“Both Sides Now”




When I served on the Board of Regents for the University of Minnesota it was the first and only board representing the citizens of my state that I had the privilige to govern on.  With that privilige I also felt a huge obligation to make sure that I heard “both sides” of an issue before casting my vote on the many issues that came before us.


Like everybody else I have my beliefs and preferences of my own, but serving on a board of that nature I also felt it my obligation and duty to understand the beliefs and preferences for those on the other side of the issue at hand.  Quite frankly, it’s always reminded my of the 1960’s Joni Mitchell pop music hit “Both Sides Now”.


Here’s what Mitchell says in her lyrics:

“I’ve looked at life from both sides nowFrom win and lose and still somehowIt’s life’s illusions I recallI really don’t know life at all”


And, after over 40 years as a licensed death care professional and having people refer to me as an expert on the subject, I sometimes feel like Ms. Mitchell in that “I don’t really know death care at all”.


So many of us in death care think we have all the answers and if consumers would only take our word for things this business would be so much easier . . .and maybe more profitable for us.  However, the older I get, the more I realize I don’t know about what consumers are feeling and thinking. . . and what would be right for them.


This recent article, entitled “I tried to bury my mom in an environmentally friendly way in L.A.  It was impossible” from the L.A. Times brought that point home to me.  The author tried to search out death care options in the last days of his mother’s life and through that process came to a solution — local cremation.


It was, however, his process of getting to that point that I found interesting. . . . . he states that “eco-options had serious drawbacks”.  For instance, natural burial would be 120 miles away from his home and human composting would require a flight of the body to the state of Washington because human composting is not yet available in California.


It also dawned on the author through this process, about his mother, that “Her body was not hazardous waste to be swiftly disposed of“.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Another part of the family choice before cremation — “The funeral home accommodated our request to sit with my mom for several hours before it sent workers to pick her up. In that time, the few of us there had a mini-funeral.  We alternated between tears, laughter and prayers, all while my mom was there with us. . . .


The article, which is short but poignant, is one of the best I have ever read about a family’s death care decision process.  There is a tenderness to the decisions made. . . but also the hard reality of the difficult final decision.


And, the article ends by saying that this type of experience reflects a grassroots change in death services with families taking a more active role.  I think we will find that is true as we move forward.


Final Thought —  In the article there is a quote from funeral director and poet Thomas Lynch. . . . The quote, which I had never heard, also resonated with me and I think from this family’s perspective would be appropriate for them. . . .


By getting the dead where they need to go, the living get where they need to be“.  Thomas Lynch


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1 Comment

  1. Wells Greeley on November 8, 2023 at 7:10 am

    Good morning Tom! I have long used Tom Lynch‘s quote many times in talking about death and dying to various groups. It is so succinct and relevant in our death care field. Hope you are well! Go gophers! Wells

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