Books help promote understanding of rituals of death

  • Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Because I could not stop for Death –

He kindly stopped for me –

The Carriage held but just Ourselves –

And Immortality.

Emily Dickinson

Over the past few months I was confronted, several times, with one of life’s inevitabilities: that life is not forever – which I usually try to ignore. In one month’s time I lost three aunts, who had long and satisfying lives; a former colleague, who passed away too soon; and my son’s girlfriend lost her grandmother. I would have liked to go to my aunts’ funerals to pay my respects and to meet with my relatives. But my aunts were living in the Netherlands and thus buried in Dutch soil; therefore, I had to miss these last rites.

I did attend the other two funerals, and though both were conducted in the Christian faith, they were as different as day and night. The atmosphere at the first service was austere and sadness was the overall emotion, while at the other funeral, even though there was grief, there also was a celebratory feeling. This sensation was easily explained as one of the speakers pointed out that “Vermel Esther Powell left the Battlefield of Life and was Going Home.”

Funerals and burial ceremonies are performed differently all over the world even within one’s own culture; executions of this “rite de passage” are diverse. This makes it so interesting for many people to study these special phenomena, past and present ones. They want answers to questions that start with who, what, where and why.

When I searched the library for books about this topic I came across some very interesting ones. “Bury the Dead: Tombs, Corpses, Mummies, Skeletons, & Rituals” by Christopher Sloan is a juvenile book wherein the author shows the reader what ancient burials reveal and also how studying modern burial customs can help us understand ancient burials. “Corpses, Coffins and Crypts: A History of Burial” by Penny Colman examines the subject of death and burial across cultures and societies by means of historical and anthropological research. “Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre – How We Dignify the Dead” by Sarah Murray. This book explores the extraordinary creativity allowed to run free when we seek to dignify the dead, spanning continents and centuries. “Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral” by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays. The content of this book is very entertaining and its authors explain how to host an authentic Southern funeral. Each chapter includes a “delicious” Southern recipe like Bing Cherry Salad with Coca-Cola. I think that Vermel would have enjoyed reading this book.

Vermel Esther Powell passed away on July 2. She worked for the Charleston County Public Library for more than 19 years. For most of these years she worked as circulation manager at our branch, the Mount Pleasant Regional Library. She is missed.

The whole Emily Dickinson poem can be found in “The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson” edited by Thomas H. Johnson.

Library programs

Adults and Teens

More Ukulele Fun with Noodle McDoodle (teens and adults)

Saturday, Aug. 10 from noon-1 p.m.

Join Noodle McDoodle for more ukulele fun. Don’t forget to bring your ukulele.

Second Saturday Writing Critique Group (adults and teens ages 16 and up)

Saturday, Aug. 10 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Open to all writers. For more information, call the Reference Desk at 843-849-6161 or email MtpReference@ccpl.org.

Monday Book Discussion (adults)

Monday, Aug. 12 from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

“My Reading Life” by Pat Conroy.

Teen Movie (grades 6-12)

Monday, Aug. 19 at 4 p.m.

“Beautiful Creatures.” Rated PG-13; 124 minutes.


Ukulele Fun with Noodle McDoodle (ages 12 and under)

Saturday, Aug. 10 from 10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Join Noodle McDoodle for ukulele fun as he gives you an introduction to the ukulele. Bring your own uke and join in, or just watch and listen.

PLAY: STAR Therapy Dogs (all ages)

Saturday, Aug. 17 from 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Make a furry friend, and read a book with your new pal. Certified therapy dogs and their handlers love a good story.


Babygarten (0 – 18 months with adult, Registration requested; call branch for details.

Tuesdays, Aug. 13 and 20 at 10:30 a.m.

Wednesdays, Aug. 7 and 14 at 10:30 a.m.

Family Storytime

Thursdays, Aug. 8 and 15 at 10:30 a.m.

Mirjam Veldkamp works in the reference department at the Mount Pleasant Regional Library Branch (1133 Mathis Ferry Road, 843-849-6161, www.mtplibrary.blogspot.com, www.ccpl.org).

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