Sunday, January 15, 2012

Flowered or Science? (The handling of our remains.)

Cremation, Burial Or Body Farm? : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR
The cremation versus burial binary, though, neglects a third option: bequeathing one's body to science. Donating organs to people who need them to survive, or donating an intact body to a medical-school anatomy lab, are fine options. Yet, I'm intrigued also by a less traditional choice: a Body Farm.
The kids asked a while back about the cemetery we pass on Wake Chapel Rd. "Why the flowers? Who puts them there? They put people in the ground?!" Etc.  It's not easy discussing mortality with 5-year-olds. They've been very curious about what happens to bodies after people die since, not in a gross or morbid way, but they have expressed a strong interested in being "flowered," that is to say, buried with nice flowers maintained  around the gravestone. They are especially concerned about the ability of coffins to keep worms and bugs out so they, and their stuffed animals won't be disturbed. That dead is dead hasn't really sunk in for them yet.

Anyways, they were surprised, but thought it was OK, that I wanted my my remains donated to science. I had in mind being donated to training hospital for surgeons or coroners, or something like that. Now that I've read about these body farms though, I'm not against that being option as well. If my organs would be of any use, my first preference would be that they be used to help someone who is dying or suffering, and if the rest can be used for anything, then the more the better. If my organs are so decrepit, disease-riddled, or damaged by whatever kills me, I just hope that if useless, my remains at least don't cost my family anything to dispose of. The idea of spending money on corpse seems gruesome and wasteful to me. The only money spent as a result of my death, should be on a good party with plenty of booze.

I'm surprised there isn't, at least not that I've heard of, a business in permanent, portable, memorial. A gravestone with names, dates, and maybe a some epigraph on it feels like it could only ever really be of interest to the immediate family and perhaps archeologists in the distant future. I have this idea (inspired chiefly by Tasha Yar) for something like a tablet PC that would be solar-powered and could be hung like a portrait, put a tastefully on a mantle, or stored away in some attic and then forgotten about, only to be discovered by a grandchild or great-grandchild exploring while being babysat.  Some nice pictures of the deceased, maybe some favorite music stored as MP3s, and an interview with the deceased conducted prior to death or infirmity where family members -- perhaps facilitated by a professional archivist of some kind -- ask about childhood memories, the most important things they learned, the events that had the most impact on his or her life. A simple touchscreen interface, solid construction, powerful batteries supplemented by the aforementioned solar cells: this doesn't seem like something completely unrealistic. I wish my grandparents had left behind something like that I could show my kids. 

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