It was a bad week on the heels of a bad month. If you are reading this in real time I hardly have to tell you about it, but in case you aren’t: Gaza, Ukraine, Ebola, Michael Brown, Robin Williams, Ferguson, Ferguson, Ferguson—what am I missing? Probably a lot. Anyway, there was all of this, and then suddenly the lamp situation in my dining room became untenable.
It’s hard to talk about money. It’s also hard to talk about death. And it’s really hard to talk about all the ways money and death seem to tangle themselves together. But since The Billfold was already down with one of these notoriously gnarly subjects, I figured the other might not be such a hard sell.
Cecily Hintzen is in her 50s, an age where many start casting longing glances at the idea of retirement. But earlier this year she left the job she’d held for a decade, at a hospital pathology lab, and started her own business, Pathfinders Memorial Planning. Her new gig is twofold: She guides grieving families in organizing loved ones’ memorial services (doing as much as full-on event planning, or as little as producing remembrance slideshows) and she works with not-dead-yet people to make their own end-of-life wishes known before it’s too late.
A few years ago, the first Christmas we lived together, my husband and I went to Target and bought a little fake tree, a pre-lit three-footer, the largest our apartment could handle. This was no big thing for Joe, whose family had always happily employed a fake tree.
When I lost my job I went out to California and I suppose there are a few reasons for that. One is that this is just what we do, we Americans, when we find ourselves without work: We go West to where things might be (have to be, please God let them be) better.
Colin Dickey is a writer and teacher whose work has taken a probing long-view of death and dying—in particular, what happens to the body post-mortem. His 2006 book, Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius, explored the penchant of certain 18th and 19th century folks for exhuming and stealing body parts of famous men (Haydn! Beethoven!) and, more broadly, the shadow economy of grave-robbing that stemmed from clashing priorities of religion and science. Death has remained a focus of Dickey’s work; I especially like what he’s written about hauntedness—of hotels, of foreclosed houses.
Writer and woman I admire and relate to on the internet but have never met, Rachael Maddux, wrote a great thing on her blog about moving on from music writing. It is also about what it's like to realize you aren't really enjoying doing the thing you always dreamed of doing, and about our former selves, and our indebtedness to them, however naive they were, because they wanted so much for us.