Dealing Creatively with Death (14th Edition)
A Manual of Death Education and Simple Burial
By Ernest Morgan
This book is a true classic—more than 300,000 copies have been sold in its various editions. With every edition, it has grown and improved. Jessica Mitford, in a foreword to the book, credits it as a major influence in the research and writing of her all-time bestseller, The American Way of Death.
Ernest Morgan worked with us conscientiously to update and improve the material, to make it the best edition ever. By the fall of 2000, with his final approval, we sent the book to the printer, with a formal publication date of January, 2001. While the book was at the printer, Ernest passed away, at age 95. He left behind a magnificent book.
Dealing Creatively with Death is a small encyclopedia on death-related problems: social, emotional, philosophical and practical. It is written simply and sensitively, drawing substantially on direct experience. It includes the following, along with reference sources:
- DEATH EDUCATION—As a preparation for living. Facts, philosophy, advice that everyone needs. A text for classes.
- LIVING WITH DYING—The philosophy and practice of hospice. Personal experience in home care. Relating to a dying person. Home care for AIDS patients.
- BEREAVEMENT—Personal experiences. Group support. Dealing creatively with grief. How death can illuminate life.
- THE RIGHT TO DIE—The right to decline treatment. The problem of suicide. Helping someone to die. How to plan ahead.
- SIMPLE BURIAL AND CREMATION—Why are most funerals costly? The values of simplicity. Methods of Planning. Advice on pre-need contracts.
- FUNERAL CONSUMER ORGANIZATIONS—Democratic, nonprofit societies, affiliated with the national Funeral Consumers Alliance. These volunteer groups help families get the services they want at prices they can afford.
- DEATH CEREMONIES—Important in meeting the social and emotional needs of the survivors. How to plan them. Examples.
- HOW THE DEAD CAN HELP THE LIVING—How to bequeath bodies, tissues and organs to save lives and help train doctors. Details.
And of course, there is much more. Gathered together and written by a kind, gentle, and brilliant man who devoted much of his life to helping others understand, and accept death.
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About the Author
(The following autobiographical notes and history of the book were written by the author, Ernest Morgan.)
My father, Arthur E. Morgan, was an intensely creative man whose activities had a lasting impact in several areas of American life. He had long felt that American funeral practices could be simpler and more meaningful. In 1948 he formed the Burial Committee of the Yellow Springs Friends Meeting (Quaker) to study the matter in a systematic way.
After five years of study, his committee evolved a plan whereby the meeting would care for its own dead, handling the paperwork, building the boxes, conveying the bodies to a crematory or medical school and arranging memorial services–all without professional assistance.
In 1953 I was drafted by the meeting to chair this committee. I had no special interest in the project but did not wish to avoid responsibility, so I accepted. After all, I thought, I am a grown man, I can probably handle a dead body as well as the next fellow.
During the five years of study no one in the meeting had died, but as soon as I became chairman they started dying! Then I discovered that what I had anticipated to be a disagreeable chore turned out to be a meaningful privilege–serving one’s friends at a time of profound need. The plan worked well at a small cost, and the memorial services became a comfort and an inspiration to all concerned.
Then, quite by accident, our little burial committee got nationwide publicity. Letters poured in, asking for information. Gosh, I thought, I can’t answer all these letters; I’ll mimeograph a few sheets to send these people. Then another thought occurred to me. A burial committee is fine for a close-knit rural group like ours, but in most situations a memorial society that works with funeral directors is more practical. I’d better include some information on memorial societies. So I started digging out this information. (There was no memorial society association then. The national group now is the Funeral Consumers Alliance.)
A short time later my stepmother, Lucy Morgan, asked me to make arrangements for her to leave her body to the university’s medical school. She was a thrifty soul. “I don’t want my body wasted,” she said. So I went and met Dr. Graves (!) who was dean of the anatomy department. Dr. Graves was (almost too) enthusiastic. “If only more people would do this! There’s a serious shortage of bodies in many areas.” So I saw that I’d better tell people about leaving their bodies to a medical school.
