The “modern” and “enlightened” view of death is one of absolute materialist nihilism—there’s almost a competitive edge to it. “Just harvest my organs and burn me away!” exclaims one. “Throw me in a ditch and give me back to the earth!” one-ups the next. No one wants to appear sentimental, and the idea of anything other than a purely utilitarian approach to a corpse feels superstitious and anachronistic. I find the attitude a little self-serving—funerals are for the living, and mourners may be soothed by the ritual of a funeral or service of some sort.
In fact, I’m of the opinion that if you truly care for your surviving friends and family you’ll at least consider what New Orleans socialite Mickey Easterling did. Not only did the fabulously eccentric philanthropist request a grandiose, champagne-catered funeral, she left them with a diorama of her earthly remains! Easterling was displayed sporting lavish fashions, sitting in a garden setting mirroring her own back yard. The details are what gets me. Notice the cigarette at the end of of an elegant holder, the glass of champagne, and her broach—it spells “bitch. ” Fab. You. Less.
If the guests/mourners don’t appear put off by Easterling’s final request it might help to remember a few things. First of all, this is New Orleans, where the macabre has style. Second, Easterling was well-known for her joyous personality and free-spirited flair. She “wintered” in Morocco—using a season as a verb is the ultimate marker of a person enjoying their good fortune, in my opinion. And finally, this is not the first time New Orleans has bid farewell to a community staple with extreme embalming. Two years ago Lionel Batiste (vocalist, bass drummer and assistant leader of the Treme Brass Band), was displayed standing up, before his traditional New Orleans jazz procession/parade.
Maybe it’s a growing trend! We can only hope, right?
Via Paris Review