my son Riley Sherman on the music that opens each episode of Death, et seq. Music is an important part of the rituals surrounding death, and I am looking forward to having a number of episodes in which I talk to musicians about the connection between music and mortality. So, today on Death, et seq. — history, music, and mortality. Links to David Childers' Work: His website: www.davidchilders.com The video for Run Skeleton Run by Corey Ziegler and Robert Childers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlauDVWJdew
53 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 5: Introduction to Funeral & Disposition Planning (with Prof. Rebecca Morrow)
This episode discusses funeral and disposition planning in the context of estate planning, explains why pre-planning is a good idea, and discusses the major options available to American funeral consumers including the "traditional" American funeral of embalming, open casket viewing, and in-ground burial or cremation, and alternatives such as home funerals and green burial. The laws regarding the distribution of property after death are determined by the state in which the deceased person (known as the “decedent”) resided at the time of their death. If a person does not leave a validly executed will, then the court with probate jurisdiction will apply the “intestacy laws” to determine the distribution of a decedent’s property and payment of any debts left at death. Funeral expenses have top priority for payment from the estate at the time of death. The laws regarding the disposition of human remains are determined by the state in which the person died. Many (but not all) states allow people to designate an agent or leave binding funeral and disposition instructions. There is significant variety between the states in terms of what kinds of documents are needed to designate an agent or leave instructions. If a person does not leave validly executed instructions, then the laws of the state where the person died will determine who gets to take control of the remains and make decisions regarding funeral and disposition. Visit www.deathetseq.com for more extensive show notes and links to resources.
39 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 4: Caitlin Doughty and the Death Positive Movement
I am so happy to have Caitlin Doughty as my guest on Episode 4. Caitlin is a licensed funeral director and the owner of Undertaking LA, a funeral home in Los Angeles. She is the co-founder of Death Salon and the founder of The Order of the Good Death. She is the host of Ask a Mortician, which is a highly entertaining series of videos on YouTube (my favorite is the one on Viking burials). Caitlin is also the author of TWO best-selling books – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, in which she discusses her experience working in a crematory, and From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, which was published last year. In this episode of Death, et seq., Caitlin discusses what the death positive movement IS. In this blog post, she explains what the death positive movement IS NOT. Discussion topics: ⇒ Defining "death positivism" ⇒ What kind of pushback Caitlin receives, and what parts of her message resonate broadly ⇒ How social justice is an integral part of the death positive movement ⇒ Caitlin's relationship with the funeral industry ⇒ What each of us can do to be more death positive on a daily basis For more extensive show notes and to submit questions, please visit our website at www.deathetseq.com.
37 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 3: Dan Isard and the State of the Modern Funeral Industry
In the United States today, most funerals are arranged by licensed funeral directors, most bodies are prepared for disposition by licensed embalmers, and many funerals take place in licensed funeral homes. The funeral industry has been handling the dead in America for only a century. This is largely an industry made up of “mom and pop” family owned businesses, passed down from generation to generation, although there are a few large companies and even a few that are publicly traded. I thought that an interview Dan Isard, the president of The Foresight Companies and an expert on the funeral industry, would be a great way to begin to lay a foundation on Death, et seq. We can’t understand how the world of death care may be changing until we understand how that world functions in the first place. In today’s episode, Dan and I discuss the structure of the funeral industry and some of the challenges that it faces. Dan Isard has been providing management and financial consulting services to the funeral industry for 25 years. He is a frequent speaker on topics related to the funeral industry and writes a column for The Director magazine. Takeaways: ⇒ Isard’s research shows that there are between 19,000 and 20,000 funeral homes, down about 10% from a decade ago. About 15,000 funeral homes are owned by approximately 9,000 to 10,000 privately owned “Mom and Pop” businesses. ⇒ About 60% of bodies are embalmed. ⇒ Number of locations is declining, total deaths is increasing, our population continues to increase and our death rate is increasing. I asked Isard: “That should suggest boom times for the funeral industry, right?” ⇒ Recent trends cited by Isard: Dramatic increase in cremation disposition and large increase in pre-arrangement, but the profitability of those pre-arrangements is decreasing. ⇒ Isard argues that in order to save the funeral services industry, we have to “blow up” the licensure regime. ⇒ The pricing of cremation also needs to be “blown up” because “burial is subsidizing cremation.” For more extensive show notes or to submit questions, please visit the website, www.deathetseq.com.
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