Life and Death

Well, we've been talking a lot about new life here on my blog lately. Let's switch it up a little. Let's get morbid.

Sometime after Murray and I got married, we got onto the subject of dying and funerals. And this has sparked a great debate and conversation between us. At times we agree with one another, and at times we don't quite see eye to eye. So let's talk death a little.

What bugs me about the whole dying thing is that a funeral costs a heck of a lot of money. It sounds to me like a heck of a lot more money might be spent on my funeral than was spent on my wedding. And that doesn't really sit right with me.

Now as I go into the details a little bit about money and dying, please remember that really, I'm mostly talking about me dying. I'm not talking about my loved ones. I'm talking about how I would like to be treated when I have died. These are my wishes. If my loved ones have different wishes, I am absolutely happy to accommodate them. But as far as my funeral is concerned, well...

When it comes right down to it, I'd rather be cremated than buried. My religion discourages (but doesn't forbid) cremation, and I'm not quite sure I understand why. I figure that if God can successfully resurrect someone who's been devoured by a shark and pooped out, and then the poop has been devoured by other fish and so on, then He's got to be capable of resurrecting a burn victim, too. And really... is a bunch of ashes that much more difficult than a full skeleton and decomposed flesh? Murray doesn't like the idea of a body burning. I don't think it's any worse than worms, maggots, fungus, etc. (Or sharks.)

In our discussions, however, I have agreed that I can forgo cremation and be buried. BUT, if I'm buried, I don't want a several thousand dollar casket!! What's the point?? The casket can communicate to others how much you love/value the deceased. But should my family have to spend several thousand dollars on something that's going to be buried in the ground just to prove to our neighbors that they loved me? What if at my viewing, they displayed me in a pine box with my dead little hands clutching $5000? Would that have the same effect? Would people know that my family loved me because that's how much money they buried me with?

Rather than an expensive casket, what I would love the most is a pine box painted by Murray. I believe that that shows love and has more meaning than money. Of course, if I died before Murray, he'd really be in no mood to paint a casket with everything else that he has to do for my death. So what we ultimately concluded was that we could get the LIDS to our pine boxes and paint them together! During our lifetime! And then, when we die, they'll be ready to be buried with us. That sounds much better to me than the expensive casket. (By the way, it's okay to toss in some nice pillows and bedding, but let's make them colorful, too, okay? None of this pearly white stuff. Give me some flava.)

Murray and I are responsible people. We have life insurance policies. So no, I hope that it's not a financial burden for little Br8'en and his siblings when the time comes. But I'd rather them not spend all my life insurance money on my funeral. What I would prefer the most, is that the family use that money to go on a family vacation, or if that's too much to coordinate (after we have 10 kids and they each have 10, that's a lot of people to vacation with), at least go out for a really really nice dinner together. That's what I'd rather they spend the money on. Spend time together. Don't spend the money on a wooden box for me to rot in.

This is about as far as Murray and I got in our discussions. Soon after our pine box decision, Murray found out that there are laws about the casket and our homemade pine boxes wouldn't cut it. I was pretty sad about that, but yesterday I heard part of Radio West's discussion about the modern funeral industry. Today I listened to the full audio. It's really, really fascinating! And it turns out that there's a guy in Park City who makes pine boxes up to standard! Now to see if he'll sell us a couple lids for now...

So anyway, I started talking about all of this to my mom this morning, and then she told me the darndest thing I have ever heard. She said that you can be cremated and give your ashes to a company who will turn your earthly remains into...

a...

DIAMOND.

Then, of course, she wondered what the surviving children do with the diamond. Who gets to wear Mom? Or do you set the diamond in a Christmas ornament and take it out once a year? Something to consider.

When it comes right down to it, I believe that the choice of how I am buried and honored should be more up to my actual mourners than me. Sure, I've just stated my preferences (not the diamond---the painted pine box and low-budget funeral), but I'll be dead at that point. I don't want to impose my way of mourning on people who would be uncomfortable with it. So what I think I'll do is just describe what I'd like in my last will and testament, explain why, talk about how it's important to me that more money be spent on family time than on what's being put into the ground, and let them know that they can make their own decisions.

And before I end this whole spiel, I'll add that I really think that a funeral can be a great party. Of course, I totally understand that if I go tomorrow, probably no one would be partying. But if I go at a ripe old age and everyone is expecting it, then I hope my survivors can miss me but celebrate me at the same time, and enjoy spending time with one another. My grandma's funeral a year and a half ago was a great event. I loved spending time with family and friends. We had a fantastic time together. We also cried and were sad that Grandma was gone. And that is the way I really feel it should be.

