The Final Disposition

 

Unlike dumb animals, who leave their dead lying around willy-nilly, we humans, philosophic and spiritual beings that we are, seem to have a need to invest meaning in our mortal remains.

You might be an educator who arranges to have your corpse plasticized (see right). In that way, you can continue teaching after death when your plasticized corpse tours with Body Worlds (an exhibition of plasticized bodies). Your mortal remains, twisted into all sorts of fantastic poses, will help teach the world what the insides of a human body look like in action.  Muy macabre.

If you’ve loved Mother Nature throughout your life, the hippest way to invest meaning in your mortal remains is to arrange for a green burial.  In a green burial, the cemetery usually has no gravestones, rows, or urns. Your loved ones may come to the graveyard service to listen to a eulogy — and end up helping to dig the burial pit.  Your mortal remains, wearing only a shroud (and unembalmed), will therefore return to the earth much more quickly than it would in a traditional burial.  A natural stone, or sometimes even GPS coordinates, identifies the location of the grave.  Muy romantic.

If you’re a traditionalist, in love with rites and rituals, the common American funeral is probably just your thing. The funeral typically takes place in the same church that you and your spouse attended during your lifetime. Here your embalmed remains, sometimes lying in an open casket, are positioned a few steps down from the altar.  You’re looking good because a mortician had previously combed your hair, put a bloom in your cheeks, plucked your eyebrows, and decked you out in your Sunday best.

After the eulogy, your body is transported in a hearse to a cemetery and buried in an expensive casket (typically between $2,000 and $10,000).  The casket is often enclosed in a sealed concrete box (another $1,000), a requirement in some cemeteries to prevent the casket from collapsing and to prevent water seeping into the casket. Muy expensive.

If you are the hopeful sort and you’re desperate for more life than you’re given, you might have your body frozen cryonically (usually at —320.,8 degrees F.) and stored in a refrigerated, insulated capsule.  Then if things go well, you might be “resurrected” (very doubtful, by the way) on some future day when science is more advanced.  There are about 250 people in the US who are now frozen cryonically as they await their resurrection. Muy brrrrr.

I have a fondness for organization and neatness, so I plan to be cremated. I like the idea of my body being burned down to a small neat and clean pile of ashes.  Muy caliente!

My daughter is a funeral director and a licensed cremator, so over the years she’s told me a lot about cremation. Let me tell you what I’ve learned.

During cremation, funeral homes require that the body be enclosed in an easily combustible wood, wicker, fiberboard, or cardboard casket.  Both your body and your flimsy casket are thus cremated in a firebrick-lined oven at over 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit for about two hours, a process that burns away all soft tissue.  All that’s left, then, is your fragile skeletal structure and a tiny bit of casket material. These are pulverized in a machine designed specifically for the purpose.  What you’re left with are “ashes” (actually bone meal and tiny bone fragments), weighing about seven pounds or so, about the size of a child’s bowling ball. Any metal pieces (bone screws, etc.) are removed at this point before the ashes are returned to your loved ones, usually in a shoebox-sized container.

You can buy a handsome urn to put your ashes in, or you can put them in your own handmade container. Or you can scatter them into a favorite lake or stream. Marie and I have scattered a friend’s father’s ashes in the Kitakami River in Japan. I have a friend, a glass artist, who fused the ashes of her father into glass.

There are a variety of companies that will make beads out of your pressed ashes. There is even a company that claims that it can make a diamond out of the small carbon that remains in your ashes, though this is disputed by a number of experts.

A few years back, I made two miniature caskets (eight-inch long) out of ebony-inlaid cocobolo (my favorite wood) for my mom’s and my dad’s ashes. Into each casket, I have also placed a photograph and one or two small items that had significance to them. Those two tiny caskets sit on the mantel over our fireplace. I’m reminded of my mom and dad every time I do my weekly dusting. I like that.

I’ve already made a tiny casket for a portion of my ashes. I’ve asked Marie, who is five years younger than I am and is therefore likely to outlive me, to place my little casket next to my mom and dad on the fireplace mantel. So there we’ll be — mom, dad, and son — until Marie joins us someday. Then four little caskets.  Muy neat.

Postscript: Marie and I own part of a family cemetery plot, purchased long ago by Marie’s parents (who are buried there). I think Marie wants a portion of our ashes to be buried in our individual plots so that our children will have a fixed spot to go to, a quiet and woodsy place, to contemplate the mysteries of life — and the awesomeness of their parental units.

