Hello, Lovelies! In this blog post you’ll find links to all the crazy things you can to do with your body after death and info on the podcast featured during this week’s drink break. Finally, at the bottom, you get a rare sneak peak of Ashley’s show notes!
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This week’s drink break is brought to you by Histories, Mysteries, & Conspiracies Podcast! If you have ever had a strange fascination with dark histories, compelling mysteries, and conspiracy theories, then this podcast is for you. Every episode your host Skye and a guest will delve into a case file full of unknowns. They will ask questions, tell related stories, and give their own opinions, all while learning about the case. Make sure to check out this show by Clicking Here or on the logo!
- Tree – https://www.thelivingurn.com/
- Gem – http://lifegem.com/
- Vinyl – http://www.andvinyly.com/
- Art Work – https://www.artfromashes.com/
- Art Work – www.spiritpieces.com
- Art Work – https://www.memorials.com/cremation-art.php
- Fireworks – https://heavenlystarsfireworks.com/
- Coral Reefs – https://www.eternalreefs.com/
- Sea Burial – https://www.newenglandburialsatsea.com/
- Resomation – http://resomation.com/
- Cryonics – https://www.cryonics.org/
- SPACE – https://www.celestis.com/
- Donation – https://www.organdonor.gov/index.html
- Donation – https://www.sciencecare.com/
- Plastination- https://bodyworlds.com/about/philosophy/
Ashley’s Show Notes
What are you going to do with your body once you’ve kicked the bucket, shuffled off the mortal coil, run down the curtain or joined the invisible choir?
There are several options for disposing of a deceased person’s remains.
Though it’s not likely to be discussed at a funeral, the popular methods of body disposal—traditional burial and cremation—both pose major environmental hazards.
Historically speaking, the only after-death options available were natural ones, but those fell out of favor in the United States with the rise of the industrial age, embalming, and the professionalization of funeral director as a career.
In recent years, natural interment has made a comeback, with promises to protect the planet and pocketbook alike—green burial also happens to be more affordable, on the whole.
So, let’s talk about some of the options as well as some of the benefits and potential issues or hazards with them.
Option 1: Burial
Burial is the traditional choice.
In 2016, 43.5% of Americans opted for burial, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Direct burial is the least expensive option: A funeral home files the necessary paperwork, places the un-embalmed body in a casket, and takes the remains to a cemetery for burial, usually within one day. This is often accompanied by a simple graveside service. This alternative eliminates expenses for embalming and some expenses for funeral home facilities, and most families choose a lower-priced casket.
Burials can be done directly, with no viewing or ceremonies, or with any combination of viewing, ceremony, and graveside service.
It usually requires you to pay for a casket; cemetery plot which includes fees to open and close the grave; cemetery endowment (upkeep); and a marker, monument, or headstone.
Though most burials are below ground, another usually more expensive option is burial above ground in a mausoleum.
Traditional burial is arguably bad from an environmental perspective: Casket burials and the associated materials use 100,000 tons of steel and 1.5 million tons of concrete each year, as well as some 77,000 trees and 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluid. There is also worry that some of that carcinogenic embalming fluid eventually leaks into the earth, polluting water and soil.
Option 1.1 Natural Burial
Not so much a new invention as a return to old ways, natural burials take place without embalming and without the concrete vaults that line graves in most modern cemeteries.
Bodies are wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket, the idea being that they will decompose naturally.
The natural burial movement started in1998 with the opening of the all-natural cemetery Ramsey Creek preserve in Westminster, S.C., said Mark Harris.
there are at least 50 natural cemeteries in the country, and “scores more” regular cemeteries with sections for natural graves.
The movement is driven by dissatisfaction with typical funeral rites. “Most people, when they find out what happens in the embalming room, they’re pretty horrified,” said Harris, who blogs at grave-matters.blogspot.com. “They can’t believe the cost, which is outrageous, and then there is this growing concern about the environmental effects of all of these procedures and of all of the goods and resources devoted to this modern method.”
In addition, Harris said, many natural cemeteries double as nature preserves, and many people like the idea of contributing to the ecosystem after death.
“You’re actually benefiting the environment,” he said. “You’re allowing the body to rejoin the cycle of life.”
Green burial looks pretty much like a normal burial, accept for a few important differences. No embalming fluids or toxic chemicals of any kind can be used. The grave is often dug by hand (either by the green burial ground staff or, if they choose, the loved ones themselves). There is no cement plot. Only biodegradable caskets, such as wicker ones, can be used, or the body is simply placed in an unbleached cloth shroud. This allows the corpse to decompose naturally, returning its sustenance to the Earth. Many green burial grounds also act as wildlife refuges, creating safe spaces for animals and native plant life—families can choose from a variety of live, wild grasses and flowers to adorn the grave.