That being said, if I go before my time, and am eaten by a shark, and then pooped out, and my shark-poop remains are eaten by other fish, I really hope that people can see the humor in that, because what a way to go! (And feel free to catch the shark and have it stuffed and mounted on a wall.)

14 comments:

Murray Terreno di Amore said...

Hey, maybe they could turn shark poop into a DIAMOND.....poop for thought.

Laura L said...

I am totally with you on the cremation. Especially after reading Mary Roach's fabulous "Stiff."

AzĂșcar said...

I once asked the religion professor (dad) about cremation.

He said that it's a common misconception that people think that the discouragement of cremation is due to 'wasting' the priesthood when the time comes for the resurrection.
That is, of course, a fallacy because to imply that something is wasted means that there is a finite supply.

The real reason is the way that cremation was introduced to western/American society in the late 1800s. Cremation was the thing to do to prove that you didn't believe in Christianity, since the concept originated in eastern religions. It was also a way of proving that you thought the body was irrelevant and trivial.

As far as I know, I think that there has been some backing off of the discouragement of cremation as the church has expanded.

We shall see.

TOWR said...

I found the diamond idea, well, a little gross.

But I completely agree with you about funeral costs. I think it's ridiculous to spend a bunch of money on a casket etc. when people who are alive could get much more enjoyment out of it.

cropstar said...

Brilliant post. I totally agree with you on everything. And I TOTALLY want to be a diamond... a diamond that is eaten by a shark and then pooped out still in tact.

Jon Boy said...

I want to be put on a ship with all my earthly wealth and possessions, which will then be pushed out onto the Great Salt Lake and set on fire. Then my descendants will write Old English heroic poetry about me.

Janssen said...

My dad has always said he wanted a pine box too, but when my little brother died, my dad changed his mind, because it was really important to my parents that they be able to do one last thing to protect their little boy's body.

Also the diamond? Brilliant plan.

jeri said...

Joe's dad actually sat him down and discussed this once. Apparently he also wants the pine box funeral. He will leave everything to his wife, except enough money for Joe to buy a new van so that someone can actually ride with us when we go somewhere (it always bugs him that car seats take up so much room in our Pathfinder).

He then wants to be loaded onto the trailer that Joe's brother built, behind the new van and taken down to Eureka where they have a tiny "vacation" house and burial plots picked out. It's his dream funeral and he wanted to make sure Joe knew all about it. So I guess we'll be hitting up Park City Pine Box man when the time comes. I bet he'd be extra-excited if we all painted it too. I'll have to let him know.

Also I asked him once about the cremation thing (the idea of being buried makes me feel claustrophobic) and he said "it's not against any rules, but why make things harder for Heavenly Father than you need to."

spart said...

What's your position on a viewing before your remains are taken care of, whatever way that may be?

I'm torn myself. I lost someone suddenly a few years ago and there was no viewing, and they were cremated so there wasn't even a casket. Even today it's difficult for me to believe that they're really gone -- sometimes I fancy that it's all a big joke or trick and they're hiding somewhere. I don't know that a viewing would have made grieving any easier (since that's the last way you would see the person), but it would make it concrete that they're really gone.

Thoughts?

daltongirl said...

I should probably limit myself on how much I'm allowed to talk about this stuff. The more I discuss it, the more excited I get for a member of my family to die so I can try out the pine box method. People at home are starting to be a little afraid of the way I'm looking at them.

bedelia said...

My dad said he wants a "laughing box" in his casket for a jolly feel. Pretty sure it'd just be creepy though. I think the pine box funeral is great in theory but it'd probably be a real pain to the people that had to put it together after you died.

Kristeee said...

I went to a funeral in Europe where the man had been cremated, but they had a casket there anyway for the funeral.

"Who gets to wear Mom?" Just so you know, I just about snorted myself silly after reading that.

AmandaStretch said...

A former LDS friend was asking what the current LDS teachings were about cremation and other burial practices and in that discussion I found these things:

Cremation is a custom in various parts of the world. Do Latter-day Saints practice it?

Roger R. Keller, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Aug. 1991, 62–63

and

http://37days.typepad.com/37days/
2006/11/forever_hold_yo.html

My non-LDS grandmother wants to be cremated and spread over San Francisco Bay, like her mother, and my dad is hesitant. Like you said, though, we're all going to be resurrected no matter what. If we came out of ashes once, we can come out of ashes again.

If you've been watching the Olympics, Misty May-Treanor spread some of her mom's ashes on the court after the gold medal match in Athens, and plans to do the same, if/when, they win in Beijing. I think that's pretty cool.

jennie said...

I don't know why I don't check your blog more often. I loved this post and I love your personality! You are truly a fascinating person!