Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

No one really wants to discuss death and dying, but sometimes it needs to be. The utterly disgraceful actions of a few at the Burr Oak cemetery in Illinois forced the subject. They also reinforced my opinion on cremation. I've never doubted my choice, but many, including some family members, don't agree with me. While I understand the need for closure, I'm grossed-out by the whole mortuary thing. Recent horror stories about negligence and mishandling of human remains by a Virginia embalmer chill my blood (no pun intended). Hospice services are helping to humanize the dying process. Nevertheless, once someone has died, the really macabre and over-the-top stuff begins. The pressure on families to spend thousands of dollars to honor their dead can be crushing, especially when they're in the throes of a loss. Simplicity is far more compassionate, not to mention less costly. [Besides, who wants to come back in their old body? I sure-as-hell don't!] Hundreds of thousands of acres are dedicated to the burials of dead humans. I think that is a huge waste. It also facilitates atrocities such as happened in Illinois and Virginia. Also, I don't believe that departed souls hang around cemeteries waiting for their loved ones to come visit them. I would much rather have a thing, like a favorite hat or chair to remind me of someone. So here's my take on the whole dying thing as it relates to me, personally: >harvest any usable organs and tissues; >cremate the rest and dump the ashes into a cardboard box; >throw the box and ashes into Lake Michigan; >come ashore and drink a few beers in my honor; >put a short obit in The Washington Post; >get on with life.


Mark said...

This is a tough subject for sure. I agree it seems like quite a waste, all those plots....cremation seems like the way to go, but I haven't accepted it officially as my way to go. why can't the body just..disappear.I tell my kids to surprise me. Recently buried my mom in the traditional way, and recently cremated my father in law. I agree with everything, especially the costs. Did you ever look at the itemized list of costs from a funeral home. It's enough to make your blood boil.

dcpeg said...

It IS a tough question but one each of us must deal with. I love your idea of bodies just disappearing but, so far anyway, cremation seems the closest way to do that.

I helped with the arrangements for a dear friend who died last year and was really shocked by the costs! We had a grave-side service only, but the flowers alone were close to $1K. I couldn't help but think about the food that could have purchased for hungry children or medical care for a homeless person. My friend left me a nice bequest so I felt a little better after donating chunks of it to Children's Hospital and our local Send-A-Kid-To-Camp program.

nutmeg96 said...

My mom wants to donate her body to science. On one hand, I admire the thought. But on the other hand, it bothers me to think of her body being just chopped up.

Actually, in the 80s, she used to joke that she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes scattered over Tom Selleck. :)

As you noted, cremation is not that much cheaper -- it's still going to be several thousand dollars to take care of everything. Dying is big business.

dcpeg said...

Ah, Tom Selleck . . . I'd much rather be dropped on him as I am now! Mmmm - that fur, those rippling muscles, that face. . .

Uh, well, um guess THAT'S not gonna happen. ;-\

Your mom is admirable for donating her body to science. I'm just too darn shy to do that. Stupid, but there you have it!