In the United States, we have come to see death as an emergency. We call the doctors, the nurses, the police, the emergency workers, the funeral staff to take over for us. They hurry corpses from hospital rooms or bedrooms into designated, chilled death spaces. They dig and fill the graves for us and drive our loved ones, alone, to the crematories. They turn on the furnace, lift the bodies, close the door.

There may be no other rite of passage around which we have become more passive. We carefully vet the doctors or midwives who will deliver our babies. We pore over options for wedding venues and officiants. But often we don’t plan for death. So when it arrives, we take what’s easily available. In a 2016 survey by the National Funeral Directors Association, 81 percent of respondents said they called only one funeral home before making their decision. If death practices reveal a culture’s values, we choose convenience, outsourcing, an aversion to knowing and seeing too much.

-The New York Times

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