…They call Alabama the “Crimson Tide”…

Several years ago I read an article written by Jessica Mitford. In it, she attacks the funeral industry and their various insidious techniques used in the embalming of a body. Pretty gruesome stuff. An email I received tonight took me to the Blog of Death, an interesting website in and of itself. Death has always had a stygian hold on my psyche for many years so I found this website to be oddly interesting. Maybe I should be concerned…
Anyway, I wrote a piece after reading Mitford’s article that explains my feeling on the subject of my own demise. I thought it was well thought out if anything. The only thing I really desire upon the beginning of my big dirt nap is the playing of “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan at my funeral. Don’t ask me why, I just do. Weird, I know. I’ve informed my wife that if my wish isn’t fullfilled, I will turn the atmosphere around the house into Poltergeist to the 10th power. She doesn’t like the sound of that very much (even if I am kidding, and I am)

The Sweetest Goodbye


Death is the real final frontier and the end of life as we know it, though what lies on the other side of that threshold is anybody’s guess. The departure from this life remains shrouded in mystery while the question of how we are to travel there does not. We are faced with a choice as we stand before that threshold; a choice not to be made lightly, as Mitford so succinctly explains.

I have decided to enter into eternity with a minimal amount of baggage; no industrial strength chemicals I can’t pronounce the names of will ever swim through these veins, voluntarily. I predict my duodenum will be a mere ashen memory upon my first step into the great beyond. To embalm the body is simply a matter of choice and after reading Mitford’s essay the decision for me was as crystal clear as a virgin pane of glass. I have made those intentions known to the ones I love that I intend to be charbroiled to a crispy well done, no meat thermometer needed here, thank you very much.

Mitford’s idea that the funeral industry may be concerned about public awareness of the embalming procedure is well founded and direct. Why would anyone want to have a trocar inserted into his or her abdominal cavity is incomprehensible to me. Just the idea of internal organs being sucked through a tube scrubbed my name from the embalmer’s waiting list. She writes the word “molested” several times throughout the piece, a seemingly apt description of the entire embalming process. One can only hope (and pray) that the funeral director harbors no necrophilial tendencies, another proverbial open can of moist, squishy worms.

They say, life sucks and then you die. They should say, life sucks and then you die and God help you if you’ve taken that dark left turn down Dismemberment Boulevard. Judging from her graphic narrative, Mitford seems to be a definite candidate for cremation, given her somber yet droll description of the art of present day mummification. The inclusion of the line, “Il faut souffir pour etre belle”, translated from French, “one must suffer to be beautiful” serves only to highlight her obvious mordant view of this age-old embalming tradition.

If embalming is in fact the road needed to travel to reach the pearly gates, I can only hope my final images are those of a can of gasoline and an open book of matches. Not only would I save the funeral director from an unnecessary and messy task but also might serve my family as a means for toasting up a few marshmallows, which to me seems like a much sweeter way of saying goodbye.

© michaelm 2005


2 thoughts on “…They call Alabama the “Crimson Tide”…

  1. RE: Putting the fun back in Funeral.


    I just came across your entry when I (for reasons only you may appreciate) did a Google search for ‘Deacon Blues Funeral’.

    I hear you all the way, brother. I’ve always wanted that Steely Dan tune played at my last hurrah, as well. I, too, have no idea why. It doesn’t really sum up my life, but there’s something about the attitude of the song, the solitude of Fagen’s character that’s always appealed to me. And it’s simply a gorgeous, intoxicating tune, which has been one of my favorites, consistently, for 30 years, holding me in its embrace through many phases of my life.

    My partner just rolls her eyes and thinks it’s morbid to discuss such things, but I have my playlist in mind, of which I remind her regularly. My other song, so far, is Shirley Horn’s languid version of ‘Here’s to Life’, which is probably a more appropriate song for the dirt nap.

    Cheers, fellow traveler.

    You just made my day.



  2. I’ve often thought that I’d like to plan out my funeral, but I’m just a bit hesitant – actually there aren’t many aspects about it that I could truly make up my mind. I’ll have to listen to Deacon Blues. If Glen Campbell could be there in person, he would be allowed to sing anything he wants, but I do like his version of the Lord’s Prayer. I went to a funeral a couple weeks ago and there was no organ music, only a couple of songs played live by a saxophone player – very nice.
    And about the cremation thing. That doesn’t sound very lovely either. What I’d really prefer is to be buried without being embalmed and even without being vaulted up. I want to return to dirt (not ashes.) And I want a peach tree planted on top of me.

    I like the peach tree idea. I think I’d opt for a pecan…


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