Thursday, April 9, 2009

In the End

In the post I'm delving into death, specifically mine. So if that makes you cringe or whatever, well, stop reading now.

I'm really not a morbid person, but from time to time I do think about my funeral. It all started when I was 16, in my first college writing course, and we were assigned to read Jessica Mitford's essay "Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain," which describes embalming at some length. It was disgusting and fascinating all at the same time. Not long ago I I read this post over at Chocolate Chip Waffle and decided I might as well post about this, so I started a draft so I'd remember...then of course I just read "Stiff," so I finally sat down and finished the post. Like I said, I've been thinking about it (on and off) for years. ☺

Hubby has said he'd like his body to be donated to science. I think that's fantastic--do something useful with your dead self, you know? Well, Hubby never was big on modesty or clothing, but I am, so I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with laying around naked for lots of pre-med students to study, or for surgeons to practice on, or for forensic scientists to study my patterns of decomposition on the Body Farm. I just don't like the idea of public nudity, even when I'm dead.

I DO heartily support organ donation (yes, I'd support it by donating my heart if my heart could be of use to someone). I have no desire to be kept alive on machines, so if I'm brain-dead then by all means use my insides to fix up somebody elses. Hubby and I have already discussed this and know each others wishes on the matter, so there won't be any delays to get familial approval. If I don't need it any more then by all means it should be helping someone else. (It's a little sad to me that around 50% of families of brain-dead patients are not willing to let the organs be given to those in need.)

But once I'm past the point of being helpful, when the useful stuff is gone and it's just a dead body, I lean more toward the 'green burial' notion...dump me in the ocean please...or stick me in a plain pine box and bury me in the woods. Alternately, I like the book's suggestion of being composted. Freeze me, use ultrasound to blast me into tiny organic bits, then use me to fertilize a tree. What a fabulous way to go!! It sure beats cremation, not only in price but also in eco-friendliness and practical usefulness of the residual matter (and I confess that cremation has always turned my stomach a little bit. Go figure.)

In any case, please don't bother with an expensive funeral, or that embalming junk. Seriously. I have read at some length about the embalming process, and there are two things you should know:
1--you will still decompose (did you know that? The embalming process is mostly designed to keep you pretty and non-stinky through the funeral, that's it. Many of the enzymes that eat you come from the inside out, not the outside in, so even in a sealed casket you're gonna get gross).
2--I honestly believe that pumping a corpse full of formaldehyde is pretty much as damaging as letting critters gnaw on it. In other words, your body is going to be thrashed before the resurrection anyway, and I'd rather be doing some good in the world via feeding little critters, you know?

So there you have it. I want to have my organs given to other people, and then be eaten by critters.
I guess a certain degree of nudity is inevitable, but this is a less public option than, say, the body farm... and I never was fond of chemicals. Really, I think if I'd posted a poll first, most of my regular readers could have guessed that I'd go for composting. ☺


Lisa said...

While I've never thought about some of the things you mentioned, I have thought quite a bit about what I want my funeral to be like. Mainly, it has to have great music! I'm a classical musician, and I don't want just anything at my funeral. I'd really like to have an entire Requiem sung, but that probably wouldn't go down so well at an LDS funeral. And the organ music would have to be stellar (I'm an organist), so I have actually thought about who would play, at least if I died young.

My dh and I have buried three of our parents. My fil was on life support for several days while the family came to terms with letting him go, and that was a miserable experience I would never wish on anyone. My mil too was kept alive for months by various surgeries and procedures so that a certain sil could get herself ready to let go, and I wouldn't do that either. My own father died at home in his own bed with hospice there, and my family's approach was so much more comfortable than my in-laws'. After what we've seen, both dh and I are strongly against prolonging life unnecessarily. I would like to donate organs too, but I haven't really discussed it with dh. This is a good reminder that I need to do that.

Tim said...

Stick me in a simple, not airtight, wooden coffin, and don't embalm me. Closed coffin funeral.
Now if I could only get the wife to agree to bury me like that...

sara said...

I think open coffin funerals are so gross anyway. Inevitably when I think of the people closest to me who have died I think of them in the coffin. And rotting in the ground. One of my best friends died and I actually had a panic attack when I started thinking about it and I vowed right there that I wouldn't have an open casket funeral and I wanted something other than a normal burial.

I am most definitely donating everything possible to help other people - take it all! My FIL is completely against organ donation. He thinks if you're a donor they won't try to work on you or keep you alive. HAHA though - because my husband will most likely be the one making medical decisions in a situation like that and we're donating all of him too ;)

If you want to be an organ donor make sure your next of kin KNOWS it. And hope they are accepting of it because they will get to make the decision even if you have a donor card.

Maggie said...

I want exactly what Tim posted above. Thankfully DH is fine with it! He himself wants to donate his body to science and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I guess it is his body but I know if I were alive I wouldn't be able to sleep at night thinking about what they are doing to him *shudders*

Mallory said...

This is so interesting! I have always been one to want to be cremated, just because coffins cost so dang much. But I had never heard of composting your body before! That is something I will have to discuss with the hubby! :D

nicole said...

Hmmm... wow. I haven't thought much about this, other than the life support issue that was sparked by the Terri Shiavo case (what a mess). I should probably face the inevitable and discuss these issues with my hubby and get it all in writing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights!

Christa said...

Well, the only things I really know are that I don't want to be cremated or have an open casket. I don't like being stared at and commented on right now, and I don't want people saying things as they stare down at me in my casket.
Plus it always creeps me out when people say things like "Oh, she looks so good." Uhm, no...she's dead, and you aren't seeing her, you're seeing the make up that took hours to apply to make her still look alive so you would remember her looking less dead.
I'm going to let me family decided about the other stuff, I can't think about it really, the money will be there so that either way they decide it can be paid for, but I know people who has regreted getting their parents embalmed and people who have regreted not. Mostly the regret is because their mind has wandered to I wonder what mom or dad looks like now.
I don't want to think about my body decomposing, I know it will happen either way (one slower than the other which is even more gross), I just don't want to think about it.

Kimberlee said...

I like the idea of the green burial as well. Just a pine box in the ground, or in the ocean. No embalming. Creeps me out. But so does the entire topic.

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