.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 57 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    KentForrester: o contemplate the mysteries of life — and the awesomeness of their parental units.

    I’m glad you didn’t say mother and father; that would be so hetero-normative.

    • #1
  2. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Mr AZ wants to be buried. He denies it but I think it’s a holdover from his Catholic upbringing. No funeral though, thank goodness. He does want a wake down at the American Legion but I’ll have to get one of his friends to organize it. I’m not a party planner. And he wants to reside in a military cemetery. I think I need to get him to plan it all himself.

    I’m going to be cremated also. I don’t even care what is done with my ashes. Just throw them away. I’m not sentimental.

    But I do love your little black caskets. Very nice sentiment for those you care about.

    • #2
  3. Victor Tango Kilo Member
    Victor Tango Kilo
    @VtheK

    My first choice would be to have my carcass buried under a pile of rocks in a remote wilderness. But the law doesn’t permit that.

    The thing where they bury your remains in a pod that nourishes a tree is also interesting.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/12/style/forest-burial-death.html

    I guess it doesn’t matter. Once I go, I have intention of checking back to see what was done with my soul’s cocoon.

    • #3
  4. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    Mr AZ wants to be buried. He denies it but I think it’s a holdover from his Catholic upbringing. No funeral though, thank goodness. He does want a wake down at the American Legion but I’ll have to get one of his friends to organize it. I’m not a party planner. And he wants to reside in a military cemetery. I think I need to get him to plan it all himself.

    I’m going to be cremated also. I don’t even care what is done with my ashes. Just throw them away. I’m not sentimental.

    But I do love your little black caskets. Very nice sentiment for those you care about.

    Justmein, I assume your husband’s entire career was in one of the armed services.  Is that right?  And that means you were an Army (?) wife who accompanied your husband as he was assigned to various duty locations.  Around the world? 

    • #4
  5. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    My first choice would be to have my carcass buried under a pile of rocks in a remote wilderness. But the law doesn’t permit that.

    The thing where they bury your remains in a pod that nourishes a tree is also interesting.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/12/style/forest-burial-death.html

    I guess it doesn’t matter. Once I go, I have intention of checking back to see what was done with my soul’s cocoon.

    “Soul’s cocoon.”  Neat expression.  While writing my post, I kept searching around for words to denote the thing we leave behind.  I’m sorry that “soul’s cocoon” didn’t come to my mind. 

    • #5
  6. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I told my wife I want to be cremated, then have my ashes shot out of a torpedo tube by one of our submarines.  The CO can then send her the chart marked with where they did it . . .

    • #6
  7. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Stad (View Comment):

    I told my wife I want to be cremated, then have my ashes shot out of a torpedo tube by one of our submarines. The CO can then send her the chart marked with where they did it . . .

    Stad, sounds like a meaningful disposal of your remains, though I doubt if your survivors will be able to see it through. You were just joshing, weren’t you?

    • #7
  8. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    Mr AZ wants to be buried. He denies it but I think it’s a holdover from his Catholic upbringing. No funeral though, thank goodness. He does want a wake down at the American Legion but I’ll have to get one of his friends to organize it. I’m not a party planner. And he wants to reside in a military cemetery. I think I need to get him to plan it all himself.

    I’m going to be cremated also. I don’t even care what is done with my ashes. Just throw them away. I’m not sentimental.

    But I do love your little black caskets. Very nice sentiment for those you care about.

    Justmein, I assume your husband’s entire career was in one of the armed services. Is that right? And that means you were an Army (?) wife who accompanied your husband as he was assigned to various duty locations. Around the world?

    Oh no. He did a stint in the Navy which was a very important part of his life. We still get together with his shipmates from fifty years ago. I did grow up a Navy brat though.

    • #8
  9. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    My family has had two green funerals, one for my mother and one for my stepson, Sam.  Both were lovely, simple, and peaceful.  We did not go the distance, which would have involved making the casket and the shroud–not that I’m not up for that, and it’s legal–at least in Pennsylvania.  I can see myself having my own personal “sheep to shroud” competition one of these days:  Shear, spin, weave, sew….

    Mr. She was cremated.  He was always quite indifferent to the matter, and it was in the middle of Covid Times, so his ashes are in a nice urn in the living room, pending/awaiting further action should any of us deem it desirable or necessary.  But I sort of like the idea that he sits looking out the window and onto the view of the field and the sheep he loved so much.

