How will you be buried?

The more we observe nature, the more we understand that death is part of it. And perhaps we even start to think of our own eventual death in similar terms.

My mom (God rest her soul) once expressed the desire to have her body thrown into the woods for the wolves. Of course, we had to explain to her, gently, that that was not legal. It was heartening to me, though. In her latter years, her values and mine diverged more and more, so it was heartening to me to hear her say something so late in life that I could relate to. To outward appearances, it seemed that life had thoroughly domesticated her, so I rejoiced to find out that she still had a bit of the wild in her.

If it had been possible to grant my mom’s wish to let wild animals pick over her bones, either it would have been a LONG trip to where there are wolves, or she would have had to settle for coyotes. In the end, she was cremated and scattered. It was what she could afford. But I adamantly refuse to be cremated, for more reasons than just carbon footprint. I have read about the growing movement for green burials, most of which involve turning into a tree. Those are appealing; but in the end I made a different decision.

I will be buried at sea. If necessary, I can invoke my VA benefits to make it happen; the Navy still conducts at-sea burials. I was pleased to find out that in at-sea burials, the casket is required to be made of biodegradable materials; I really do not understand this business of steel-lined caskets, concrete vaults, and what not, as if keeping the body from decomposing will somehow make the person less dead. The Ocean is the world’s largest and least trammeled wilderness, and wild animals will indeed pick over my bones – a hagfish is as valid a wild animal as a wolf.

I wrote a blog about it: We Are the Ocean

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For the sake of my family and friends, I do want a fixed gravesite. But I’d like it to be in a quiet, wild place, and as simple as possible. Wrap me in a sheet and put me in the ground in some forest. Stick a rock there to mark the location. That’s enough for me.

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you could be fed to squirrels

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:( I’m sorry

Oregon, along with Washington, have legalized burial-by-compost. I only read a short article about it, so I don’t know the details.

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Thank you. I’ve given those very instructions to my family!

I think that’s very cool from an ecological perspective, but I don’t think my family would be into it… personally I’d prefer even less, but my family are very traditional so I chose a compromise. I cannot imagine they’d be OK with eating, say, tomatoes nourished by my decomposing corpse lol

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Our city cemetery has an older section where there is no grass but there are lots of shrubs and trees between the graves. It’s much nicer than the stark lawn with flat headstones in the newer section. We used to pick cherries there and they were delicious but we usually didn’t tell our friends when we served “cemetery” cherry pie after dinner.

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I’ll probably be cremated and scattered, though perhaps those who survive me will make another choice. Composting sounds fine.

I hate the many sterile modern cemeteries where lawnmowing is more important than the dead and tombstones lie flat. I enjoy visiting cemeteries with diverse stones and statues, including monuments to beloved dogs, and shrubs and trees. I don’t care if they’re unkempt. In fact, I like them better that way.

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Squirrels that have learned to enjoy the flavor of humans from tasty cremains … what could go wrong? Sounds like the basis for a horror film.

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I will be planted in a certified “green burial” cemetery. It is basically a nature preserve that doubles as a resting place for departed humans. There is one in my county. Its a lovely nature preserve that you bird watch, walk around in, sit in, like any other nature preserve. To learn more and look for a green burial resting place near you go to: https://www.greenburialcouncil.org/

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That - green burial - seems the best option if it is offering.

Cape Town has just published new regulations - coffins must NOT be wrapped in plastic. Must be a HUGE volume of freshly buried plastic from the past year.

There was a scientist - carefully growing her own personal fungus. Fed on her nail clippings. Ready to ‘process’ her corpse one day. That, is dedication!

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Organ/part donation, anything that living people can use, and then… either a green burial, or there is a service I really like the look of that mixes cremated remains into artificial reefs, which are then put in the ocean to become real reefs. But that requires cremation. Too bad there isn’t a service that buries you 'till you’re bones, then puts the bones out to be a reef, that’d be really cool. Corals grow really well on bone.

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When I’m dead, I will no longer care about anything as it will be eternal nothingness. I would prefer to be dumped in a ditch if that legal, really, whatever is the easiest way to deal with my body. Or maybe I’d donate to science. I’ll be dead, so its not like I can complain, or even care.

