Death – ugh, what an icky subject. Or is it? Critics say from eastern Buddhist cultures would say that the western habit of not facing death (and often shoving old people into homes so they can’t be seen) is very unhealthy. Some Buddhist monks go out at 3am each morning to look at dead bodies, so they are not frightened. But of course, death is not frightening, it’s just a journey to somewhere else, or possibly back here as another being – who knows?
What’s more scary is the polluting embalming (you don’t have to agree to pollute groundwater for decades to come) along with endangered trees being chopped down to make heavy coffins, along with ‘ash cash’ cremation certificates that GPs get paid to sign. Then you have people spending all their money when alive to pay thousands for simple burial, when others get buried in a shroud.
Natural Death Centre is the place to visit. It has heaps of info on natural burial grounds (embalming not allowed) along with places to find natural caskets made from willow, bamboo or seagrass (some are even made with banana leaf that is a waste product). Also find information on home and sea burials.
Avoid sending plantable memorial cards (toxic wildflowers) to homes with pets, as many plants (including wildflowers and lilies) are toxic to pets. Also know memorial trees to avoid near horses (including yew and oak). Instead, consider donating to Trees for Life, which rewilds the Highlands. You can’t ‘name your tree’ but it likely does more good.
America’s Paw Pods is a company that began when the founder had his beloved dog cremated, and was then given the ashes in a plastic bag. These biodegradable pods are for all shapes and sizes, and all species for an eco-friendly sendoff.
thought sky burial was a good idea?
In Nepal, we often hear of ‘sky burials’. They sound great in theory: the person is left on top of a mountain and their body is left to the elements, allowing mammals to eat the flesh, and vultures to pick the bones, leaving no waste behind, and feeding wildlife at the same time.
In fact, this practice is done more for practicality, as the ground is too cold to plant trees (to make wood) and too cold to dig graves. So a poor yak is chosen, then the body has the spine broken (so it fits over the unfortunate animal, who is released on top of the mountain, as a thank you). Once there, the volunteer who has accompanied both man and beast, has to chop off a limb to attract the vultures. And due to a Buddhist culture, has to laugh while doing it, in order to ‘send the soul off with happy spirits!’ Happy spirits? It’s sounds more like something from a horror film?
After that gory anecdote, let’s finish with a good bit of old-fashioned British humour! The chosen epitaph of one of our funniest comedians. Spike Milligan (who in real life suffered from serious depression) had his gravestone engraved with the words ‘I told you I was ill!’
American comedian George Burns would smoke cigars and drink liqueur, and he lived for a very long time. When asked (near 100) what his doctor told him, he said the doctor had told him to ‘not smoke and not drink’. When asked what his doctor thought now, he replied ‘I don’t know – he died years ago!’