Thursday, March 14, 2019

Question From A Comment

Anonymous asks, on a recent post (The Actual Dying Part, January 10, 2019):

Yes, dying is easy; comedy is hard. What I’m getting hung up these days on this slide into oblivion is what should I do with my mortal remains: burn it or bury it? Would be interested in your thoughts on this post-dying last bit of personal hygiene...”

Thanks for your interest, Anonymous! Good question. I think it hangs on the issue of visitors to the grave. If there are people in your family who routinely visit the graves of the ancestors and are moved by emotion about it, people who would visit your grave as well, well then go for it! All questions arising post-death should be directed towards the living. The dead don't care.

If I lived in America, I would go with the cremation, myself. No one would ever visit the grave anyway. If you are a veteran of military service, as I am, you could ask that the VA bury you in the free grave that you earned by your service. Those VA cemeteries are so far off the beaten path by now that it's just not worth the trouble. No one will drive to the Dark Side of the Moon to visit your grave. So why bother?

Then tell them to scatter your ashes “in the ocean” or something. No place in particular. “In the ocean” allows anyone to visit your remains at any site overlooking a beach. For God's sake, don't do the urn thing. That's just awful. It just makes work for people, having to care for the urn.

I'll be dying in Thailand myself, and here the situation is a bit different. There are Buddhist cemeteries, but they are few and far between. Everyone gets cremated, down at the temple. It's interesting. They take the top off of the coffin, and pack it with kindling wood. Then the mourners make a last pass, throwing in a flower or a bit of kindling (the cynics). Then they roll it into the furnace and crank it up while everyone stands around, or has snacks, or something.

For poor people, that's it. No one worries about remains. It's a little different for someone with a couple of bucks. It doesn't take much money, but the monks will happily collect bits of your bones from the ashes. These can then be placed in what my Thai wife calls, “a condo.” This is a small section of wall around the grounds of the temple. On the face-plate, a photo of you is displayed, along with your name and dates of life. This is not frightfully expensive. I will encourage my wife to do this, and she will be grateful for the opportunity to visit my remains on my birthday and the anniversary of my death, until she joins me. She will then direct that her bone chips be interred with mine, and her photo displayed next to mine. All of that does not take up one square inch of real estate, and it requires zero maintenance, which keeps the cost low. Having a lot of those things built into its structures enhances the sacred nature of the temple, so everyone is happy.

My advice is to do what will make your survivors the most happy. This usually consists of making things easy and cheap for them. No sense giving them reason to curse you after you're gone.

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