Book Review: Being Dead is No Excuse

As you might imagine from the title, this is no Emily Post for grieving:

Making somebody promise to pin a “Hell, no, I don’t look nachell.” note on your dead body is the Delta version of a living will — it tells you how we want to be disposed of and must be obliged.

Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide To Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays introduces you to Southern funeral traditions from the Mississippi Delta perspective. Although each region of the South has its own quirks, the basic tenants of Southern Hospitality are easily recognized.

This book offers much more than funeral etiquette – and hilarious descriptions of some of the most flagrant violations thereof. Because we Southerners are known for our cooking, and feeding the grieving is an artform unto itself, you’ll find plenty of delicious “funeral-appropriate” dishes. There are multiple chapters discussing the difference in menus prepared by the Episcopal ladies (Tomato Aspic with homemade mayonnaise) and the Methodist Ladies (Chicken Lasagna Florentine). They even provide a list of staples necessary to stock The Eternal Pantry so you’ll be prepared even in the event of an unexpected death in the community.

Of course the other staple of a Southern funeral – flowers – gets its share of attention:

Although carnations, particularly the tiny ones, can be quite lovely, they tend to bring out the worst in a florist. Our worst fear (and one that is all too often realized) is that they will arrive in an unnatural hue, or with glitter! When ordering flowers, garden-club ladies are careful to specify: NO carnations or gladiolus. There’s no other way to say it: Glads are just plain tacky. They may resemble the most ladylike members of the lily family, but somehow they just aren’t as nice.

The book is a joy to read and the recipes are to die for (some are rich enough to kill you). While my Delta connections are several generations back, I see that some of those quirky genes have survived the years and I’m delighted to share that kinship. One thing for sure, the busy-ness of planning and organizing a funeral gives all involved a purpose that helps the living make the adjustment to life without the “guest of honor”.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Being Dead is No Excuse

  1. Graveyard Rabbit of Attlala County

    I bought a copy of this book about two years ago, signed by the author, and it is priceless. Having grown up in Mississippi, the book is right on target, with a little humor thrown in. I enjoyed your review, and I am so happy to hear that you liked the book as much as I did.


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