I’ve encountered this unfamiliarity in my ministry. It’s noticeable in the way some families approach the imminent death of a loved one (or avoid the reality), but it is perhaps most frustratingly apparent in the difficulty one finds in trying to perform a funeral and burial in a traditional manner. I’ve written about this before; it’s most easily seen in regards to the way one has to ask some funeral homes to make sure there is dirt available to cast upon the coffin, since they often do everything in their power to cover all of it with outdoor carpeting–something much more aesthetically hideous in my own opinion.
“Culled from Stephen King’s novella The Body (1982), the plot in the 1980s coming-of-age film Stand by Me (1986) revolves around a quest by four adolescents to find a dead body. Set in 1959, the narrator reflects back on the events from the present, highlighting the novelty of the encounter in the film’s opening line: “I was twelve going on thirteen the first time I saw a dead human being.” By the mid-twentieth century, close encounters with death had become exceptional for American adolescents.
By contrast, in his masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain incorporates a dead body into the plot as a banal element of the antebellum tale. Although the reader does not expect Huck to hide a bag of money in the coffin containing “the remainders of Peter,” Twain portrays the presence of a coffined body in the downstairs parlor of the Wilks home while the family sleeps upstairs as mundane occurrence. By the twentieth century, such a scene could only fit comfortably as a prelude to some horrific preternatural episode in one of King’s other works.
These disparate works of fiction punctuate the manner in which American attitudes towards death and dying have been transformed from an uncomfortable familiarity to a comfortable unfamiliarity”
Once an intimate family affair, death and dying are now outsourced in America… These disparate works of fiction punctuate the manner in which American attitudes towards death and dying have been transformed from an uncomfortable familiarity to a comfortable unfamiliarity
Read it all: Outsourcing Death