Every so often a daughter, spouse, or relative will ask me, "When you die, do you want to be cremated or buried?"

At first I would say "I don't care." Or "I'll be dead, it won't matter to me." Or I'd start a rant about death-phobic Americans, and funerals being for the living and not for the dead one, and the Mexicans know how it's done; going down to the sepulchre on Dias de los Muertos to party with the deceased while at the same time being forced to contemplate their own mortality.

But that didn't stop the question.

Hmmmmmm. Only two choices, eh?


At first I made a habit of requesting an "Open Casket Cremation." But then I happened across a Japanese article where such things are already done! (The furnace chamber has a wall of high-temp glass, so the family can retire to the viewing room to satisfy their curiousity.)

Since that one isn't new, I decided to take inspiration from the Exploding Whale. When I die, I want to be taken out to a distant field and placed on a bier of twenty pounds of plastique. The mourners form a circle around the body (make that a hundred feet in diameter) and the grieving widow or surviving children get to push the plunger. The dry-cleaning bill might be large, but for years afterwards the grass will grow a bit greener in that spot.

But *still* I'm being asked that question. "No, seriously, do you want to be buried or cremated?"

The "exploding whale" joke got old. But I like the idea of fertilizing crops. And I heard about a service which dumps human ashes out of a light plane above the countryside. Lets combine the two!

When I die, I wanna be frozen with liquid nitrogen. Then put me head-first into a gigantic pencil-sharpener. Turn me around until I come to a point. Add some fleching to my feet, then drop me from a plane over the farmlands. THUNCH! World's largest fertilizer spike! And this will create a Memorial Green Spot somewhere out in the landscape. I hope this doesn't become popular. Think of kids out there hearing the sound of the daily airplane, running out to see, then tracking down another little hole with a pair of shoe soles visible at the bottom.

An artist once placed hunks of meat in sealed transparent boxes and placed them in a gallery for several weeks. Ah, that's it. A transparent grave marker. Educational! When I die, I want to be dipped in polyester resin (the same as those paperweight kits which were popular years ago.) Fill up the glass-sided mold with lightly-catalyzed resin (perhaps use cooling water so it doesn't crack from overheating.) Stick me out in a cemetary. Over weeks the hollow me-shaped bubble will turn various colors. But it probably will turn opaque fairly quickly, so that's not as interesting.

I hear that fancy funerary urns are available. How about a piece of sculpture? Nah. Unless it's KINETIC sculpture. Or, or... brainstorm! Let's combine cremation with a Parapsychology experiment. When I die, I want my ashes ground fine and used to make some oil paint. Then commission several identical portraits (simple ones based on a photograph,) where only one of the portraits uses the special paint. Do it double-blind so the artist(s) don't know which is which. Put all of them up in a gallery, let people guess or perhaps "feel" which painting contains human remains.


I hear that crematories make extra cash selling dental gold. Unless the grieving family asks for it returned, they will find no melted gold gobbets in the human ashes they receive from the funeral home.

Huh. How'd you like that as a summer job: sorting through calcined skull fragments at the crematorium to recover melted gold?. (Does dental gold alloy even melt at those temperatures?)

http://amasci. com/amasci.html
Updated: April 1, 2005
Created and maintained by Bill Beaty. Mail me at: .