Aside from being environmentally friendly, this is a cheaper option than traditional burial considering the price tags on caskets, embalming, etc. While prices around the country vary, according to Undertaking LA—a mortuary that promotes green burial—the average funeral in Los Angeles is over $8000 not including the burial plot, whereas they offer green burial for under $7000 including the plot itself
Option 2: Recomposistion
Body composting, or recomposition, could be the future of green burial—at least once it’s legal. Seattle-based architecture grad Katrina Spade got a lightbulb idea in 2012: Could she create a space and method for returning bodies to the earth naturally, sans concrete, steel, and carcinogens? The answer came in the form of human composting, the process of transforming bodies into soil, naturally.
Farmers have practiced livestock composting for decades. Wood chips and moisture and breeze combine to expedite the natural process of decay into nutrient-rich soil. Spade has begun a pilot project at Washington State University with bodies pledged by elderly and terminally ill fans of her cause.
If and when human composting is legalized, the Urban Death Project dreams of a brick-and-mortar recomposing facility. Families will ceremonially lower the shrouded corpse into the recomposing vessel and cover it with wood chips as they say goodbye. As soon as 30 days later, they can collect the remains, now transformed into (roughly) a cubic yard of soil, which they could then take home and use in their garden.
Option 3: Cremation
Cremation is an increasingly popular choice.
In 2016, cremations accounted for 50.2% of funerals, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Usually neither a casket nor embalming is required, but if the body must be held for several days, refrigeration or embalming may be necessary.
Cremation, like burial, can be direct or following a funeral.
It is also possible to have an embalming, viewing, and ceremony followed by cremation.
Some funeral homes offer rental caskets for cremation, while others sell modest caskets designed for cremation.
Cremation also allows flexibility as to when or where services are held—many families now hold memorial services in their own homes or at the deceased’s favorite place.
Cremated remains (“cremains”) may be scattered, kept at home, buried in a cemetery, or interred in a columbarium (an above-ground structure containing permanent niches).
Burial in a cemetery or placement in a columbarium adds to the cost.
According to the Natural Death Centre, a single cremation uses about as much gas and electricity as a 500-mile road trip. The process also emits around 250 pounds of carbon dioxide, as much as the average American home produces in about six days.
Option 3.1: Grow into a tree
It’s actually pretty simple using Living Urn’s BioUrn.
You or your loved ones choose a place that gets plenty of sunlight and then dig a hole that’s big enough for the BioUrn (which contains your cremated remains aka cremains).
Place the BioUrn in the hole, add the provided proprietary growth agent, soil, and wood chips.
Then lower the provided seedling you chose into the urn. Voilà; a baby tree that will grow from the biodegradable urn.
Options 3.2: Memorial Gem
Get cremated and send your remains to LifeGem, and have them compressed into a diamond!
It’s pretty basic science involving high pressure on the carbon contained in the remains.
but it’s not cheap: its smallest option starts $2,490.
Option 3.3: Get Pressed into A Record
If you or your loved one is vinyl freak, then surely the best way to preserve their memory is to press their ashes into a copy of their favorite record.
For about $3,800, UK-based company And Vinyly, will press your ashes into a record that plays 24 minutes (12 per side) of music or an audio recording (or simple silence). They come packaged with your date of birth and death on the cover, or you can pay more for the packaging to come adorned with your portrait.
Option 3.4 Artwork
Companies like Art from Ashes and Memorials.com offer a unique memorial concept for those who want a long-lasting celebration of their loved ones’ memories.
Artists can mix a portion of the cremation ashes into oil colors and then use it to create beautiful painting or mix a small amount of the asked into molten glass to be blown into a memorial piece.
Just like other artist your options of what you will have painted are endless.
Depending upon the type of painting you want, the charges will differ. But, from a small review of the sites they can run from $150 for a small glass piece to $1500 for a larger painting
Option 3.5 Fireworks
You can check the official site of https://heavenlystarsfireworks.com/ for information on how to turn your remains into a beautiful fireworks display.
There are many firework companies who will pack small portion of the cremation ashes into professional-grade fireworks and stage a memorial display for the survivors.. Once a date is scheulded for the display. The family members and friends of the deceased can watch the firework display.
Often the firework display is accompanied by some of the favorite songs of the deceased.
Large displays can run start a 995 lbs ($1300) and can go up to 3995lbs. ($5100)
Self Fire options run from 750 lbs ($970) to 2500 lbs ($3200)
Option 3.6 Coral Reef
Companies such as Georgia Based Company Eternal Reefs who takes ashes (yes, again) and make them into an environmentally friendly concrete-cast “reef” on which coral can grow underwater.