    My Dad was cremated.  True to form, his ashes wouldn’t fit in the container, and we had to split him between two.  My sister and I scattered about two-thirds of Dad all over Prince Edward Island, at several of his trout-fishing holes and off the end of the wharf where he used to catch smelt.  Moving an crematory urn full of ashes through customers and internationally was an interesting exercise in and of itself.  My sister has the rest of him, awaiting (should it ever happen) my next trip to the UK.

    Several other of my relations have had “normal” funerals and burials.  The most bizarre was probably my mother-in-laws.  I’m not sure what the embalmer was thinking, but even though we provided several photographs of grandma, with a view (see what I did there) to her looking as much as possible like herself, she ended up looking exactly like Iphigenia Doubtfire.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    • #9
  10. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    If Tony Hillerman got it right in his Navajo mystery series (Leaphorn and Chee) the traditional Navajo have a very different way of dealing with bodies. They want them gone, never to be seen again.

    • #10
  11. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    I like the green, slightly less costly traditional, and cremation best. But I rather want there to be some small something saying I was here, however simple and ordinary my life may be. I’d like to leave behind evidence of my simple and ordinary life for someone simple and ordinary to stumble on in a trip through a cemetery after reading a classic like Anne of Green Gables and find some comfort that they are not alone in enjoying their simple and ordinary life.

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    I told my wife I want to be cremated, then have my ashes shot out of a torpedo tube by one of our submarines. The CO can then send her the chart marked with where they did it . . .

    Stad, sounds like a meaningful disposal of your remains, though I doubt if your survivors will be able to see it through. You were just joshing, weren’t you?

    Halfway serious . . .

    • #12
  13. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I’m waiting for Ronco to come up with the Home Cremation Kit.  You can show a picture of a family at Christmas gathered in front of the fireplace, and the music plays, “Grandpa’s roasting on an open fire” . . .

    • #13
  14. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    She (View Comment):

    My family has had two green funerals, one for my mother and one for my stepson, Sam. Both were lovely, simple, and peaceful. We did not go the distance, which would have involved making the casket and the shroud–not that I’m not up for that, and it’s legal–at least in Pennsylvania. I can see myself having my own personal “sheep to shroud” competition one of these days: Shear, spin, weave, sew….

    Mr. She was cremated. He was always quite indifferent to the matter, and it was in the middle of Covid Times, so his ashes are in a nice urn in the living room, pending/awaiting further action should any of us deem it desirable or necessary. But I sort of like the idea that he sits looking out the window and onto the view of the field and the sheep he loved so much.

    My Dad was cremated. True to form, his ashes wouldn’t fit in the container, and we had to split him between two. My sister and I scattered about two-thirds of Dad all over Prince Edward Island, at several of his trout-fishing holes and off the end of the wharf where he used to catch smelt. Moving an crematory urn full of ashes through customers and internationally was an interesting exercise in and of itself. My sister has the rest of him, awaiting (should it ever happen) my next trip to the UK.

    Several other of my relations have had “normal” funerals and burials. The most bizarre was probably my mother-in-laws. I’m not sure what the embalmer was thinking, but even though we provided several photographs of grandma, with a view (see what I did there) to her looking as much as possible like herself, she ended up looking exactly like Iphigenia Doubtfire. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    Thanks, She, for your expansive and insightful response.  I expect no less from you.  You know, I think you ought to start on that sheep to shroud idea.  People would be talking about you long after you’ve passed. Looks like the mortician blew it with your grandma.  My daughter sweats each time she “fixes” the face of the mortal remains of one of her customers.  It’s a real art to put a face together after death.  The positioning of the lips is crucial. A little too much and it’s a grin; too little and it’s a scowl. 

    Thanks again. 

    • #14
  15. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    Mr AZ wants to be buried. He denies it but I think it’s a holdover from his Catholic upbringing. No funeral though, thank goodness. He does want a wake down at the American Legion but I’ll have to get one of his friends to organize it. I’m not a party planner. And he wants to reside in a military cemetery. I think I need to get him to plan it all himself.

    I’m going to be cremated also. I don’t even care what is done with my ashes. Just throw them away. I’m not sentimental.

    But I do love your little black caskets. Very nice sentiment for those you care about.

    The military cemetery should not be too hard to work out, as I understand it.  Just contact the cemetery to reserve a spot.  They will let the service member AND spouse be buried next to each other.  And it’s free.

