Let’s face reality here, we all want to live long, happy, and healthy lives. But as the great writers, John Donne (“One short sleep past, we wake eternally, / And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.), Albert Camus (“There is but one freedom, to put oneself right with death. After that everything is possible.”) and Shakespeare (“Life’s but a walking shadow”) among others remind us, with each passing day we, sad as it may seem, are facing the inevitable.
One day the inevitable will happen, we will no longer cease to be, and like the parrot in the Monty Python sketch, we will be “stone dead.”
I have always found it peculiar that someone who is not physically present on this earth can still manage to take up space. When you think about it, in 100 years we may not have enough food to feed the population of this planet, we may not have enough room to accommodate the population boom. And yet we have taken up space with graveyards and mausoleums. It is morbid, it is a very uncomfortable and gloomy topic, but it is something that effects us all. Because we are talking about something as close to us as our grandchildren, and how our traditions of dealing with death and burial will effect their lives.
In doing research for my self-published book, Mona, The Body in the Bog, I purchased a book called Earthly Remains by Andrew T. Chamberlain and Michael Parker Pearson. It talks about the history and science of preserved human bodies. Sometimes nature, climate or soil acidity will cause the natural preservation of a body. That’s all very interesting, because the preserved bodies give us a glimpse into what life was like in ancient times, before the planet became crowded. In fact, one of my favorite things to do when I go to Ireland is to do a graveyard tour. So I am not suggesting that we unearth or destroy present day graveyards. What I am saying is that maybe we should seriously consider a paradigm shift. Maybe it is time to reconsider human burial.
I mentioned the Chamberlain and Pearson book because it states that their is no scientific need to embalm bodies, other than to preserve the corpse for display at a wake. Embalming was initially used to preserve the remains of the deceased if they needed to be transported over a large distance. Cadavers for science were also embalmed. Other than that, the traditions now associated with death; expensive coffins, embalming, graves, headstones, or even mausoleums, are businesses that have grown exponentially over the last 100 years or so.
The shame associated with being buried in a Potter’s Field has caused a boom in the death business, but it is also contributing to the overcrowding of this planet. Why should we feel shame when we are gone? Why is there shame in not being able to afford the most expensive, most comfy coffin, or the most extravagant headstone? Is there really a need to pay thousands of dollars for a mahogany coffin so that the remains of a loved one is protected six feet under?
I don’t know how you, the reader, feels about this, but I feel very strongly about taking up as little amount of space when I am dead. That’s why I am very interested in green burials and biodegradable coffins and urns. The green burial method allows the body to decompose naturally and allows the remains to recycle back into the soil. There are a number of companies that do this type of burial. I believe there is one company that buries the remains with a GPS location device, and the relatives walk through a park like setting with exact coordinates of where their loved one is buried. No headstone, no coffin, just trees, grass, flowers and a sky; back to nature.
The fairly new idea of biodegradable coffins and urns is interesting also. In some cases the ashes of the deceased are placed in a biodegradable urn with the seed of a tree. This idea I like very much.
It isn’t an easy topic, dying. But neither is the idea of my grandchildren, and I hope I have a few, having to live on a planet that is so over crowded there will be less land to grow food, or even to live a “roomy” life. It is difficult to abandon old traditions, but at the end of my days, does it really matter that I am buried in a deluxe, air tight, water tight, silk lined, mahogany coffin with brass handles?
Additional Information: Green Burials in Ireland contact The Green Graveyard Company, in England contact The Natural Death Center for a list of burial sites in the UK. A simple internet search on NaturalEnd.com and your state as a specific search keyword will give you lots of alternatives in the US.