These heavy concrete orbs are then placed in areas where reefs need restoration, attracting fish and other organisms that turn the remains into an undersea habitat.
This is a perfect option for all nature lovers — particularly considering the dangers facing coral reefs around the world.
Cremation isn’t as green as natural burial due to the combustion process, Harris said, but he is a fan of Eternal Reef burials.
“It’s a terrific opportunity not just to return to an aquatic environment, but to produce new life under the sea,” he said.
Option 4 SEA BURIAL
Following in the tradition of Vikings, naval officers, and pirates alike, those who loved the ocean in life can return in death with a sea burial.
In addition to the countless water-soluble urns on the market, an entire body can be set to sea in designated areas off the U.S. coast.
Though some burials involve dropping an entire modified casket to the ocean floor, environmentally inclined businesses like New England Burials at Sea offer more eco-friendly (and affordable) options such as natural burial shrouds hand-sewn by New England sail makers.
A full day charter takes your funeral party out to sea, facilitating the open or closed casket service before dropping the body.
Option 5 Resomation or Alkaline hydrolysis.
The process, called resomation or “bio-cremation,” the body is placed in a stainless steel vessel filled with a solution of 95 percent water and 5 percent potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide.
A combination of rushing alkaline waters and temperatures around 350°F causes the body to dissolve in essentially the same process that happens to a body left on the earth or in a stream—only what would take months in nature takes about 20 hours in an aquamation pod.
By the end, all that’s left is the skeleton, or parts thereof, which is ground up into a white powder with a pearly sheen.
The remains are given to the loved ones, who may choose to scatter them like ashes or place them in a biodegradable urn.
Advocates say the process emits about a fifth of the carbon dioxide of traditional cremation.
Option 6 BOG BODIES
Someone wading through a soggy marsh, or bog, in Ireland may be in for a real surprise—a perfectly preserved, if oddly tanned, corpse from another century. Why?
The peat in the marsh creates a highly acidic environment that preserves flesh. So, while the alkaline waters of aquamation will dissolve a body post-haste, the acids from the bogs give a pH akin to that of vinegar.
This acts like a pickling agent, freezing the body in time—some bog bodies are dated back as far as 8000 BCE.
Sphagnan, a polymer produced by decaying sphagnum moss, is largely to thank for this phenomenon because of the way it binds to nitrogen and slows the growth of bacteria.
The tannins in the peat act as a brown dye giving the bodies their leathery color. OK, it probably isn’t the next big trend in green burial, but bog mummification has been naturally preserving bodies for centuries sans greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals alike
Option 7 Cryonics
As we discussed in Episode 16 Walt Disney was not cryogenically frozen. He was cremated but, apparently associated with the wrong people.
And then there are those who would prefer to hang on to their old life, thank you very much. For people with that attitude (and large pocketbooks), there’s cryonics
Others, however, have chosen the route he didn’t: the Cryonics Institute does something called cryopreservation,: “cooling legally-dead people to liquid nitrogen temperature where physical decay essentially stops, in the hope that future technologically advanced scientific procedures will someday be able to revive them and restore them to youth and good health.”
Despite the numerous barriers to this, including the toxicity of chemicals used in an attempt to prevent damage to cells from freezing, advocates have promoted cryonics since the late ’60s.
According to the Cryonics Institute, there were just under 200 people in cryonics storage in the U.S. as of August 2016.
So, basically, you’re a popsicle until somebody cures your ailment and/or death.
Prices vary depending on the procedure, preservation company and payment plan, but can range as high as $200,000 for whole-body preservation. Cost-cutters can have a head-only preservation for around $80,000.
Option 7 Promession/Freeze- Drying
The newest comer on the eco-burial stage is a process called Promession, or put more plainly, freeze-drying.
Invented by Swedish marine biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak, the process involves immersing the corpse in liquid nitrogen, which makes it very brittle.
Vibrations shake the body apart and the water is evaporated away in a special vacuum chamber.
Next, a separator filters out any mercury fillings or surgical implants, and the powdered remains are laid to rest in a shallow grave.
With a shallow burial, oxygen and water can mix with the powdered remains, turning them into compost.
No one has yet been sent off into the afterlife the Promession way, but Promessa, the company developing the service, now has a licensed branch in the United Kingdom. There’s no hint of when the option might land on American shores, but Harris suspects that interest in green burial is only going to grow.
Option 8 Space Burial
If cryonics sounds too expensive, but you’d still like the thought of sci-fi afterlife, you can always get some of your ashes shot into space.
Your cremated remains will hitch a ride on a rocket already headed for the stars, a journey that is more symbolic than practical: Because of the high cost of spaceflight, only 1 to 7 grams (0.04 to 0.25 ounces) of remains are launched.
