(Kansas City, Missouri) - Caitlin Doughty is out to change the way we deal with dying.
Founder of The Order of the Good Death, a web forum promoting the open discussion of death, and host of the wry and popular web series Ask a Mortician, the 30-year-old Los Angeles funeral director has led the growing "death acceptance" movement to overhaul the way in which Western society confronts the end of life - favoring natural burial over embalming, eliminating death euphemisms, and encouraging a more active role for relatives and other loved ones in burying the dead.
She sits down for a public conversation with Kaite Stover, the Library's director of readers' services, on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
Doughty's appearance coincides with the release of her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, both a witty memoir and an eye-opening examination of the American way of death.
Most people prefer to avoid the subject. Doughty - with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre - dove into it, taking a job at a crematory and turning morbid curiosity into her life's work.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes: caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction; her first time shaving a corpse, the dead man's eyes open and "gone flat like deflated balloons;" sweeping ashes from crematory machines (occasionally onto her clothes). Doughty's honest, self-deprecating, often humorous style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing.
Our fear of dying, she says, warps our culture and society. Doughty calls for a greater acceptance of death. And when it comes, she advocates amateur undertaking. "Most people think dead bodies are dangerous or that they're required to hire a funeral director to prepare a body," she says. "I'm a licensed mortician, but I want to teach people that they don't need me."
Doughty started The Order of the Good Death in 2011. The website and her Ask a Mortician segments have led to features in The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and Salon and on National Public Radio and the BBC, among other media outlets.
Admission to her presentation is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th & Baltimore.