Last Rites: Wisdom from a Fourth-Generation Undertaker

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September 13, 2022

Last Rites: Wisdom from a Fourth-Generation Undertaker

Todd Harra September 13, 2022

Ceremonies for honoring the departed are crucial parts of our lives, but few people know where our traditional practices come from—and what they reveal about our history, culture, and beliefs about death. In today’s podcast, Tami Simon speaks with funeral director, embalmer, and certified postmortem reconstructionist and cremationist Todd Harra to talk about the roots of the Western funeral and to remove some of the fears that surround it. Their riveting conversation looks at: the myths and misconceptions about the funeral director, the sacred responsibility of handling the deceased, the rise in home funerals in our time, the origins of the practices of embalming and coffin burial, the different shades of the “green” cemetery and burial, why there is great value in permanent memorialization, making a ceremony sacred, why simply showing up is the greatest way to support those in mourning, mushroom suits and the controversy around them, the process of natural organic reduction (NOR), and much more.

Todd Harra has over a decade of experience as a licensed funeral director and embalmer, and is a certified postmortem reconstructionist and cremationist. He has cowritten two nonfiction books about the profession, Mortuary Confidential and Over Our Dead Bodies, and is an associate editor for Southern Calls, a renowned journal in the funeral profession. He is a member of the board of the Delaware State Funeral Directors Association and lives in Wilmington, Delaware. For more, visit toddharra.com.

Author photo © Beth Sims Photography

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Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

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Also By Author

Last Rites: Wisdom from a Fourth-Generation Undertaker

Ceremonies for honoring the departed are crucial parts of our lives, but few people know where our traditional practices come from—and what they reveal about our history, culture, and beliefs about death. In today’s podcast, Tami Simon speaks with funeral director, embalmer, and certified postmortem reconstructionist and cremationist Todd Harra to talk about the roots of the Western funeral and to remove some of the fears that surround it. Their riveting conversation looks at: the myths and misconceptions about the funeral director, the sacred responsibility of handling the deceased, the rise in home funerals in our time, the origins of the practices of embalming and coffin burial, the different shades of the “green” cemetery and burial, why there is great value in permanent memorialization, making a ceremony sacred, why simply showing up is the greatest way to support those in mourning, mushroom suits and the controversy around them, the process of natural organic reduction (NOR), and much more.

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