According to Celetis Memorial Spaceflights, a company that offers the postmortem flights, a low-orbit journey that lets your cremains experience zero gravity before returning to Earth starts at $995.
A chance to orbit Earth and eventually burn up in the atmosphere runs around $3,000. Dedicated space-lovers can have themselves launched to the moon or into deep space for $10,000 and $12,500, respectively.
Option 9 Mummification
It’s not just for ancient Egyptians anymore. A religious organization called Summum, founded in 1975, offers mummification services to both people and pets.
Before his death in 2008, Summum’s founder Corky Ra told CBS News that at least 1,400 people had signed up for eventual mummification.
Summum’s representatives are currently not granting media requests, but Ra told CBS that the price of human mummification starts at $63,000.
Like believers in cryonics, Ra and those like him hope that their preserved DNA will enable future scientists to clone them and give them (or at least their genes) a second shot at life.
Ra put his money where his mouth was: After he died, he was mummified and is now encased in bronze.
Option 10 Donation
Whether a body is to be buried or cremated, part or all of it can first be donated, to improve the quality of life of others or offer the gift of life itself.
Donation of at least some body parts is an option for anyone, regardless of age or medical history. Whether donation is right for you is a matter of personal choice.
Individuals can donate organs or tissues or their whole bodies.
If you wish to become a donor, let your family know, enroll with the local organ donor registry and have it noted on your driver’s license.
If you wish to make a whole-body donation, it’s necessary to make prior arrangements with a medical school.
After organ and tissue donation, you still need to make funeral arrangements.
If arrangements have been made for donation of a body to a medical school, it will transport the body and assume responsibility for disposal by cremation.
Depending on the school, the ashes may be returned to the family, who may not get them back for a few years.
With the exception of removing corneas, whole body donation usually precludes the donation of individual organs or tissues for transplants.
Option 10.1 BODY FARMS
In the early 1970s, anthropologist William Bass wanted to study how bodies decompose naturally. Using donated cadavers, he created a “farm” for forensic anthropologists to study a wide array of body decomposition scenarios. What does it look like if a body rots in a swamp? If it’s eaten by maggots? Crows? Welcome to the body farm, where disturbing dreams come true.
Texas lays claim to the largest body farm in the U.S., located on Freeman Ranch at Texas State University. The body farm is responsible for massive developments in criminal science and thanatology (the study of death); it’s aided in critical discoveries including the “microbial clock”—a process by which time of death can be precisely identified by examining the posthumous microbiome.
Needless to say, the body farm is a huge win for detectives and scientists alike. People can donate their bodies to a local body farm to further research (and save a good chunk of change on interment). There are seven currently operating in the United States, with more planned soon.
Option 11 Plastination
The bodies in Body Worlds exhibitions showing off the interior musculature of the human body aren’t made out of wax, you know: They’re real people who’ve undergone plastination after death.
The man who invented the process, Gunther von Hagens, is to be used in medical schools and anatomy labs to preserve organ specimens for education but he set up his own institute in 1993 devoted purely to creating exhibits using donated bodies.
Plastination involves infusing a body or its component parts with plastic by saturating it repeatedly with silicon, then putting it in a vacuum and sucking the silicon out. And presto, you’re preserved for eternity.
According to the Institute for Plastination, thousands have signed up to donate their bodies for education and display.
Option 12 THE MUSHROOM BURIAL SUIT
Humans love eating mushrooms.
She’s created a pair of head-to-toe “ninja pajamas” lined with special mushroom spores to suit—and eventually consume—a dead body. The mushrooms, she says, are specially trained to devour dead human tissue.
The human body is filled with toxins that can be returned to the atmosphere in cremation and other forms of body disposal. Mushrooms have a knack for absorbing and purifying such toxins—a process known as mycoremediation—leaving the earth cleaner than they found it. Once the tissue is broken down, according to Lee, the mushrooms transmit the nutrients from the body to an intricate network of fungi in the soil that passes the sustenance on to trees. That means your last act could be feeding the forest with your now-purified remains. It’s an appealing thought for the green at heart, even though “eaten by mushrooms” may not be exactly how they pictured going out
Option 13 SKY BURIAL
In Tibet and other areas nearby, Buddhists practice a death ritual meant to encourage good karma. They take bodies to charnel grounds where vultures come to eat the flesh, offering back to the world what was taken in life: meat. It’s believed that the practice encourages the dead to move along to the next life without being held back by one’s greatest attachment—their physical body. Ritual aside, it’s a practical answer due to the scarcity of wood and usable burial grounds (the rocky earth makes it hard to dig).