You Still Need a Coffin
Zine, Shivaun Hoad, twitter.com/shivaunish, $5
This zine blends the genre of the how-to guide and the personal memoir and tells you exactly what to expect when someone in your life buys the big one. Writer Shivaun Hoad, who comes off pretty composed, describes just such a situation when her uncle died, beginning from the 3am phone call from the Toronto Police to the scattering of his ashes days later. The cover of this one-pager (slit down the middle and folded into an 8-page mini zine) reads “I’m not an expert but I cremated somebody once.” While there is a lot of useful information in this tiny zine, what stuck with me were the idiosyncrasies: the cab driver inexplicably dropping Hoad off at the arthritis care clinic instead of the cardiac centre at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, her agreeing to see the body even though she didn’t want to (“because it seems heartless to say no”), and how mourners are legally required to purchase a casket for their loved one to be cremated in (no, you cannot use a coffee tin like in The Big Lebowski). When Shivaun asks if her uncle was in pain when he passed, the doctor gives an evasive answer, simply stating that he arrived lucid and quickly fell unconscious. “They must have a class on this at med school,” she muses.
I put the zine down and asked my partner Ruby, who is a med student: “Did you have a class about giving soft pedaled answers regarding painful deaths to make the family feel better?” “Maybe a lecture,” she said.
The zine folds out into a checklist and provides resources that anyone will find useful in such unfortunate circumstances. Humorous but honest, direct and organized, and visually spare (no pretty pictures of flowers or praying hands like in some awful funeral pamphlet) this is a superb use of the medium. (Chris Landry)