    • #15
  16. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    Mrs. Tim wants to be cremated and is somewhat blase about the whole matter.  I’m not sure what I want.  Cremation is fine, but I rather like the idea of a funeral with a casket so that my mourners (whom Mrs. Tim will surely hire) can enthusiastically throw themselves on the casket while wailing and beating their breasts.  In the end, I don’t think I’ll have much say in the matter as Mrs. Tim usually gets the final word.

    To be serious for a bit, I do think I want a funeral with a casket (closed as I anticipate not looking my best).  I just like the idea of a traditional Catholic funeral.  I can be cremated afterwards.

    We want to go into a national (military) cemetery.  Our Marine Corps service is central to who we are; we’ll be around our brothers-in-arms; it will always be well maintained; and the price is right.  Picking one is a source of continued discussion.  Quantico, VA, has a nice one, and we were married in the Quantico Base Chapel.  And, after all, that’s just were Marines go.  But it’s far away.  Closest one is in Slidell, but I don’t think I want to be planted in Slidell.  Pensacola’s got a nice one.  So who knows.

    My in-laws (who were great people) were from Anoka, MN, but ended up in Arizona to live with their oldest daughter.  When Pop died, he was cremated in AZ, then transported to Anoka for a service and burial in the family plot.  When Mom died, she was cremated in AZ and, months later due to varied circumstances, transported to Anoka for services and burial.  We had the funeral Mass and then went to the church hall for a small reception.  After a couple of hours, we proceeded to the cemetery for burial.  We’re all there, and the priest shows up to say the requisite prayers for Mom’s internment.  Well, we’re ready to get started when someone says, “Where’s Mom?”  After checking our pockets and the cars, we discovered we had left the guest of honor on a table in the church hall.  So her son, Ed, quickly drove to the hall to retrieve Mom and bring her to the cemetery.  The priest was not happy about the delay, but in the end, Mom was properly planted.  All’s well that ends well, and we got some laughs and a good story out of it.

    • #16
  17. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Some Call Me …Tim (View Comment):

    Mrs. Tim usually gets the final word.

    We want to go into a national (military) cemetery. Our Marine Corps service is central to who we are; we’ll be around our brothers-in-arms; it will always be well maintained; and the price is right.

     

    Tim, my uncle is buried in a military cemetery in Italy.  My dad located his grave when my dad was in his 60s.  He cried over the grave of his brother. 

    That story about your mom’s remains will likely be passed down for at least a few generations. 

    In fact, it’s not only your wife who gets the last word.  Our survivors will always have the last word, no matter what the deceased had to say about it when he was alive. 

    • #17
  18. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Some Call Me …Tim (View Comment):

    Mrs. Tim usually gets the final word.

    We want to go into a national (military) cemetery. Our Marine Corps service is central to who we are; we’ll be around our brothers-in-arms; it will always be well maintained; and the price is right.

     

    Tim, my uncle is buried in a military cemetery in Italy. My dad located his grave when my dad was in his 60s. He cried over the grave of his brother.

    That story about your mom’s remains will likely be passed down for at least a few generations.

    In fact, it’s not only your wife who gets the last word. Our survivors will always have the last word, no matter what the deceased had to say about it when he was alive.

    Just to clarify, Mom in the story is my mother-in-law.  I was the first son-in-law and got to set precedent.  She was okay with me calling her Barb, but I liked her so much that I went with Mom.  The subsequent sons-in-law and daughter-in-law followed my lead.

    My mother is still very much alive and would be quite nonplussed if we were to bury her before she was ready.

    • #18
  19. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Some Call Me …Tim (View Comment):
    Quantico, VA, has a nice one,

    My parents ashes are at Quantico. My brother who lives in VA took care of everything. Apparently they do a nice little ceremony.

    • #19
  20. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    My mother died over the weekend, so I’m dealing with all of this. Cremation as per instructions. Setting a memorial service when relatives can be in town simultaneously is the tricky part. The one you leave out because of scheduling is the one you’ll hear from for years. There’s a graveyard where her parents, paternal grandparents, paternal great grandparents are buried, so it’s no mystery where a headstone is going. 

     

    • #20
  21. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    My late first wife and I agreed to mutual cremations, with our ashes to be mingled in the waters of Maalaea Bay off Maui.  We put aside $10,000 for our (then) four children to do the task and to have a final vacation at their parents’ expense.  Today, the late First Mrs Doc Robert’s ashes are in an urn in our living room, atop the CD rack.  She is thus always close to the Harry Chapin music that she so loved.