Another five years passed. Instead of a few sheets, I had a 64-page book, A Manual of Simple Burial. It appeared in 1962, printed by Celo Press, a division of the Arthur Morgan School, which my wife and I were launching then. It was well received.
The book sold well and helped support the school. New editions followed, each extensively revised. One thing I learned was that people turn their backs on the idea of death and are thus inhibited from joining a memorial society or planning ahead. Death education is almost a prerequisite for coming to grips with the question. So with our sixth edition we changed the title to A Manual of Death Education and Simple Burial. Sales continued to grow.
In 1971 my first wife died of cancer after a long illness. During her final months, I kept her at home, where her life could be filled with love and fellowship and music–our introduction to what is now called hospice. Another dimension was thus added to the Manual.
The book has expanded over the years, with another name change, Dealing Creatively with Death, now in its fourteenth edition and published by Upper Access Press. It is no longer my book but belongs as well to a host of friends and scholars who have helped with it. In particular, my daughter, Jenifer, has done much of the research and writing for recent editions and has been my most faithful and exacting critic.
What People are Saying
“Ernest Morgan was immeasurably helpful when I was writing The American Way of Death, and for years thereafter as we fought in our respective communities what one writer called “the battle of the Bier Barons.”–Jessica Mitford
“I have used this book for years, and love it.”—Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION / To the 14th Edition
FOREWORD / By Jessica Mitford
PREFACE / How This Book Happened
INTRODUCTION / About Accepting Death
- DEATH EDUCATION
Why death education?; The growth of death education; About the death educator; Death education for children; The challenge of man-made death; Other man-made deaths; Life after death; How to go about death education; Application of the remaining chapters; Endnotes and Bibliography
- LIVING WITH DYING
A personal experience in home care; My daughter Jenifer’s comments; Stages of dying [Denial and isolation; Anger; Bargaining; Depression; Acceptance]; Unfinished business; Deciding about home care; Help for home care; The hospice movement [What is hospice?; Hospice services; More facts about hospice; To locate the nearest hospice]; Pain Control; Nutrition; A caution; Alzheimer’s disease; Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS); The dying child; General comments on dying; Endnotes and Bibliography
Cultural barriers to grieving; The process of grieving; My own experience with grief; Group support in bereavement; Children and grief; The death of a child; Suicide survivors; AIDS survivors; Special issues for bisexual or homosexual men; Other situations of bereavement; Support groups and professional help; Good physical care; Avoid the use of drugs; Catastrophic loss; Bereavement overload; How death illuminates life an example; Endnotes and Bibliography
- THE RIGHT TO DIE
The right to refuse treatment; Discuss it in advance!; Living will and power of attorney; Support for the right to die; Sensitivity is needed; The Dutch example; The problem of suicide; Ground rules for self-termination; Some examples; A personal message; Helping someone to die; A legal dilemma; Respectable forms of suicide; Endnotes and Bibliography
- SIMPLE BURIAL AND CREMATION
Why are most funerals so costly?; Regulation of the funeral industry; Where to go with complaints; AIDS and funeral directors; What are the options for body disposition?; What’s the difference between funeral and memorial services?; The practice of simplicity; Family participation; The need for planning; Thousands of families being helped; Friends of FAMSA; Planning without a society; Local surveys of funeral costs; Planning helps understanding; Write it down!; Simplicity without preplanning; Financial resources at time of death [Social Security death benefits; Union and fraternal benefits; Insurance and Employee Benefits; Benefits for veterans; Protection through a credit union; Life insurance; Mutual aid plans; A Totten Trust]; Prepaid funeral arrangements; About cremation; For-profit cremation services; Disposition of cremated remains; Earth burial; Transporting of bodies; Nonprofessional funerals; An example; The coroner’s role; Death in a foreign country; What to do when death occurs, if a funeral director is used; Checklist of things to be done; Planning for inheritance keeping down legal costs; Probate; Beware of vultures; Endnotes and Bibliography
