Burial Customs and the Search for Faith

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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22 Responses

  1. James Hanley says:

    My wife and I both want to be created. I’m not sure just what’s on her mind, but for me I also don’t want to take up space in a cemetery. I find it odd that in some European cities cemetery plots generally hold a person’s body (rich and famous excepted, I assume) for a limited number of years. The space to bury everyone permanently just isn’t available, at least not cost effectively. We do have a lot more space in the U.S., but it seems like a poor use of space to me. Plus, the places I’d like my remains to go don’t allow burials.

    Future archaeologists will be deprived, of course, but until they find a time machine and come back to pay me to be buried, they’re out of luck.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

      “My wife and I both want to be created.”

      When did you get all religious on us?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        Sorry, I meant re-created. In our religion, unless you are cremated you just rot, and your soul wanders the earth forever. But with cremation you are recreated and become the almighty ruler of your own universe. It’s a social scientist’s dream come true!Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        In my religion, we all just become primary sources.Report

      • zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        In my religion . . . wait, I don’t have one.

        I’ll just push daisies, I think. A wild rose might be nice; they thrived on the body of my deceased cat in the back yard. Maybe some fall-blooming wild asters. And I aspire to milkweed in the hopes a monarch butterfly or two will find shelter and sustenance.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        Ubj ybat jvyy n zna yvr v’ gur rnegu rer ur ebg13?Report

    • @james-hanley

      I want to be cremated, and for the same reasons. Another, related, reason, is that no burial is necessarily forever. I think of the way that “prehistoric” human remains are sometimes excavated and put on display in museums, etc. So I don’t see sense of spending so much money for something so impermanent.

      That last sentence may seem crass, but my understanding is that cremation is much cheaper than burial, and that enters into my calculations.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Maybe I’m unusual, but the idea of being dub up and displayed in a museum doesn’t bother me. I figure if I’m dead, I’m going to be the last one to care what happens to my corpse.

        Another possibility is to donate my body for educational purposes, to be used in an anatomy class.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        “the idea of being dub up and displayed in a museum doesn’t bother me.”

        I already plan a posthumous dub and remix release series that will make ‘Pac look like a piker.Report

      • It’s not so much that I mind being on display (although to be honest, I probably do mind at least a little bit). It’s more that I don’t want to pay for something that’s not going to be permanent anyway. If I buy now, I’ll have to front several thousand dollars. If I wait until I’m dead, my survivors (whoever that would be, we’re not having children) would be saddled with a large bill.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I must need more coffee, but as long as people are getting a giggle out of my typos, it’s all good.Report

      • North in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Also the coffin/funeral industry is a monstrously bloated rent seeking atrocity in most states. I can’t imagine anyone libertarianish in their inclination would want to give those one red cent more than necessary.Report

    • Pinky in reply to James Hanley says:

      “in some European cities plots generally hold a person’s body (rich and famous excepted, I assume) for a limited number of years” If I recall correctly, this is the standard practice in all of Switzerland, even though space isn’t a problem. In Austria, however, the more elaborate the funeral and grave, the better. I remember hearing about burial funds that are like wedding funds in the US: people save their entire lives to have a huge funeral.Report

      • Lyle in reply to Pinky says:

        It is also done in New Orleans because folks have to be entombed above the ground. After a few years the remains are pushed back when the space is needed again. (If you fly into N.O. you see the cemeteries if you come in to town on I-10.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    I’m an organ donor. I’m hoping that there’s only enough left of me to fit in a Dixie cup.

    I’ve debated what I want done with the Dixie cup… sent to the Capitol to be poured out on the steps, put into 51 different ziplocs and mailed to each state capital building plus DC, cremated and added to the ashes of the cats and then put in an hourglass… I admit. It’s hard to really get excited about any given plan as I get closer and closer to its execution.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:


      If I may suggest another alternative…


      My wife says it could be my opportunity to finally get her the big rock she has always been wanting.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

      @jaybird – I may have mentioned this before, but I have a pact with a friend wherein the survivor is to take the ashes of the decedent around door to door, and blow them into the eyes of people we don’t like.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

      My wife plans to donate her body to science. Well, a medical school. She figures what goes around comes around. I’ll get the ashes back at some point (or, more likely, our children will). I don’t think I am quite that benevolent, though I am an organ donor.Report

  3. Damon says:

    I’m in the same mind set. It’s the physical reminders, not the grave, that keep me connected. I have an old photo of a grandfather which I enlarged and framed in my office. I have some of my other grandfathers WW2 memorabilia, which I’ll get letter boxed and hang as well. Given my father’s condition, I’ll soon have some physical items to remember him as well.

    As to burial and cremation…char me up and scatter me into the winds. Better than rotting in the ground and I’ll return from wenst I came faster. The executor of my will will have a some “fun” dumping my ashes over Mt. St. Helens. 🙂Report

  4. This was simply beautiful, Mike.Report

  5. Heliopause says:

    I’ve made my wishes known to my loved ones; my body is to be preserved and displayed so as to be as maximally inconvenient to as many people as possible. Here is my inspiration: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/Jeremy_Bentham_Auto-Icon.jpg. It’s just wrong to ignore a dying person’s last wish, right? I mean, right?Report

    • Road Scholar in reply to Heliopause says:

      Absolutely. I want to be cremated and the urn launched into orbit so as to be a navigational hazard for a few centuries.

      Barring that I want to be stuffed in a standing position with my arms raised just so to make a nice coat/hat rack. Then placed in the corner of our bedroom so I can keep an eye on my wife after I’m gone to make sure she behaves. Oddly, she objects to that notion.Report