Please be warned, this post is about funerary practices, but also involves some speculation around my own inevitable death. Don’t read it if that sort of thing makes you uncomfortable.
Students have been blogging for the Archaeology of Death course again. One prompt that always gets a lot of attention from them is one relating to what grave goods they’d pick for themselves, if they had a choice (and were buried with grave goods). This year, a lot of students have also taken into consideration alternatives to burial. If not burial, then what? There are a lot of choices these days, some more accessible than others. Some students described the places they’d like their ashes to distributed: Newfoundland and BC, for example. Others found more dramatic options: for instance, J described the Eternal Reef Project, where your remains are added to an artificial coral reef. V discussed the UK company Andvinyly, which makes records from human remains. E’s post is about cremation diamonds, which have always been a fascination of mine. I envision my son’s child offering nana’s engagement ring to a potential spouses, and the ring is made from nana (me!). A number of students wrote about variations on burial with trees: Bios Urn (J), Living Urns (M), and Tree Pods (Z and D), and so on. I admit to being super excited to read about the Infinity Mushroom Suit now being a reality – S’s post about that was fascinating. I knew about it from the TED Talk, but hadn’t realized it had moved beyond prototype.
Several of the students also wrote about things like organ donation and donating bodies to science, which, of course, could be followed by any of the above options. While I cannot be an organ donor because of some medical issues, I could definitely be a fun case for science. I keep meaning to find out if UBC’s body donation program would take. It would be one last chance to work with students. 🙂
All of this got me thinking about my own options again. I have to admit, the mushroom suit is definitely a favourite. But, it’s pretty pricey at $1500 US. Actually, in the funeral business, $1500 is petty cash, but… The mushroom suit is better for the environment than any other option I have seen, but it still requires a hole in the ground. And the hole in the ground has to be in a cemetery and therefore costs money. I note that Royal Oak Burial Park describes what the costs are for green burial without actually putting a dollar amount on it. Cremation isn’t cheap either – Pacific Coast Cremation charges $1295 (that includes a discount for ordering online!) with no ceremony. But, once that’s done, you’re pretty free to do what you’d like with the ashes. And this is where my morbid sense of humour kicks in. Don’t read on unless you already know how warped I am or won’t be too horrified by the evidence of it.
Will and I were talking about my ashes. I was suggesting he could dump me at UVic. After all, I’ve spent about 16 years of my life there, between undergrad, working in the library, and now teaching. We met there and even got married at the chapel there. But he thought it might be nice to spread me out a bit more, taking me to all the places I’ve lived and/or loved. So he’d go to visit Glasgow again, and Turku, and perhaps even Lahr. Maybe stop at a few other places along the way – Orkney, Jarrow, Visby, St Petersburg…. But, that would get expensive too. I suggested he could cut corners a bit by mailing me out to some friends who could deliver me to my special places. He could get cards that, when you opened them, tossed ashes everywhere, like confetti. I guess we’d have to warn people to point the envelopes away from themselves to open, or they might end up with a face full of me… Hmmm… Maybe the mushroom suit is the better idea after all. I might not have any friends left the other way!
That said, dear friends, if I kick the bucket and you hear that Will has had me cremated, be careful with your post. Just in case.