Remains of the Day

When you’re dead you can’t really control what happens to you, but I’ve left some funeral instructions anyway.

I’ve written an obit and given a few basic guidelines on what to do with me (cremation). If you want to bury something, the ashes will do. There are also a few musical selections for the service: Simple Gifts (Shaker Hymn), Battle Hymn of the Republic, and Barroom Hero by the Dropkick Murphys.

But I digress. What I do not want is to be flushed down the toilet.

In Belgium, funeral directors are seeking permission to to dissolve corpses in chemicals so their liquefied remains can be sent down the sewer. The method is said to be more environmentally friendly than firing up a crematorium and burning you to a cinder, which uses quite a bit of fuel and releases your carbon into the atmosphere. Melting you would leave behind a small pile of silty ash that could probably just go down the drain with the rest of you.

The dissoving in chemicals part sounds good. I imagine you could go down to the boat launch and pour me into the river. That would be cool. Or maybe it would be interesting to have my murky slurry shot out of a hose by my fellow volunteer firefighters. Don’t get any on you!

What concerns me is the idea of getting flushed down the toilet. That’s terrible, terrible  symbolism. And what would you tell the Roto-Rooter man if the pipes get clogged up?

19 thoughts on “Remains of the Day

  1. I’ll be too dead to care about symbolism. Bury me, burn me, donate me to science, flush me down the toilet…all the same to me. In other words, nothing. Because I’ll be dead.

    Actually, no. Here’s what I want: liquify the remains, then mix it in with gasoline. Fill up a friend’s sports car with the gasoline and my remains. Then, any time that friend sees someone on the street, they honk their horn and yell out “this car runs on KEVIN MARSHALL power!”

  2. Kevin – that was great!

    I would prefer not to be flushed – can they be with biodegradable chemicals and the remains and all be used as a fertilizer or something?

    I’m going to a medical school for students to practice on.

  3. I’m to be burnt up, too, with remains disposed of as my survivors see fit. My only postmortem request on record is that “The Black Angel’s Death Song” by the Velvet Underground be played at whatever sort of service is held for me. I love its words (the last line is “Choose to go”), and the band was formed the year I was born, so that’s nicely symbolic, too . . . but most importantly: it’s an excruciatingly forward-looking and experimental song (emphasis on “excruciatingly”), and the discomfort factor to those present will be so high that they’ll be reminded of what a jerky tool I often was in life, and perhaps will have their grief and sadness leavened by irritation and annoyance accordingly. Then, my work here will be complete.

  4. The way Erin’s Mom has been looking at me lately, I presume hunters will stumble over my remains in the fall…

  5. I have one request…..that I be burried in my leather jacket.Gotta look cool for the Man.

  6. While it might not be the most pleasant of topics, a few years ago New York passed the Disposition of Remains Act “DORA” (not to be confused with that other Nickelodeon Dora!). DORA identifies who has the right to control the disposition of a decedent’s remains. At Pierro Law Group we often use the Disposition of Remains appointment as part of our standard Estate Planning and Elder Law process. Not only does it avoid litigation over one’s remains (think about Ted Williams, Anna Nicole Smith and recently Gary Coleman), but it allows you to convey specific instructions on what you want done (including cremation, burial, funeral, religious services, donations to science, cryonics, and, if legal, I guess flushing). For those that aren’t familiar with the Ted Williams story – his son wanted to freeze the hall-of-famer and the rest of the family wanted a proper burial. Lengthy litigation ensued and a judge came to a compromise: Freeze the head!

  7. If you end up in a mortuary, they usually have these great tilted tables which run into toilets on the lower end, when they remove all the blood, so you will most likely end up in the toilet one way or another.

    1. North Greenbush Dad: True… but the rest of you may be around for ages. The way burials are done these days, it can take a long, long time for your mortal remains to break down. Consider a typical burial where the body is embalmed, packed in a heavy wooden box, and then put inside a concrete burial vault. Will that body EVER break down?

  8. About 25 years ago, a mortician told me that an enbalmed body lasts about 75 years after burial. I’m sure that the technology has improved somewhat since then, so bodies may last longer now.

    I am also hoping to attend medical school in my post-retirement years. If my wishes are carried out, “See You on the Other Side” by Ozzy Osbourne (co-written by Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead) and “I’ll Fly Away” by Alison Krause and Gillian Welch (“O Brother Where Art Thou”) will be playing at my memorial.

    Rob: “Face down in the gutter, Won’t admit defeat though his clothes are soiled and black…”

  9. My remains are going to AMC for whatever…, but any leftovers will be buried HERE. Actually, because my land is farm/agricultural I can actually have my own graveyard here – how freaking cool is that?

  10. I should note that before I’m burnt to a crisp, I’ve authorized that my harvestable organs be made available to those who might need them, should they still be good, since I won’t require them anymore. It’s so easy to become an organ donor, and the potential good done by signing up is mind-blowing . . . we used to host a Center for Donation and Transplant event at the C+CC at RPI where the families of organ donors had the opportunity to meet some of the beneficiaries and their families. Mind-blowing good karma flowed.

  11. I always think of the Monty Python skit when I think about organ donation..”Give us your liver”…”I’m not done with it yet!”

  12. I agree with the horror of the symbolism. unfortunately, the lye dissolve spoken of here is in the midst of approval by the California legislature. There is a low-cost way to permanently bury cremated remains. It can be found at this url:

  13. Oh, I’m sorry but that is just too gruesome though I fear it’ll come to it some day. I mean how many grave plots can this old earth hold when there isn’t even enough room for the living?

    No comment on the organ donation thing except to say that I’m damned glad the opt out instead of opt in didn’t pass. Really messed up, vampirish, ghoulish, etc. the way they drool over your usuable body parts as you lay dying…

    Sometimes I think we mess with the natural order of things way too much.

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