Monday, August 3, 2009

Where I Want to Go When I Die.

No, this isn't about heaven, it's about what I want to be done with my body when I die. Consider some of the ideas I have and think about what would be best for your remains when they become remains. I liked when Twain used "remainders" in Huck Finn.

So, one of the commonest ways people's corpse's pass in the the great beyond (or beneath) we all know if we've been to a funeral. The person dies, is confirmed dead by some sort of medical professional, is put on ice to allow time for arrangements to be made, is embalmed, placed in a nicely upholstered metal box, which is sometimes sealed, and then buried approximately six feet beneath the surface of the earth in some nicely mowed cemetery with a granite headstone, maybe foot stone that's carved or something. Or often times people are cremated, which is for the uninitiated, burned. For a good demonstration, burn a hamburger until it's ash. Just like that.

As a green person and a Christian (Christian first though,) I have a few problems with the status quo as well you know. My first problem is with all the pomp and circumstance of all the funeral and the big to do with grave markers and all that. What's the point of a grave marker or a tomb stone. It's to tell who is buried here, but why is that important? Do you think that people deserve to know where you were buried and what your name was and that you lived from when to when? Why? Who cares where you were buried? If you were important enough to be remembered beyond your family members, then you should probably be mentioned in a history book somewhere in which case, no one is still gonna care where you were buried. Headstones are pointless except to the overly sentimental. If you've been to a grave yard of any age, you'd know that. After a century or two, they're just rocks again. And for the funeral, buy some good booze, get some good food, and have a party. Remember me, then get on with your life.

The next problem is the embalming. Formaldehyde is a really nasty carcinogen and with our dead, we bury a whole bunch of it every year. That stuff can then get into water supplies. But what is embalming even for anyway? It keeps people pretty looking for a few days (or decades if done right) so we can look at them at their funeral. I'll tell you right now, I don't want a bunch of blubbering distraught family members gawking at my dead ass, so let's just skip that part.

And then we put the dead people in a steel coffin that is sometimes hermetically sealed. If the conditions are right, you know what happens then? The coffin explodes, throwing pieces of grandpa all over the grave yard. Ok, that's probably an exaggeration, but a sealed casket can pose some problems when the body begins to decompose. Really, what's the point? I'm dead. Dead things are meant to decompose and become part of the earth again. What's all this crap about "protecting grandma?" She's dead, she doesn't need protection. What a waste of money. What a waste of resources. What heights of self centeredness. Save the steel and build an electric car in my memory, if I were alive, I'd appreciate that a whole lot more.

So you spend $9000 on grandma so she doesn't rot, and a metal casket that will keep her from rotting, then what do you do but bury it in the ground where things have quite a tendency to rot? If you really want to keep grandma around, have her thoroughly embalmed like Rosalia Lombardo and put her in a glass case in your hallway. Let her scare the kids from time to time.

On the other hand, there's cremation. It offers some benefits in that the volume of grandma's remainders is greatly lessened, and thus her container. You can move her around, put her on the mantle, or drop her out of a boat or plane out to sea. However, to roast grandma to cinders, you'll have to expend enough fuel to drive a car 4,300 miles not to mention all that air pollution (most importantly mercury from her teeth) that you'll expel into the atmosphere.

What's the best option?

Let me explain the best option, and let me offer this as my last will and testament as it pertains to my burial. (I do have a will, and no you don't get anything.) There are two options, one likely being far more socially and legally acceptable. The first option would be to be composted like you all knew I was going to say. Composting dead bodies is quite simple, you split the abdominal cavity open and pack the corpse in rotted sawdust and allow it to decompose for a few months. This would have several benefits where it pertains to people's need for souvenirs. You could keep grandpa's skull (complete with his overbite) on a shelf instead of an urn. Other bones could be made into walking sticks or chandeliers with wondrous accompanying stories. And you could spread the resulting compost on your land to feed the next generation of raspberries, apples, or just grass. The second option would be a simple ecologically friendly (and most importantly cheap) burial, wrapped in nothing but hemp cloth or a simple soft wood box and then buried in the ground at a suitable depth. A suitably long lived tree could be planted as a memorial and it could feed on my nutrients for the next hundred years. It would probably be a good idea to have mercury amalgam teeth removed also so they don't pollute the groundwater. In both cases, I would eschew any sort of embalming or preservation other than freezing.

I know some of this may seem a little foreign to you, but think of how many of the humans that have lived on this planet are buried, rotted and forgotten in unmarked graves. Heck, Mozart was so poor that they just dumped him in a big hole with a bunch of other destitutes. The thing is, the Bible says that the dead are forgotten, and the memory of them passes away. And the most important thing is that I'll be dead, and I won't care. Not long after that, you'll be dead too and you'll have no need to remember me at all.

We're not that important in the world. It seems to me that all the practices and rituals we shroud death with in modern American culture are ways of trying to draw attention to ourselves, even if we're not the ones dying. It is proper and effective to deal with grief, to grieve and move on. If you're dead, you're dead, no amount of crying will change that. I understand that you'll miss me, and if you die first, I'll miss you. But I want for you to remember me by what I've done, and who I was, not just because I existed. If I was a good father, then mourn the loss of a good father, but if I was a bad one, then piss on my grave, go home and get on with your life in the comfort that I won't be a burden anymore. If I die first, I don't need a sepulcher for my widow to cry at endlessly when she needs to be finding another husband to take care of her. You know I'm utilitarian, I'll be dead, and I won't need any of this.

I'm not dead yet, but when I do die, remember me for the honest bastard I was, and don't sugar coat my memory. That would be a disservice to the honesty I strove to preserve in life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I pray you don't die anytime in the next 70 years, but if you do, I am pretty sure I will have A LOT of explaining to do to people!