Regular readers of my blogs will know that I write and conduct personalised life-cycle ceremonies. Not just weddings, civil partnerships, vow renewals, ring blessings, baby-namings and the like, but also funerals.
Cheerful as my blogs tend to be, this one will consider an aspect of death: what do you want to happen to your body at the end?
Of course, this is something I discuss with people (and their families) in their lifetime; I then write the service and eulogy that they actually want.
It’s no more ghoulish than writing a will, and it’s certainly as practical. You’re simply ensuring that your wishes are carried out when you’re no longer around to control things.
Most people think that a funeral is prescribed. But the only things that actually need to be done when there is a death are legal registration and disposal of the body. Although there are certain stipulations, there is a surprising choice of methods open to you.
Conventionally, you have a religious service delivered by your church, synagogue, temple etc. This will often entail burial, but increasingly nowadays, cremation, and the minister will usually conduct a prescribed service that allows little individuality.
More and more, for those who do not want a full religious service (whether out of respect for the deceased or as the family’s choice) , there is the possibility of a unique, tailor-made service conducted by an independent celebrant. Funeral Directors frequently can recommend such an officiant. The celebrant should visit the next-of-kin and discuss the family’s wishes and learn about the deceased, so as to be able to write an appropriate celebratory service, approved beforehand by the family, and conduct it on the day.
These services are often held in crematoria, but they can take place in cemeteries or natural burial grounds, or even in homes as memorial services.
There is no space to go into this here, but, as long as pollution and health and safety laws are followed, you can bury someone in your back garden and conduct the ceremony yourself. I don’t recommend it, but, as I have said, there is some freedom as to how – or whether – you conduct a funeral.
Wear your beloved!
When your loved one has died, it is possible for their cremated remains (which contain a lot of carbon) to be transformed into precious stones, including diamonds. So your loved one, in the form of a ring or necklace, can still be with you wherever you go!
Give your beloved a real send-off!
Your loved one’s ashes can be sent off into the earth’s orbit or, for quite a price, launched into outer space. I’m not sure about the ‘carbon footprint’ here, but it IS an option …
Become an atoll!
Ashes can be cast into a 100% natural cast reef mould, lowered into the ocean to eventually become a coral reef. Environmentally-friendly and a creative (if expensive?) idea.
All at sea
You can be buried at sea, as in a garden – see above – but there are regulations you need to conform to.
Another more environmentally-friendly suggestion is resomation, which is a water-based process which reduces the body to soft bone, easily crumbled. The bone powder can be treated in the same way as cremated remains.
This process uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the body, which is then fragmented, freeze-dried and rendered rapidly compostable in a shallow burial. This must be the greenest process of all.
Finally, human remains can be frozen, using liquid nitrogen, without damaging human tissue. In theory, the body will be preserved until, with advances in medical knowledge, it will be able to be treated and eventually reanimated.
Take your pick!!
Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made life-cycle ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.