I just read the article “The Urban Death Project: Designing a Better Way to Die” and feel it’s so important as a concept that I had to share it here.
The article discusses the master’s thesis of Katrina Spade, who wants to provide Americans with an alternative to being buried in a vault with their veins filled with embalming fluid. Spade’s alternative also doesn’t involve being burned down to ash. Instead, she would like to create a means by which people can have their bodies composted after death, turning their remains into soil. She would do this via Urban Death centers that are set up to allow bodies to decompose within 4 – 6 weeks. Family members of the deceased could take composted remains home and use them as they like, kind of like what happens with cremains, only they’d be dealing with soil instead of ash.
For much of my adult life, I have longed for this sort of option for when I die. I adamantly do NOT want to be placed in a cement vault in the ground. I hope Spade’s idea gains traction and is implemented before I die because that would be my first choice. If it does not come to pass, my second choice is to send my body to a body farm to let it decompose for science. My third choice is cremation. (My husband knows my wishes should I pass before he does. I do hope my kids read this so they know what I want done with my body.)
A friend told me recently that when we die, we’re just “dead in the dirt.” I love the pragmatism of this saying. I have no idea what happens after death, which is why I am an agnostic, but with the composting option, I’d have a sure-fire shot at life after death because my body will transform into elements that can go on and support further life. What a great way to go … feeding beetles and trees and flies and flowers.
(Just don’t stick my composted remains into some air-tight container to sit forever. That would defeat the purpose.)
2 thoughts on “Forget Ashes & Dust, I Want to Be Beetle Food”
Hi Mary: I enjoyed the article you wrote about the burial practices of our culture…I have felt the same way, a vault doesn’t sound right.
I love the concept of the Ojibwe Spirit lodge…a person is buried only a foot or so in the earth, and a wooden lodge is placed over them. A little window is cut out at one end, so that the spirit can come and go…no embalming fluid and probably no casket…which are expensive, the person would simply naturally decompose. I doubt that it is legal anywhere other than a reservation though. I have some thoughts to share on the afterlife, so we should visit about that sometime. Thanks for the post!
Thanks for your comment, Dan, and for reminding me of the Ojibwe spirit lodge. That would be a good way to go, but you’re right, it probably isn’t legal outside a reservation. That makes me think we need to have some laws changed to enable more natural forms of decomposition-based death practices.
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