Betsy Robinson, author of funny literary stories about flawed people, is a perpetual seeker of truth.

From books to music to theater and fine art, from online TV to DVDs, this blog takes a look at current culture through a spiritual perspective — with a touch of humor.

Materials under the "review" tag are a mix of free review copies (books, DVDs, etc.) in exchange for a review, to library copies, to materials and tickets I've paid for.


A Really Bad Hair Day (Feb. 13 blog)

The Art of Collapsing (Feb. 6 blog)

Life is only temporary says Evan Handler (Jan. 28 blog)

The New World of Finance (Jan. 28 blog)

All about growing up in a cult (April 16 blog)

Fierce Giving (Jan. 8 blog)

(Copyright © 2008-2014 Betsy Robinson. All rights reserved)

Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

April 26, 2016

Tags: review, healing

Ever since I ran my fingers through my mother's cremation remains, just before sending them sailing into the ocean, I've wanted to know what happened to her body in the gap between the moment I kissed her still-warm face goodbye in the ICU and her transformation into emulsified bone matter. Although I'm not in any rush for it and I really loathe losing anyone I love, I am not turned off by death. It's inevitable and I'm very curious. I realize this is an idiosyncratic thing, but I've found that when someone I love dies, I instantly distinguish the dead body as an object quite different from the being who moments ago inhabited it and lose interest in the container; to my senses, it's suddenly like a well-worn shirt. I also rather enjoy the Buddhist exercise of imagining my own disintegration. So I dove into Caitlin Doughty's book, appreciating it for the treasure that it is: answers!

Doughty went into the death biz to heal herself from a childhood trauma triggered by witnessing a little girl's death. But she finds the whole thing so fascinating that she wants to open it up for everyone. The book is written with delightful humor and an anthropologist/historian's research. You learn everything from the practical "how to" of cremation, to the history of death and body disposal, to rituals of different cultures and death mythology, to the secrets of the embalming industry. Doughty offers a curious reader "The realistic interaction with death and the chance to face our own mortality." (114) This is a very easy book to read—for me, a welcome education from an expert teacher. It was fun, fascinating, exhilarating, as freeing as the aforementioned Buddhist exercise, and validating of my personal decision to avoid the funeral industry and all expensive death rituals.


Years ago I wrote a feature about free (as in no cost) body disposal by using what's left for altruistic purposes: Why I'm Leaving My Body to Science. The article lists resources, in case you're interested in doing the same thing.


  1. August 24, 2017 8:23 PM EDT
    I just picked up this book and so far, I am really enjoying it. Some of my friends have passed on and I was hoping to get a better sense of what happens to your 'container.' I like your choice of words! I have a debilitating form of fibromyalgia that has been inhibiting my ability to sleep. So, while I deal with pain, I've thought that I might as well learn about something. Highly recommended!
    - Natania Gazek
  2. August 25, 2017 7:12 AM EDT
    Thanks for comment, Natania. I wish you relaxed sleeping.
    - Betsy Robinson

Selected Works

Big Moose Prize-winning novel
a funny, sometimes sad, story of negotiating life without a clue

New on Kindle--a funny book for foodies who are committed to self-change through self-awareness
an epistolary memoir ... sort of
A funny and moving little book for anyone who's had a mother or struggled with being human.
anthology of stories and plays
includes Darleen Dances and stories below

1-act play

short story
the problem with worrying about the future

true story
Why I don't believe in death.

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