May 22, 2018
Esmerelda grew up in Los Angeles in the 1950’s. She lived in a Hollywood neighborhood surrounded by the working class of the movie industry. As a child, she was creative and attracted to morbidity and religion. She loved to design clothes for her paper dolls and have elaborate funeral processions for anything that died. Even though her parents we agnostic, she insisted on going to Lutheran church. When that start to bore her she switched to the cathedrals and traditions of Catholicism.
Esmerelda was a teenager in the late sixties. She loved the music, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, they all would perform close to where she lived. She was experimenting with LSD and soaking in the community that became known as hippies. The Vietnam war was talking many of her male friends and many came home in a casket. It was the first real tragedy she'd experienced.
She had two children by the time she was 21 and the American culture around birth was her first taste of what would evolve into the business she has now. Birth was a sterile event, experienced in hospitals without your loved ones close. Esmeralda opted for home birth and a group of women learned the art of midwifery and helped each other. She was seeing that both birth and death in America were handled in an unnatural and even inhumane way.
Esmerelda was a singer for years and then became a costume designer on Hollywood sets. In the 1980’s, the aids crisis hit. Many of her friends were gay men. A community among the hardest hit by the epidemic. Many of her friends died and it became her second experience watching her friends handle death and funerals. They had very limited choices and she watched as they were forced into ceremonies, expenses, and traditions that served the funeral industry more than the family.
All of these pieces: her interest in spirituality, her creativity, the Vietnam war, and the AIDS epidemic followed her into the year 2000 when her mother was dying. When the phone call came, she grabbed a huge piece of fabric, some candles, and incense and flew from San Francisco to her mother’s Kansas home. Esmeralda walked through that death experience and saw that, just like the birthing process, the industry wanted her to handle it a certain way.
After that, She saw the first episodes of the HBO TV series Six Feet Under. In the show, a small funeral business tries to keep afloat amidst the ever present pressure of a large corporate mega company.
Esmerelda decided it was time. She found a cemetery owner who was open to the idea of green funerals and she took it from there.
There are so many! Chinese culture tends towards expensive copper vaults around the coffin. She attended a Samoan funeral procession where the men, wearing suits cut off as shorts, played tubas while the women screamed, cried, and lamented. She loves African American funerals where attendees dress to the nines and sing with an unmatched passion and soul.
The most anesthetic culture tends to be white Americans who exhibit a stoicism that Esmerelda has never really understood.
It’s all about attachment. The better the dying and the survivor can come to terms with the change the more healthy the experience. This is often about work done years and years before the actual death. But the ceremony can have a lasting effect on attachment and the act of both sides letting go.
The show was produced and edited by me Jeremy Goodrich.
The music is by my high school buddy Mark VInten.
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