Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Just Slice Me and Dice Me and Feed Me to the Worms
What do you want done with your earthly remains, once you have shuffled off this mortal coil?
I got to thinking about this because the fifth anniversary of my dad's death is coming up. He actually died on March 31, and all of us kids were thinking how pissed off he would be to realise that he missed dying on April Fool's Day by thismuch.
So he now resides in a really nice wooden box, usually on my brother's piano, but sometimes he goes to visit my mom at her nursing home. To me, though, that's not where I find him. To really connect with him, I would need to take a trip to the land where he lived before being incapacitated by a stroke, a homestead deep in the forest, miles from the nearest town, with the field up on the hill that he was reforesting with pine trees. There, among the tidy wood piles which he kept stocked for his wood-burning stove, wandering the razor-straight rows of the garden he tended, I would find the essence of my father.
The trappings of a traditional funeral and burial simply don't speak to me. I abhor waste and although some cemeteries are quite lovely, they still take up a lot of valuable land, which are filled with indestructible coffins and big massive headstones. I don't deny that there are some cemeteries that I love wandering through, but most are sad flat unlovely things.
Here's what I want: Take any useful organs and tissue and put them to use. Alternately, use my corpse for teaching medical students or learning about decomposition in a body farm. Then, when there is no more value to be gleaned from my remains, throw them in a burlap sack, tie it up with a rope and plop me in a hole under a tree in the woods.
There are woodland and ecological cemeteries established in the US and the UK, but not in Canada, as far as I know. And although they do have biodegradable coffins, I think though, that they still don't allow the use of burlap sacks. I don't know why not.
Interestingly, the Parsi of India and some Buddhists deal with death by placing the body on a high tower and allowing the bones to be picked clean by birds. This appeals to me as well, but I can't stand too much sun. The forest sounds ideal.
Any plans for your final resting place?

19 comments:

Ben Heller said...

I've thought about this before, and you know I realised I'm a death denialist. It scares me to be truthful, and probably because of that I can't think of a place for me to go.

I hope I do, because my dad passed away last April, and he was completely at peace with the eventuality. He told me the very day he passed away that he didn't fear it and he knew where he was going. For me that was so wonderful.

Barbara said...

I agree with you about where you know you would find your dad.
I was thinking about cemetaries today too. (Nice subject for a beautiful day off in spring) My late boyfriend Graham's wish was to become one with the ecology. He was burried in a decomposable coffin so he goes back to the earth. All that will remain after docomposition is a weatherproof tube with his information tucked away inside. A fitting way to end for a biologist.

Jas Bhambra said...

According to Sikh customs (as well, Hinduism), the body is cremated, and the remains are scattered into the rivulet that runs by a place of religious importance to Sikhs called "Kiratpur Sahib". I hope that someone would be there to take me to my final journey in a similar way.

If not that, burn me and bury my remains into mother earth...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I am sorry for your loss, Ben, but how wonderful that your dad was so at peace with his passing. I hope that continues to be of comfort to you. I think we all deny the fact of our own death. While I can philosophize about my remains, I know the reality of dying terrifies me.

What a beautiful story about Graham, Barbara W. That is indeed a most fitting ending for a biologist. Graham obviously gave much thought to a final repose that would mirror his passions in life. He sounds like he was a wonderful man.

Jas, I think the important thing is to make sure that your family knows about your final request. I'm sure they would want to honour your wishes.

Jetson Stamina said...

I want to be stuffed with one arm olding a hand towel. Dress me up in one of those buttler uniforms and put me in the master bathroom.

To have a purpose, even in death, seems kind of heroic.

Ok maybe I'll just donate organs.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Whose organs would you donate, Jetson? Oh, YOURS! Good plan.

I do love the towel rack idea. It would be equally handy in the kitchen, and good company too.

kelly the woodpecker hunter said...

well my original thought was to be mummified and wrapped in nice spiced linens (there is a place in utah that does this)....but not one single person i asked would take me after...I wanted to be put in a glass case and used as a coffee table.

Seriously though, cremation is for me and the ashes shall be spread somewhere....there are so many places i like to go that "speak" to me. I find the whole idea of a coffin and plot and headstone...to be waste. We dumped dads ashes on a hill overlooking a valley outside of regina...a place we use to pick saskatoon berries. I don't think i really care where mine go...it seems to be of more importance to those who are left. Definate organ donation though....very important to me

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Kelly the fireguy, er I mean, woodpecker guy, are you serious? A place that will mummify you? Kewl!!! Spiced linens sound rather nice, and in a coffee table, well you'd be right in the middle of all the action.
That's lovely that your dad got scattered in a place that obviously has a lot of meaning for your family.
Although cremation wouldn't appeal to me personally, I'm with you on the wastefulness of the headstone/coffin/plot thing, and the importance of organ donation.

phlegmfatale said...

I think letting the birds and vermin and worms etc eat the carcass is the ultimate in recycling. If i'm braindead and someone wants my organs, that will be for my family to decide, but I like the idea of my remains going back into the mix, rather than a'mouldering in the grave.

michelle said...

All the horrors of greed surrounding organ donation has really unnerved me. Not like I have anything to worry about though, I doubt my parts are harvestable. :)

I want to be cremated and shuffled around from relative to relative until someone finally spills my remains and they're wracked with guilt for all eternity.

Maureen said...

I'm going to be cremated and scattered somewhere, anywhere really, as long as it makes my kids happy, and I hope some of my organs are still donatable by then (hoping it's a long time off!). We had my dad cremated, but mom had him buried in the local cemetery - she wanted a "place" to be with him when she dies, and it makes her happy so...personally I've only been there once or twice, I remember him every day.

Maureen said...

PS - I'll be thinking about you and your family on Friday.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Phlegmfatale, I'm with you. I think we'd make some pretty fine fertilizer, given the chance. Who needs are those embalming fluids? What are we trying to avoid?

Michelle, what a great legacy that would be to leave! "And as my final act I will haunt your dreams and plug up your vacuum cleaner beyond repair!"

I'm sorry about your dad's passing, Maureen. It sounds like you and your mom have differing ways of keeping his memory. (And it also seem like a lot of us have lost our dads, in keeping with the demographics).
Thanks so much for your thoughts! We'll probably do something stupid like walk around with an Extra Old Stock beer cap in one eye, like my dad used to do.

Will said...

I'd probably want my organs donated and then to be cremated ... have my ashes spread somewhere important - a special place I have yet to discover. Hopefully I'll be at peace with it and happy when that day comes.

WolfHeart RavenHorse said...

I have already told my family what I would like....right down to the music! lol I want to be cremated, then taken to a river that leads to the ocean....preferably in a hot part of the world!! The Caribbean would be my first choice. As I am spread, I would like the song, "The River is Flowing" (it's a Pagan song) playing. (Guess that would mean battery operated boom box!). Then, celebrate my life, don't be sad, CELEBRATE! :)

That's it, that's all!

Blessings,

WolfHeart

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It makes me really happy to see so many people interested in organ donation. It's a pet interest of mine.

I hope you find a place that means something special to you, Will, but you've likely got lots of time before you need to really worry about that. Just be careful crossing the street.

Bev, you're pretty fantastic that you've got everything planned, right down to the music. I was thinking about posting something about funeral music but forgot; maybe a future post. I hope I can make it to your funeral because your description makes me want a pina colada.

~Jen~ said...

im all about the burning...once anything of use is taken cremation is my preference...Ive started an ash collection...I have my brother up on my shelf...and old granny...we split em up 3-4 ways so we all got a piece...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Jen, I never thought of splitting up the remains. How very democractic! And then if somebody spills theirs, they can get some more from someone else.

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