Funeral Director Todd Harra Interviewed on First Doyenne of Death® Podcast

Oct 20, 2022 | 0 comments

The Doyenne of Death podcast artThe Doyenne of Death® podcast, hosted by pioneering death educator Gail Rubin, launched on Thursday, October 20, 2022. The podcast tackles end-of-life issues with a light touch on a dark subject. The first guest is Todd Harra, funeral director and author of LAST RITES: The Evolution of the American Funeral.

LAST RITES provides a fascinating look at the history of American funeral traditions: embalming, cremation, burial vaults, funeral gifts, mourning traditions, and much more. He also explores new developments, such as natural organic reduction (a.k.a. body composting), alkaline hydrolysis (water cremation), and death discussion movements.

The conversation is divided into two programs. In this first episode, Todd discusses these topics:

  • The difference between coffins and caskets,
  • How an ancient Roman funeral rite honoring ancestors morphed into today’s tradition of photo montages at memorial services,
  • The importance of food, drink and gifts at funerals,
  • Interesting stories of embalming,
  • The evolution of military mortuary services and dog tags,
  • How the person in the Tomb of the Unknown soldier was selected in World War I, and
  • The surprising origin of pall bearers.

Todd Harra is a funeral director and embalmer with more than a decade of experience. He’s also the author or co-author of three nonfiction books about the profession: LAST RITES, Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt, and Over Our Dead Bodies: Undertakers Lift the Lid (Amazon affiliate links). He also authored the Tripp Clipper Undertaker mystery series, Grave Matters and Patient Zero. Learn more at his website:

Listen to the conversation here, or through the YouTube video, or the embedded player below.

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Last Rites art

The Doyenne of Death® Podcast

New episodes of The Doyenne of Death® podcast will be released every Thursday. Episodes are available on the podcast playlist on YouTube as well as wherever you get your podcasts. Upcoming shows focus on Near Death Experiences (NDEs), the physical impacts of grief, facing our own mortality, and Greek Orthodox funeral traditions. Listen to Gail Rubin’s introduction to the series and subscribe here.

Gail Rubin is a Certified Thanatologist, a Certified Funeral Celebrant, an award-winning author and speaker, creator of The Newly-Dead Game® and five-time coordinator of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival.  Learn more about Gail Rubin, the podcast, and her work in death education.

A Good Goodbye