Does This Mean You’ll See Me Naked? by Robert D. Webster


Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

I think you should know up front: I’m a little bit morbid. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I look at Victorian postmortem photographs on Wikipedia (not an activity I recommend if you want to sleep again anytime soon). I am fascinated with death and the cultural constructs that surround it. So, of course, I had to read Does This Mean You’ll See Me Naked?.

It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Jessica Mitford’s seminal 1963 book The American Way of Death was the first popular expose of the funeral industry, and funeral director Webster’s 2011 memoir follows in Mitford’s footsteps. The chuckle-inducing title belies the content, which is really quite serious and thought-provoking.

Webster worked for other funeral homes for the first few decades of his career, and now he is the proprietor of his own funeral home. He does share some funny (if necessarily slightly morbid) anecdotes–like trying to extract a very large decedent from a very small bathroom. But most of his stories are more of the shocking variety: of funeral-home employees who mishandle bodies, funeral directors who overcharge distraught widows, families who refuse to pay, and children who request that he throw away their father’s ashes.

The author is at pains to remind the reader that he would never employ any of the shady practices of less-scrupulous funeral directors–in fact, one of the reasons he chose to open his own funeral home was because he did not think his previous employers treated clients fairly. But unless you live near his family-run operation in Ohio, you should take this book as a heads-up to do your research on funeral planning before a death (yours or a loved one’s) occurs. Compare prices and services at funeral homes–they can vary greatly–and have a frank discussion with your family about your wishes and theirs. Then consider putting your wishes in writing and setting aside money to cover funeral expenses. This book prompted me to have a conversation with my dad about just those topics, and I can’t believe how much I didn’t know about his wishes. My advice: Check out this book, then have those discussions while you still can.

Located in Adult Non-Fiction (363.7 WEB)

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