What To Do With The Body?

I recently had an in-depth discussion with a friend about death. It centered around the idea, “What will you do with your body when you die?”

For most of us, this is a morbid question. Nobody really likes to think about death, but it’s these very thoughts that make us appreciate life. When you recognize your mortality every now and then, you appreciate life’s fleeting and precious moments.

What changes in one’s spirit when they are told they will soon die? Lance Armstrong and Freddie Mercury. In both their lives, the knowledge of death propelled them into a state of passion and superhuman achievement.

The most common and most expensive option for laying to rest your vessel is a traditional burial. It requires time, money, a few yards of concrete, construction forming, a laborer, a concrete finisher, a back-hoe, a highly skilled stone mason, an embalmer and a coffin. You’ll probably preserve the body for an extra few hundred years in case we develop technology for bringing corpses back to life. I think that’s a movie… if not, it should be. What if there was a better way to lay a loved one’s body to rest?

The next most common form of laying a loved one to rest is cremation. It’s economical for space and slightly cheaper. Cremation requires an immense amount of fuel to disintegrate a corpse, which is approximately 90% water. Estimates show it takes 350 cubic feet of natural gas to burn one 150 lb body. That’s approximately one and a half days of power for the average American household. “Sorry, the lights went out.. Uncle Jimmy was a small guy”. :)

What feels right emotionally, intellectually and spiritually? I believe the most natural way is to give your body to the earth’s soil or ocean. If you truly believe that you’re not going to need your vessel anymore, doesn’t it make sense that we should give back our body to best serve the needs of the universe? In this case, natural decomposition. What can we gain as a society if we didn’t spend so much effort to physicality preserve the our loved ones? What if it was socially acceptable to honor someone’s memory instead of a large hunk of stone?

No matter what your process, the essence of a loved one lives on in your heart. The meanings we attach to inanimate objects is within our mind. Why do we spend an exuberant amount of money on any burial or cremation? Why not plant a tree to mark a place of rest? Why not plant a tree while you’re alive? Better yet, build a log cabin with a jacuzzi while you can enjoy it!

What are you going to do with your vessel today? Will you enjoy it and use it to aid the universe?

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

-Mahatma Gandhi

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10 Responses

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  5. Nidheeshp says:

    Virtually every Jewish community in the world has a Chevra Kadisha which sees to that exact ficnuotn. When apersons family cannot bury them, or the person has no family to bury them- it is the communties responsibility to do so. As long as the community knows the person is Jewish- they will be buried. Teh Chevra Kadisha is also generally responsible for the Tahoros (bating and washing the body) befor eburial and organising shomrim (people to stay with the body until burial). If your community does not have a Chevra Kadisha, it is a great mitzvah to be the person to set one up!

  6. Johnny Shi says:

    I like what you said about doing what feels right. A lot of the times that is how these types of decisions need to be made. After we are informed and know the methods the best thing to do is do what feels right like you mentioned. Thanks for sharing.

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