- FUNERAL CONSUMER ORGANIZATIONS
Memorial societies, or more accurately, funeral consumer organizations; What they are and how they work; Memorial services; Membership is transferable; History; Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA), Friends of FCA; How to organize a funeral consumer organization; Financial savings; Cooperation with funeral directors; The social base of funeral consumer organizations; Imitation societies
- DEATH CEREMONIES
Needs to be met by death ceremonies [Reestablishing relationships; Identification; Affirmation of values; Relief of guilt; Rehabilitation; Religious observance; Emotional support; A state funeral]; Three types of death ceremonies; Funeral and committal services; Memorial services; Self-planned services; Multiple services; No service at all; Combination programs; Ceremonies on the death of the very young; How to plan a service [Time; Place]; The format of a memorial service [Instrumental music; Singing; The presiding function; Prayers; Biographical remarks; Reminiscences; Visual materials; Silence; Readings; Unprogrammed contributions; Visiting after the service; Refreshments]; Flexibility; Printed programs; Remember; Bibliography
- HOW THE DEAD CAN HELP THE LIVING
Urgent need for anatomical gifts; Who may donate?; Bequeathal of entire body to a medical school; How to donate tissues or organs; Permission for autopsy; Glasses; Anatomical gift legislation; Cost of transplants; The gift of life; Endnotes
EPILOGUE / An Experience with Death
APPENDIX 1 / Bibliography
(Each chapter has a short bibliography.) Hundreds of other books are available, too. How to locate them.
APPENDIX 2 / Organizations
Annotated. Names, addresses of grief support groups.
APPENDIX 3 / Hospice Organizations
How to locate a hospice; Financial help for terminal care [Medicare, Medicaid, Private insurance, Other assistance, Tips on dealing with bureaucracies]
APPENDIX 4 / Living Wills
Forms and comments
APPENDIX 5 / Simple Burial
Burial boxes [Multipurpose boxes; Corrugated fiber boxes; Inexpensive plywood boxes]; Homemade burial boxes [Instructions; Chart for cutting plywood sheets; Cutting instructions sheet-by-sheet; Assembly instructions and diagram]; Burial forms commentary [Sample burial form: Registration of intent of simple burial]; The National Coalition for Fair Funeral Prices; Endnote
APPENDIX 6 / Directory of Funeral Consumer Organizations
Publications of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) with ordering information; Directory of member funeral and memorial societies in the United States, with addresses and phone numbers
APPENDIX 7 / Sample Death Ceremonies
Memorial services; I: Service with flower communion; II: Service using writings of the deceased; III: Service with organ music; IV: Service held for a teenage girl; V: A memorial walk; VI: An unstructured service held in a farmyard; VII: A Quaker service; VIII: Love memorial for our son (as described by his mother); IX: Recognition of death; X: Committal services [For cremation; For burial]; XI: A good-bye ceremony for children who grieve; Selected readings [General; For a child; For the aged; For a parent; For burial committal services; For cremation committal service; Additional readings]; Endnote
APPENDIX 8 / Anatomical Gifts
Information and coordination; Uniform donor cards; Canadian Regional Organ Procurement and Exchange Programs; Related legislation; Specific Anatomical gifts [Eyes; To locate an eye bank; Kidneys; Blood; Ear tissues; Ear tissues for research; Livers; Hearts; Brain tissue; Pancreases; Lungs; Other organs; Artificial implants; Eyeglasses]; The bequeathal of bodies to schools of medicine and dentistry [The need for donations; Alternative plans; Procedures at time of death; Transportation of the remains; A deeply meaningful experience; Legal papers; Message to recipients]; About medical schools of Canada and the United States; Directory of medical schools in the United States and Canada with key to their degree of need and the amount, if any, paid for body transportation; Endnote