Departure from this life: What to do with the body?

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When our soul moves on to eternity we are left with the vessel, that empty shell of the body that served us for so many years. There are choices of what can be done to dispose of it and some are green choices but it isn’t a simple decision. Conventional Burial, Fire and/or Water Cremation and lastly, Composting.

Looking back on American history they probably left the body on the ground until family members worried about dignity and wanted to keep the body safe from scavenging animals. They chose to bury them.

Eventually the women brought their loved ones into the parlor to clean and dress, preparing the body for burial while the men built a six sided box and dug a six-foot-deep hole.

During the Civil War, the bodies were embalmed to last longer so they could be sent home for proper burials. Rather than burying them in the backyard they began burying them in the cemetery churchyard.

An entrepreneur saw a need for a casket maker then supplied land as a cemetery and offered services for the family farewells. Cemeteries required more and more land that cannot be built on. Vaults were then added then stacked. A solution will need to be eventually found.

John Does or those with no family or income were first in fire cremation. Christianity did not approve of this option until World War 1 and they allowed cremation for deaths caused by contagious illnesses. With the practical pricing, fire cremation became a popular choice.

Want to go green? Nineteen states including California allow the Water Cremation or Alkaline Hydrolysis. This process uses water and lye and can be used with contagious diseases because heat neutralizes the contaminants.  The body is gently dissolved. Some of those 19 states allow the remaining liquid to drain into the sewer while others require a hazardous material company.

The other green option is Human Composting. For years, farmers have been using this procedure for large animals such as cows and horses to be recycled back into the land.

Next year, in 2021 the world’s first human composting center will open. This green process requires oxygen, nitrogen and carbon for microbes to break everything down.

Loved ones can be there to start the service just as a conventional burial. The body is then covered with wood chips, alfalfa and straw. In about 30 days, these items will be converted into soil that families can take all or a portion which can be used to help their garden flourish. This procedure does not create unusable land, no wooden casket, no embalming or flames. The end is gentle, calming and filled with peace bringing us right back to the earth we love.

Photos by Tim Forkes