And fucking hippies, of course. So reading this article made me think. Even though I never managed to finish reading Jessica Mitford‘s The American Way of Death (because it’s kinda boring) I get that the burial business is a racket. What’s wrong with just putting the body into the ground, maybe in a cedar box or simply wrapped in cloth, without pumping all kinds of chemicals into it (which end up in the ground, mind you)? Nothing, I say, so if I kick the bucket I want to be buried like that.
I told The Wife about this and she was a little taken aback. “So what’s going to happen,” she asked, “they are just going to wrap you into cloth and dump you into a hole like, I don’t know, the victim of a mafia hit? Isn’t that a little traumatizing for the people at the funeral?” So I see that I probably have to be specific — I want to be laid out on a wooden board and then have the cloth wrapped around me and the board. That way I’m still transportable and can be lowered into the grave with some dignity. Well, okay, maybe a plain box will to the trick, too. Like they had in the Wild West.
The company interviewed in the Salon article is Green Springs Natural Cemetary in New York State, if you are interested.
UPDATE: In one of those moments of synchronicity Boing Boing posted an essay (btw, the new BB features are fucking amazing in terms of content and the way the information is presented!) called Death in Space by Mary Roach, who’s also the author of the book Packing for Space, which I’m listening to right now, and the highly enjoyable Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers. Anyway, here’s how you do it in space:
The dead crew member’s body would be placed in a container, called the Body Back, and moved into the airlock. Exposed to space, the body freezes in about an hour. A robotic arm then pulls the Body Back container out of the airlock, dangles it on a tether, and activates a vibration system. (The tether prevents vibration damage to the spacecraft’s instrumentation.) After 15 minutes of vibration, the frozen corpse is reduced to small pieces. Water is evaporated from the remains using microwaves, leaving about 25 kilograms of dry powder inside the Body Back. The container is left outside the spacecraft until it’s time to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere, at which point the robotic arm pulls it back inside to keep it from burning up during reentry. The Body Back folds into a smaller shape that “will not unveil that there is a corpus inside.”
UPDATE 2: Synchronicity abounds, as well as a certain fascination with the subject on my part, but as I was working my way through my back log of magazines I read this article called Letting Go by Atul Gawande in the August issue of The New Yorker on hospices and how people die in the US. It’s good and makes you think about how you’d want to spent your last days or weeks – in a hospital bed with tubes stuck into every natural and some un-natural orifices or at home, staring at the ceiling and among friends and family. I’d definitely go for the latter.
UPDATE 3: If you are looking for a natural burial site, check out http://naturalburial.coop/USA/. There are surprisingly few and far between. And of course this is a coop.