OK, this post is going to be somewhat morbid, but an article in today’s paper got me thinking.
Kurt and I have talked about what would happen to our bodies if we were to die. Neither of us particularly want to be buried. Kurt thinks it’s a waste of time and money, and I think it’s a waste of space.
To that end, both of us have agreed to be cremated. I know we need to get it in writing, but I have told my parents that this is what I want, so if I go before Kurt does, I know my parents won’t interfere with Kurt having me cremated.
If Kurt goes before I do, I will have him cremated. But what to do with his ashes?
If I can afford it, I would like to send a tiny speck of them up into space, like they did with Gene Roddenberry. Kurt loves astronomy and all things space-related so much that it would be a fitting end.
I would also like to have his ashes become part of the coral reef, since scuba diving is one of his other major interests. That way he can rest eternally among the fishes in one of his favorite spots on Earth.
I can’t really understand why people go all out for funerals and burying people in cemeteries. I can see the attraction of having a place to go to visit with your loved one, like at a burial plot, but why go in for the concrete vaults and the embalming?
Today’s paper featured an article (much like this one, although not quite the same) on so-called “green cemeteries.” They’re cemeteries in which people are not embalmed before being buried in cardboard or wooden boxes, so that remains decompose and become part of the earth. Instead of having huge, expensive, carved headstones, flat rocks serve as markers for the various graves.
What’s not to like? No expensive casket (caskets can run thousands of dollars!), no concrete vault, no embalming. I really don’t understand the need for these things. I know my aunt was embalmed when she died at the age of 55 in 1997, and her burial plot featured a concrete vault and a fancy stone once it was carved. I don’t know where the money came from for all this; my real mother’s family is not rich. But I remember thinking, “Why do this? What is the point? Shouldn’t we just be allowed to decompose and feed the earth from which we came?”
The folks who run the funeral industry say it’s bad to put people in the ground without proper precautions, like a concrete vault, a hardwood casket, and being embalmed. They fear a spread of disease if non-embalmed people are buried and decompose, leaching germs into the groundwater.
But what about leaching all that metal from the casket and the embalming fluid (which contains formaldehyde, a possible carcinogen) into our groundwater? Wouldn’t that be of more concern than burying the dead the way we have for thousands of years?
The funeral industry also points to the trauma of burying your loved one too soon. It’s better to wait, they say, to give the family time to grieve. That, in my humble opinion, is no reason at all to embalm a body and wait a week before burying it. People in other cultures bury a person almost as soon as he dies with no ill effects to their psyches.
Personally, I think we Americans have distanced ourselves too far from death, but that’s a rant for another day.
Practicing Jews do not utilize embalming, and it’s required by Jewish law to bury the body as quickly after death as possible. Thousands of Jews die each day without being embalmed because it is not required in any state. It is merely highly recommended.
Besides, I like to think that once a person has died, it’s only their shell that goes into the ground. The spirit lives on, either in Heaven (if I’m in the mood to believe in Heaven that day), or watching over the loved ones left behind. Why preserve a shell? It’s no longer connected to the person that I loved.
I know that not everyone feels the same way I do, and I respect that. This is just my opinion, and what I would like to be done with my body once I am done using it.
And to end on a slightly comical note — my grandma, as you know, is 80, and so is well aware of her mortality. Her beloved cat Mosey died probably ten years ago, and she so loved Moe that she had the kitty cremated. The cat’s ashes are in a teapot urn on top of her china closet, and each time I see my grandma, she reminds me that when she dies, she’s to be cremated, and Mosey’s ashes are to be mixed with Grandma’s before scattering.
My grandma sure did love her cat!