Monday, October 29, 2007

They'll all come to see me in the shade of that old oak tree

In honour of Porter Wagoner (1927-2007). He will be missed.

While I was at work yesterday, surfing the web of course, I came across an interesting article about the new trend in "green" funerals. You can read it here.

Now, after reading through it, what struck me is that there's nothing really new about it at all. People were burying their dead this way for a long time before the funeral industry came about. Most Amish communities still lay their dead out in the parlor and bury them in plain pine boxes without embalming. And I like the idea. I mean, you'd need some dry ice for me if I kicked off in the summer, of course. And you couldn't leave me out for more than a couple of days. But then, I don't really want a bunch of people looking at me after I'm dead, anyhow.

Of course, laying me out in my own house would never work. The way things are here, if you laid me out horizontally on a couple of saw horses, I'd be covered with junk mail, a briefcase, a couple jackets and a cat or two within a day or so. You wouldn't be able to find me under all the clutter.

Ray's Paw-Paw (that's a Grandpa to all you northern folks, his maternal grandfather) actually worked as a mortician. But Ray's mom also notes that right up until Ray was a boy, there were still families who laid their dead out in their homes. She told me about going to viewings when she was a girl, and that it was the norm back then to keep your family members at home until a graveside service. Ray's Paw-Paw would often just help deliver the bodies home rather than to a funeral chapel.

I think I might like best to be cremated. Partly it's because it's cheap. The average funeral now runs something like ten thousand dollars. I figure if someone's going to spend that much on my death, it better be for a kick-ass party. Why spend all that money on a silk pillow and a vacuum-sealed casket that I'm not going to appreciate anyway? Nah, cremate me, scatter my ashes in a few different places that people might want to visit, and throw a huge party. The other reason I'd like to be cremated, is that I don't want anyone digging me up. Having been trained in archaeology, and walked down rows and rows of bones stored up in boxes for study, I've decided I really don't want to be on someone's shelf or used in a demonstration three hundred years from now in a classroom. That's just me.

Of course, there's a new method of body disposal that the Swedes have come up with. Apparently cremating people with certain kinds of dental fillings causes mercury emissions (who knew?). So, what they do here, is dip you in liquid nitrogen, and then shake the body until it crumbles into dust. Then they just sift out anything non-organic, like fillings or other prosthetics, using a magnetic field. Kind of ingenious really. But I don't have any fillings, so I'm not that worried about it.

I suppose I've never been really comfortable at traditional funerals, especially viewings. I know sometimes you need to say goodbye, but I think I'd rather remember someone as they were alive, rather than drained, painted and waxed in a box. I'd never even been to an open casket funeral until we moved to the US. My boyfriend at the time asked me to go with him to the viewing of his grandmother. It was an odd affair. A lot of time was spent discussing how nice it was that she was laid out in her favourite wig, but one of his aunts was not happy with how it was styled. So she got out a comb and a little bottle of hair spray and fixed it. Someone else had taken issue with her lipstick. It was the wrong shade. So, they got out a tube of their own and fixed it, right there. Then they all started talking about how this lovely woman wanted to be buried wearing pants. But how would we know? The bottom half of the casket was closed. Well, there was only one way to fix that. They popped open the casket to make sure she was wearing her favourite pair of black pants. Thankfully she was. I'm not sure what they would have done if she'd been there in her bloomers.

11 comments: said...

I have actually spent too much time thinking about this. My wish is to be cremated and my remains delicately strewn over the River Spey in Scotland. Then, if I am lucky, I will be sucked up into the Macallan distillery and be made into a fine 18 year old whisky.

Leendaluu said...

We have a new 'green' cemetary here that requires low residue 'packaging'- pine box, no embalming and no markers (although a native plant is allowed). It's up on a hill with a beautiful view and is quite nice. I haven't thought much about my own remains...that place would be good, cremation is fine, or just toss me in my compost heap so I can grow my family some whopping big tomatoes (cause I'm so full of sh**) ;-)

laurie said...

when my brother died, my father wanted to have him laid out on our dining room table in the old irish way, and have a wake.

my mother, who has very little irish in her, said absolutely not.

laurie said...

and godspeed, Porter Wagoner.
one of the last and best.

Jill said...

On the granny in her bloomers thing... it was weird - when Dad died last year, the funeral director (who is a kick ass chick, btw) had us (me and my fraternal unit) pick up a pair of socks for my Dad - that's how detailed this stuff is. Dad was cremated too - I wanted to sprinkle some of the ashes at the French River (a place in Northern Ontario where Dad LOVED to fish in the summer) but it was decided to bury them with his mum and dad. That's cool - whatever.

Diana said...

I move out to the Midwest from the West coast, where I'd never heard of a viewing. I find them odd. I also find open caskets odd, even thought I'm not creeped by them.

Personally, I'm going for the cremation. I'm not big on bugs and worms and rotting or dessicating. Plus, I'm always cold and figure it'll be nice to end all toasty and warm. And, for heaven's sake, I certainly don't want to sit on someone's mantle. Scatter the ashes so I can fertilize a bush or two.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Blimey Jen, it's all a bit deep tonight.
I have always wanted to be cremated, the main reason being that I don't want my loved ones to fee duty bound to tend my grave and visit such a sad place on a regular basis, but also because, that way, there's no risk of you waking up 6 feet under if the doctor made a mistake.

willowtree said...

I've never understood the whole viewing thing, we don't do it here thankfully.

I've not really given it much thought, but it seems to me that as you've explained it, you can either get nailed in a box and buried with the maggots, get nailed in a box and get the shit burned out of you, or get froze and have the shit shook out of you.

Ok, I've just decided no to die.

Geez Laurie, what was he thinking!? You have to eat off that table!!

my two cents said...

I'm with Willowtree - it's decisions like this one that make me not want to die! I've got so many other decisions to make.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

A day late and all the good options are taken.

Wait a minute. There are no good options.

In light of that I choose...

Cremation. But I'm not happy about it.

PixelPi said...

On more than one occasion down South I have not only seen the open casket thing (they do it up here too. Someone needs to do a study). One person at work actually brought in Polaroids of her grandmother in her casket while we were in the break room drinking coffee and eating donuts. Apparently this is also quite common. Photographing the dear old dead. Cremation for me.