Isn’t it time we stopped wasting valuable land on cemeteries? Talk about an idea whose time has passed. “Let’s put all the dead people in boxes and keep them in one part of town.” What kind of medieval bullshit is that? I say, plow these motherfuckers up and throw them away. Or melt them down. We need that phosphorous for farming. If we’re going to recycle, let’s get serious.
— George Carlin
I’ve always expressed a wish to be cremated when I die, but I’m open to persuasion that green burial is the way to go:
But hardcore green burial devotees like Mary are not particularly fond of cremation because of the energy costs involved in incinerating the bodies and the pollution it creates. You could drive across the country and halfway back on the energy used to cremate someone. And mercury from dental fillings released into the air with incineration adds up to somewhere between 1,000 and 7,800 pounds of mercury, a quarter of it floating back to earth. Greensprings would rather have your body — your whole body — going back into the earth.
Plus, there’s a whole lot more romance and poetry in the whole imagery of burial and the grave. An urn full of ash just doesn’t quite fire the imagination in the same way, does it? In any event, having already specified exactly how I want to go about shuffling off this mortal coil, let me take a moment to further address the ritual corpse disposal issue. I like Richard Grant’s idea in American Nomads, where he tells his wife that he wants to just be left in the desert when he dies:
“If you can fix it, let me die somewhere in the desert. I hate the idea of dying in the hospital, and I don’t want to end up in a cemetery. Terrible waste of calories. Just leave me out in the desert to get recycled.”
“That’s illegal,” she says, which I hadn’t realized. “But okay.”
The coyotes break the silence from time to time, yammering and howling in the distance, somewhere down in the canyons. I might feel differently when the moment is at hand, but it doesn’t sound like a bad fate right now – to fuel the wanderings of these splendid animals, and the flight of vultures, and get picked clean by ants, and then to enter the bodies of ant-eating lizards and lizard-eating birds and coyotes, while my bones crumble into the soil and nourish a cactus or a juniper tree. It’s enough reincarnation for me.
I’m partial to the mountains on the East Coast myself, but the sentiment is the same. I trust that one of you can make sure that happens if need be.