There are few things that I’ve wondered in the past two and a half years of first-time cat ownership, after becoming a bonus parent to my husband’s cat, Go, and adopting two kittens after Go died this past December. I did not wonder if I died if my cats would eat my eyeballs. Some people, in fact, have wondered this, and the question is answered in Caitlin Doughty’s newest book, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death. The book, a compilation of questions from children, includes questions about dead astronauts (what happens if you die in space?), to bodies on airplanes (more common than you’d think), and even a question about whether your weight really impacts the amount of cremated remains that are returned to your family (answer: only if you’re really tall or really short). Basically, it’s almost every question about death that you might want to know.
Caitlin Doughty has been one of my favorite authors for years. Her writing is informative, witty, and engaging. I had the chance to hear her speak about Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs at a recent event in Washington, DC, where she said that the book was written not only as an answer book for children, but for everyone who was that morbid child and had to know if eating popcorn right before you died would result in popped popcorn in the crematory. I was what you’d call a mildly morbid child – I liked bats, mummies, and could tell you everything about Egyptian mummification at six. This book definitely answered some of the questions I had as a child, and as an adult, about death and what happens to the physical body after someone dies. I also really appreciate the approachable language used in the book, because Doughty is not speaking down to the reader, she’s having a conversation with them. The answers are straightforward, and fairly easy to understand, but it’s obvious that Doughty had fun writing them, too.
One of the most important pieces of this book is that it is answering questions that can be hard for a child or even an adult to ask out loud, like “why was my grandma wrapped in plastic under her clothes at her viewing?” After I lost my first grandparent at 12 and attended her viewing, I had similar questions and didn’t feel comfortable asking them. This book offers the perfect gateway for real conversation about what happens when a beloved family member dies. Doughty also leaves room for the spiritual side. While she’s not religious, she doesn’t disparage a religious tradition when it comes to the afterlife. While she might offer scientific answers for some questions (“do people really see a white light when they die?”), she still is respectful to the fact that her readers come from many traditions.
I will always recommend all of Caitlin Doughty’s books as audiobooks. She reads the book, which is always fun. If you’re a fan of her Ask a Mortician series, it will sound familiar, with Caitlin’s sarcasm and wit dripping off the “page”. The paper copies are also beautifully illustrated and are worth the browsing time just to see them. My greatest hope is that someone will pick up this book, share it with others, and start a conversation about it.
If you liked Caitlin Doughty’s other books, be sure to check out this one. I also recommend it for anyone who was once a morbid child or is the relative of one.