The American Way of Dying, Part II

Back in ancient times, the early 1960’s, a woman named Jessica Mitford wrote a stinging exposé of the funeral industry, The American Way of Dying.  The book outed the high cost of unnecessary funeral expenses and created quite an uproar,  to say the least.

Mitford found that directors preyed on grieving family members, using unscrupulous business practices to charge far more than necessary for services and caskets.  In other words, beyond dying, death had become overly commercialized and extremely expensive.

That was long before the advent of Pet Funeral Homes.  Mitford must be turning over in her grave.

In anticipation of BlackJack’s hopefully not too imminent demise, I made a few phone calls to local, ahem, Pet Funeral Homes.

Good grief.

I still remember my first funeral.  I was a young child, in the backyard kneeling with my younger brother by a small hole in the ground that our dad had dug.  Mom had prepared the casket and Dad carefully placed the small matchbox holding our dead goldfish into the hole. We all said our goodbyes and then my brother and I ran off to play.  I suspect Dad later retreived Goldie and flushed her down the toilet before we kids had any thoughts of resurrecting her. 

The last time I had to have a pet put down, admittedly a few years back, the vet handled everything while I wiped my tears and wrote a check.  The amount, as I recall, was around $40 and took care of the cremation and ash scattering at a rural pet cemetery.  It was well worth the cost.

Fast forward, and now the price hovers around $200 for cremation of a pet under 20 lbs., including a rosewood box, urn or scattering.  Funeral service, flowers, casket, interment and headstone are all additional costs.  

Really???  I don’t even want this for myself.

I have to admit that upon hearing the solemn recitation of the options and prices, I blurted out, Good Lord, when my mother died a few years ago, it was half that price for her cremation. 

I’m not always the most politically correct person in the room.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that I do not love BlackJack.  Or my mother.  I do.  I say BlackJack’s been my longest relationship, which is not true, but he’s probably among my most successful ones. That says a lot about the two of us. I am already heartbroken.

But when I think of the options, given the high cost of American Pet Death, I’d rather bury BlackJack under his favorite napping place out back, in an area that is protected by large spreading oaks. He could have fun haunting any golfers we don’t know who venture off the course and into the yard in search of their errant golf balls. 

But, it’s summer with temps around 100 and the ground is rock solid. Chances are that son, son-in-law, and/or grandsons will not be here when the time comes to handle the grave digging duties. 

And I know my limitations, so his ashes will be scattered…all of which means I better have my checkbook ready. 

But, please, please someone intervene if I start talking about where to send flowers, the date and time of a funeral service or if you find a small copper urn on my nightstand.






2 thoughts on “The American Way of Dying, Part II

  1. Funerals are just one rite that we’ve developed beyond reason. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, quinceaneras, first birthdays, kindergarten graduations… It is important for us to celebrate, and it is important for us to mourn. I think we’re getting scale wrong.

    I wish you and Blackjack good time together, for the days left. I’m sure you’ll have many special memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I agree about the funeral costs. We avoided that. The kids and I took Ron’s ashes to a site from a part of history that he really liked: the Lewis and Clark expedition along the river in Oregon.
    We enjoyed being together, the beauty and serenity and taking our time distributing the ashes in a place he would like to be. A great way to be together and say good-bye.


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