The way we die now: Utterly broke, so broke that our families are forced to bury us in the backyard, like a damn goldfish or something.

Yes, the economic downturn is even influencing what becomes of our earthly remains once we've gone off to that fabled land of plentiful virgins in the sky, or, for those non-Republicans who shun Jesus, the fiery pits of hell. In the process, a new profession, whose purpose is to teach grieving family proper corpse-handling skills, is thriving: Death midwife.

The cost of a death midwife, as some of the coaches call themselves, varies from about $200 for an initial consultation to $3,000 if the midwife needs to travel.

Many death midwives are like Jerrigrace Lyons, who was asked to participate in the home funeral of a close friend, a 54-year-old woman who died unexpectedly in 1994. Ms. Lyons was initially frightened at the prospect of handling the body, but she participated anyway.

The experience was life changing, she said, and inspired her to help others plan home funerals. She opened Final Passages in Sebastopol, Calif., in 1995 and said she had helped more than 300 families with funerals. Weekend workshops for those interested in home funerals have a waiting list.

Ms. Lyons educates the bereaved about the realities of after-death care: placing dry ice underneath the body to keep it cool, tying the jaw shut so it does not open.

We can't wait to attend our next Manhattan cocktail party so we can go around answering "death midwife" to the perpetual, "what do you do for a living?" questions that people ask at those things. It'll be swell!

Home Burials Offer A Different Alternative [New York Times]