The squirrel in the casket was the first thing I noticed about the cover of Over Our Dead Bodies: Undertakers Lift the Lid. Did this mean the book was meant for those with short attention spans? (“Squirrel!”)
No, it relates to one of the behind-the-scenes at the funeral home stories you’ll read in this lively collection by Kenneth McKenzie and Todd Harra. They are the funeral director duo who authored an earlier collection of true life tales, Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt.
But if your attention span is short, this collection of funeral tales will not strain your capacity to finish a story in one sitting. The book provides glimpses into the life of death – moving stories of unexpected send-offs, family feuds in the funeral home, and disasters that happen to the people who work to make funerals run smoothly.
They write about how they got into the business. McKenzie discovered his call to be a mortician at the age of 12 when his father committed suicide. He has been a California-based funeral director for 26 years and a funeral home owner for 18 years. Harra is a fourth-generation funeral director who works for the family business in Wilmington, Delaware.
The collection includes contributions by others who go under pen names such as “a basement beer brewer,” “a camping enthusiast,” “an antique collector,” and “a former track runner.” The former track runner contributed a touching tale about a woman who crashed funerals for the food served afterward. She was homeless, and this was a dignified way for her to get a good meal. She chose which funeral to attend by looking for a long obituary, which probably meant the funeral would be well attended and she wouldn’t stand out in the crowd.
Listen to an interview with authors Todd Harra and Ken McKenzie on A Good Goodbye Internet radio show on FuneralRadio.com. Click here to listen online or download the podcast.
It never ceases to amaze me how much funeral directors are the consummate event planners and party hosts. They vacuum, clean the bathrooms, tidy up the public areas and make sure their funeral homes are ready for guests, every single day. What some of the bereaved families do in these stories is amazing – and sometimes appalling. One chapter heading states it all: There’s No Such Thing as a Normal Day.
I admire these guys. They are not your ordinary undertakers. McKenzie created and published the “Men of Mortuaries” calendar in 2007, 2008 and 2009 as a fundraiser for KAMMCares, a nonprofit he founded which assists women going through breast cancer treatment. McKenzie met Harra through the calendar project. Harra stepped up to be one of the models (he’s the second from the left).
I think we need a new iteration of the Men of Mortuaries calendar, don’t you?
Over Our Dead Bodies is a fun read that provides a personal glimpse into the funeral business. Check it out today!