Death and Compost

Profile photo of Fay Campbell

I’m signed up with an organization that will collect my body, when I’m no longer using it, and use it for scientific purposes.  My family won’t have to worry about body disposal.  They can do a memorial for me, if and when and how they wish.  Of  course, I’ll be leaving very specific instructions and will haunt them if they don’t comply.  Or maybe not.

Anyway, I’ve been having second thoughts about this organization,  because I’m assuming that they are going to embalm this body and that is really toxic.  I’d rather skip the chemicals.  Of course, my brain. . . . well, you know the greater scientific community will want to study that sucker.  I’d take it with me if I could.  I’m really that fond of it.

My sister used to say that she liked the idea of being sprinkled, but she didn’t like the idea of cremation.  I pointed out to her that it would be really messy to sprinkle without cremation.  That was before we went through first our father’s death, then a couple of decades later, our mother’s.  Being close to death, one realizes that the body just ain’t the thang.

I mean, sure, it’s great.  A wonderful gift.  Miraculous, even.  But it’s not sum and substance of who we are.  Well, okay, so it’s substance, but you get my drift, right?

Mom made very careful plans for the disposal of her body.  She even bought a pretty walnut tea box at an antique store to hold her ashes, far in advance of the need.  One day, my sister and I were with her, we’d been going through her clothes and her jewelry – Mom was a fashionista – and she said, “It recently occurred to me that I don’t know what is appropriate to wear to be cremated.”

Without skipping a beat, my sister replied, “Well, certainly nothing flame retardant.” Then my sister said, “Mom, you have all this jewelry, we’ll just put it all on you before cremation.”  I said, “Like hell, we will.”  We all laughed.  It was good to be so honest and relaxed about it.  There was no need to shroud (oooh, good word choice) the whole thing in mystery or unnecessary ritual.  Her ashes were taken back to Illinois and buried next to our father’s grave.

When our father died, it was much different.  We had the big, elaborate funeral thing for him.  Oy!  Have you ever been casket shopping?  It’s horrible.  His body was embalmed and viewed in his church.  The elaborate, oak casket was put into a vault, guaranteed to be water-proof for some number of years.

Why?  Dunno.

I mean that shell, was so obviously not Papa.   But it’s just what was done.

I certainly want none of that for my shell.  I like the idea of green burial, but it’s rather a bother.  And I think the Bio Urn things are cool, in which one can put cremation ashes and then grow a tree from it all.  There are also options of having the ashes made into jewelry or glass things.  But again, who really wants to be left in charge of the vase made from Auntie’s ashes.  It would probably eventually be broken or sold at a garage sale.

I wouldn’t mind having my body delivered to some wild animals and allowing them to eat it, thus returning it to Earth without being wasteful, but I’m afraid that my liver might be harmful to them.  And, unless I’m living in Alaska or in an Indian jungle at the time, there wouldn’t be enough hungry animals around.  Not sure what the legalities for that are, so. . .

I guess we’re back to plain ol’ cremation and dispersing however my kids see fit.  I promise, it won’t matter to me.  Eventually, this shell will go back to Earth.  Ashes to ashes and dust to dust and all that.  I’d like for it to happen without toxic chemicals leaching into the ground and without grandkids’ tuition being spent and with as little fuss as possible.

Earth has a perfect way of taking care of such things.  I know.  I compost.  It’s a miracle and I love watching apple cores and carrot peels and crushed egg shells become beautiful soil over time.  It’s absolutely perfect recycling.  I’ll be honored to have my body serve Earth in this way

One Response to Death and Compost

  1. Profile photo of Charles Beebe
    Charles Beebe January 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    Thanks for that, Fay, I appreciate your sense of humor! I didn’t know about the embalming fluids issue with traditional cremation, so I looked it up. Bio-cremation apparently takes a greener approach (using no embalming fluids), but it still uses lye, so it makes me wonder how green it is. I suppose the lye could be reused like water in a carwash, but that might get “messy” after awhile, hah. Apparently, the lye used in the bio-cremation process is Potassium hydroxide, which is also used in the making of all liquid soaps (another form of lye, Sodium Hydroxide, is used in all bar soaps). It is one of the allowable non-organic ingredients included in USDA organic standards since their inception, so I guess it is relatively benign. In any case, I’m with you–the more useful/harmless my shell is after I’m done using it, the better! I kind of like the idea of “proactive reincarnation”: If you want to be a tree next go-round, have your remaining atoms buried or scattered underneath one and voila, you are Groot. 😉

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