By Kate Sweeney
A person dies. What occurs next?
One kinfolk inters their matriarch's ashes at the flooring of the sea. one other holds a memorial weenie roast every year at a greenburial cemetery. An 1898 advert for embalming fluid grants, "You could make mummies with it!" whereas a number one modern burial vault is touted as impervious to the weather. A grieving mom, a hundred and fifty years in the past, could spend her days tending a backyard at her daughter's grave. this present day, she may well have a tendency the roadside memorial she erected on the spot her daughter was once killed. One mom wears a locket containing her daughter's hair; the opposite, a necklace containing her ashes.
What occurs after anyone dies is dependent upon our own tales and on the place these tales fall in a bigger tale—that of dying in the US. It's a strong story that we often retain hidden from our daily lives until eventually we need to face it.
American Afterlife by means of Kate Sweeney finds this international via a collective portrait of american citizens previous and current who locate themselves individually concerned with dying: a klatch of obit writers within the barren region, a funeral voyage at the Atlantic, a fourth-generation funeral director—even a midwestern museum that takes us again in time to fulfill our deathobsessed Victorian progenitors. each one tale illuminates info in one other till anything greater is printed: a panorama that feels straight away unusual and general, one that's through turns abnormal, tragic, poignant, and occasionally even humorous.
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Extra resources for American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning
Farewells were especially dif~cult for the women. Just as their families began to take root in America and they began to feel settled, historical diaries tell us that many of their husbands insisted on going even farther west into the Dakotas or to the _ats of Nebraska or California, usually for more land or for gold. As the men followed their itch for adventure, the uprooting and repeated goodbyes took a high toll on immigrant women on the plains whose family connections had already been broken.
One day when she arrived at the nursing home, she noticed that her mother was calling every blonde woman on the _oor “Ann,” as though they were all her daughter. Ann was devastated. “Mother doesn’t know me anymore. ” Ann came to the realization that she was coming for herself. ” The poignancy of this scene reminds me of a documentary featuring life with Wes, another Alzheimer’s patient, and his wife, Lynn. Wes was diagnosed with the disease in his forties, as were his father and sister. In tests at the veterans’ hospital, Wes didn’t know the year or the president’s name.
When adoption ~les are voluntarily open and all parties are known to one another, the adopting family appears to be able to tolerate ambiguity and is able to think about, even include, the birth mother in their lives. In closed adoptions, where ~les are locked, adoptive parents appear to prefer the absolute of no contact. 4 The psychological family is a reality for those affected by adoption, too. In my own practice I have worked with adopted people troubled by the ambiguity of not knowing the identity or whereabouts of their biological parents.
American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning by Kate Sweeney