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My sentiments exactly! It’s more of a question of what my family want done with my body. I hope it’s not “stuffed and mounted on the wall”

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Stuffed and mounted on a wall sounds cool. I can give nightmares to generations of kids living in the house where I am.

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Agreed! I am a donor. After that the green option is intriguing. Otherwise-

Scatter my ashes at the reservoir
If it’s not iced over, well, even if it is
With the spring thaw they’ll sink
Where the newts and snails abide
Tadpoles and hornpout
Sunfish and perch
Turtles and turtles and turtles too
That Matt and I would catch or more often try to and fail
Whether from shore or our little blue boat

Scatter some at sunset rock
Overlooking Keene my hometown
But not really home
Not home to the outsider

Scatter some in the woods
Where we would hike the trails
And seek out old overgrown ones
To follow where they once lead

Scatter my ashes there
Then I will be home
No more walking the woods
No more ice skating
No more memories
Yet I will be home

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Here is a way to donate your body to science (forensic anthropology) and legally let wild animals pick over your cadaver.

The Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State accepts body donations for scientific research purposes under the Universal Anatomical Gift Act. Your full body donation makes cutting edge research in forensic sciences and biological anthropology possible.

Your remains/gift could be used to:
-Conduct scientific research in human decomposition and skeletal biology
-Train law enforcement and future forensic scientists
-Provide expertise in human decomposition and human skeletal analyses

More Details from Texas State University Forensic Anthropology Center Here: Whole Body Donations

If you want to visually learn more (and are not afraid to see decomposing bodies): Welcome to the Body Farm

This is not for me but I know several people that have signed up.

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Thank you for posting about this, there is a cemetery near me that has recently stripped the beautiful hillside above it to make it into more sterile lawn-covered graves. I was going to call them up and otherwise make a fuss to try to stop such a thing from happening, but it happened before I got around to making the call/writing articles/etc. I feel very stupid, but one doesn’t make things happen fast when one is sick. Maybe at least I can still rub their mistake in their faces somehow.

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I too want a green burial - it’s one of my major requests to my loved ones to be sure this happens. At the absolute minimum, the classic unvarnished/unaltered pine box with nothing else going on can work but really do prefer just being directly with the dirt in a way that supports a rich ecosystem and public health.

Sometimes talking about this I have run across people who say, well who cares what’s legal, dig a grave somewhere out of the way and put the body in. “Like they used to” in the past. Nobody finds out, it’s all good. But I’ll admit, as much as legality isn’t the important guide to me - it can’t replace ethics and science, just ideally follows it but sadly often doesn’t - it isn’t so simple as secretly putting the body anywhere and just digging any kind of grave.

Part of the problem of doing this “like how they used to” and assuming that works is the sheer volume of people needing to be buried now, each year and ongoing, which is very different from the past. As are the synthetics that may be overlooked in our clothing and sheets, environmentally persistent medications we may put out in concentration, and our knowledge of disease being caused by decomposing bodies getting into water.

The other problem is assuming our vague recollection of how things “used to be done” is even accurate, or if it’s cobbled together from simplified stories and plausible but wrong complete fictions. As much knowledge has been gained, a lot has also been lost simply because the details aren’t needed enough any more and it either never got recorded or the information is just not being read, or looked for, once it’s replaced with some new method. So we think we know, but we don’t.

But we can all agree though that the huge amount of waste and environmental contamination and leaching of the preserving chemicals and plastics and paint and everything is as much a problem as body liquor/decomposition, maybe even the bigger issue. So it’s not like any of that justifies those sorts of mortuary practices.

Maybe the same sort of innovations that may help us remove persistent pollutants and new issues in disease in environmental cleanup and wastewater treatment could be applied to the complications of decomposing bodies.

Who knows if antibiotic resistance genes, for example, could spread from decomposing bodies of people who had been on high antibiotic doses prior to death as the source of “contamination” into the wider community’s bacteria? I don’t. Probably not? But there is some evidence for direct spread from people who work at a farm with antibiotic use spreading the genes to the bacteria in the local hospital they go to - where the study aims to trace the exact genes and so know where they came from, their lineage. That they didn’t just crop up twice independent of each other. So among my many worries is this is an impact of decomposing bodies in their environment as well.

I am very much hoping that enough people are studying these things and that we listen to their results and focus on solutions rather than not wanting to change or hear bad news.

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