    Then I went and remarried.  Counting a step daughter and two daughters-in-law, I now have seven children.

    Advice on what to do will be greatly appreciated.

    • #21
  22. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    My late first wife and I agreed to mutual cremations, with our ashes to be mingled in the waters of Maalaea Bay off Maui. We put aside $10,000 for our (then) four children to do the task and to have a final vacation at their parents’ expense. Today, the late First Mrs Doc Robert’s ashes are in an urn in our living room, atop the CD rack. She is thus always close to the Harry Chapin music that she so loved.

    Then I went and remarried. Counting a step daughter and two daughters-in-law, I now have seven children.

    Advice on what to do will be greatly appreciated.

    Take two aspirin and see me in the morning. 

    • #22
  23. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    I intend to donate myself to a medical school as a practice cadaver or to a hospital to scavenge for parts, and I don’t much care what they do with the leftovers. I see no reason that any useful bits shouldn’t be harvested if I’m no longer using them.

    • #23
  24. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    What do you and Marie think you’ll do with Bob the Dog when he shuffles off this mortal coil?

    • #24
  25. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    What do you and Marie think you’ll do with Bob the Dog when he shuffles off this mortal coil?

    We’re going to stuff him.

    • #25
  26. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    I intend to donate myself to a medical school as a practice cadaver or to a hospital to scavenge for parts, and I don’t much care what they do with the leftovers. I see no reason that any useful bits shouldn’t be harvested if I’m no longer using them.

    Charlotte, I think you have a good plan.

    • #26
  27. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    What do you and Marie think you’ll do with Bob the Dog when he shuffles off this mortal coil?

    We’re going to stuff him.

    My sister-in-law stuffed her cat when he died. I found this out before I met her. I thought it was creepy.

    • #27
  28. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    What do you and Marie think you’ll do with Bob the Dog when he shuffles off this mortal coil?

    We’re going to stuff him.

    My sister-in-law stuffed her cat when he died. I found this out before I met her. I thought it was creepy.

    Well, stuffing a cat is creepy.  But a dog?   Now that’s a whole different story.  

    • #28
  29. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Some Call Me …Tim (View Comment):

    We want to go into a national (military) cemetery. Our Marine Corps service is central to who we are; we’ll be around our brothers-in-arms; it will always be well maintained; and the price is right. Picking one is a source of continued discussion. Quantico, VA, has a nice one, and we were married in the Quantico Base Chapel. And, after all, that’s just were Marines go. But it’s far away. Closest one is in Slidell, but I don’t think I want to be planted in Slidell. Pensacola’s got a nice one. So who knows.

    There’s a newer national cemetery just up the road from me, the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies, and I know a few veterans/spouses who’re buried there.  It’s quite impressive, and holds many ceremonies and memorials, some of which I’ve been to with friends.

    My in-laws (who were great people) were from Anoka, MN, but ended up in Arizona to live with their oldest daughter. When Pop died, he was cremated in AZ, then transported to Anoka for a service and burial in the family plot. When Mom died, she was cremated in AZ and, months later due to varied circumstances, transported to Anoka for services and burial. We had the funeral Mass and then went to the church hall for a small reception. After a couple of hours, we proceeded to the cemetery for burial. We’re all there, and the priest shows up to say the requisite prayers for Mom’s internment. Well, we’re ready to get started when someone says, “Where’s Mom?” After checking our pockets and the cars, we discovered we had left the guest of honor on a table in the church hall. So her son, Ed, quickly drove to the hall to retrieve Mom and bring her to the cemetery. The priest was not happy about the delay, but in the end, Mom was properly planted. All’s well that ends well, and we got some laughs and a good story out of it.

    That’s better than good; that’s an outstanding story.

     

    • #29
  30. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Hang On (View Comment):

    My mother died over the weekend, so I’m dealing with all of this. Cremation as per instructions. Setting a memorial service when relatives can be in town simultaneously is the tricky part. The one you leave out because of scheduling is the one you’ll hear from for years. There’s a graveyard where her parents, paternal grandparents, paternal great grandparents are buried, so it’s no mystery where a headstone is going.

    I’m very sorry for your loss.  And yes, sometimes the arrangements can be tricky.  It seems, sometimes, as if nothing brings out the “best” in people like weddings and funeral.  God Bless.

    • #30