Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book review: Going Out Green by Bob Butz

Funerals make me mad. Really mad.

Every single time I have to go to one, I get angry about it.

I hate the entire ritual. I hate everything about the experience. I despise getting dressed in uncomfortable clothing and going to some sprawling, lavishly decorated funeral home that stinks of overpowering flowers, Aunt Millie's nasty perfume and other things you imagine you can smell and really don't want to think about.

I hate the way people feel like they have to have a body "preserved," dressed up and made up so loved ones can look at it. I hate it when I walk in and someone asks me "Do you want to see her/him?"

Uh, no. Actually I don't.

Because without exception, with every single person I have ever seen in a casket, I have trouble remembering them alive. Every time I think of that person, I first and foremost see him or her in the casket. That one viewing ruins many great memories I have of them. I know some people see it as "closure" or whatever. Not me. I don't want to see my loved ones' dead bodies. All it is to me is upsetting. What made that person who he or she was to me is gone. All that's left is a shell, and I don't need to see that.

Not only that, I am appalled by the cost of funerals. Even buying flowers to send makes me ill because they charge INSANE amounts of money for a handful of flowers in a vase, because they know people will buy them for fear of appearing cheap.

So, like most people, I try not to think about my own mortality. it's there and it will happen one day and you know what? I'm not going to have to deal with it. But, I have maintained for a long time that I don't want people to have to deal with the whole funeral thing when it comes to me. I think it's gross and wrong and I DON'T WANT IT.

So, I was up north on vacation and went into a great little book shop and saw a book called "Going Out Green: One Man's Adventure Planning His Own Burial" by Bob Butz. I was intrigued. I wanted to see what Butz had to say about this semi-taboo subject.

I contacted Butz, who also lives in Michigan, and I asked if he would be willing to send me a copy of his book so I could read it and review it here, since I like to investigate ways to "green up" my life. He agreed and sent me the book. (I didn't pay for it, by the way)

I had a little trouble reading it because it forced me to think about icky things, I'll tell you that, but it also got me thinking. Butz has a humorous way of looking at things like embalming and grave digging (he even dug one on his own property, just to see what it was like!) that will keep you reading, just to see what he has to say next.

But the things he discovered about having a green burial just made me madder. Basically, it's really hard to ensure that your body will be handled just the way you want it once you die. Here in Michigan, there are laws that a certified funeral director must be at least somewhat involved.

Not only that, Butz found that something as simple-sounding as finding a cheap pine box (like in the old Western movies) to be buried in is not as simple (or cheap) as one might imagine. In fact, he is planning to make his own.

In the book, Butz also points out that having a "green" burial is definitely not easy or convenient. "Green" cemeteries or "burial preserves" are few and far between, and many funeral directors interpret the law to mean that embalming is required, even if a body is not to be transported any farther than from hospital to funeral home to cemetery within one town.

Going Out Green was a quick, easy read on a topic that everyone will have to think about one day, and it will get you thinking, whether you want to or not.

But basically, this book just made me angrier and more determined to avoid all this funeral business when my time comes. I'd love to know that I'm going to "go out green." Maybe when the end rolls around for me it won't be as difficult as it is now. Who knows?

If you'd like to check out Going Out Green or any of Butz' other books, check out his Web site.


Gwenn S. said...

I totally agree. I've told my husband that I don't want a funeral. I've been to several over the last 10 yrs. and I hate it. I'd rather be cremated or something and used to grow a tree.

Suzanne Shaffer said...

Funerals...bahhumbug. I much prefer celebrations of life. On the series, "Six Feet Under" they actually did a green funeral for one of the brothers who died. It was interesting and certainly seemed the way to go. They wrapped him in some sort of biodegradable material and found a "green cemetery" that specialized in those type of burials. I hate looking at bodies, and I completely refuse. Once for me was all it took and I will never do it again--ever.

Krista said...

It makes me furious how expensive everything associated with funerals is, and also NO I don't want to look in any casket!

Heather said...

It is crazy how pricey funerals are! My parents both promised I'd do cremation (which we did with Mom) & I was floored that was even $4000!!!!