#11 Twogaa Burial
Posted on December 2, 2019 by Diana Roberts
We are all going to die, and we know it. We run from the very thought of it. Until late in life, and even then, we suppress the gnawing subconscious notion of our death, which is constantly trying to surface for its own clear air. As Daniel Cossins, features writer at New Scientist has aptly stated,
“In the West, death is outsourced; the dying itself is medicalized, while the aftermath is sanitized and stage-managed. Or it may be the result of deep-rooted fear. According to the influential ‘terror management theory,’ a desire to transcend death is the driving force behind all manner of human behaviors, from art to a belief in the afterlife.”
What we know is that not discussing our death isn’t doing us any good or giving us any relief from that gnawing subconscious realization. Both how we die (a subject for a later post) and what should be done with our body deserves airing with others. Psychologist Mireille Hayden, the co-founder of Gentle Dusk, which seeks to lift the taboo around discussing death, says,” It tends to isolate people facing death or bereavement because nobody knows how to talk to you. It also makes it difficult for your relatives when the time comes because, in most cases, the family has never discussed what the dying person wants.”
Let’s look at what to do with our remains. It is kind of fun. Until recently, there were just two main options: burial in a cemetery or cremation. However, other options are beginning to come to the forefront. You can be made into a firework, a diamond, or an artificial reef, for instance, or float gently towards space beneath a helium balloon. At first, these options sounded ridiculous to me, but since I have become more interested in saving the earth and being more ecologically friendly, not so absurd. I do see that the cost is absurd, however.
Fran Hall, CEO of the Good Funeral Guide, an independent non-profit source of funeral advice, says these crazy burials are “mainly just about making stuff with your ashes.” She says, “For me, the most important change in recent years is the rise in green burials.”
Cremation has become very popular, but what most people don’t know is that it leaves a large carbon footprint, while the toxic chemicals used in embalming eventually leach into the ground. People concerned about these impacts are increasingly choosing biodegradable coffins, woodland burials, and natural burial sites. Twogaa had written before about the first law in the United States that passed in 2019 in Washington State, making it legal to compost human bodies, with a process called recomposition. Not only is it eco-friendly, families often plant a tree where the deceased was composted. It seems almost like renewable energy, doesn’t it?
There is also an eco-friendly version of cremation. Technically known as alkaline hydrolysis, it essentially dissolves the body, reducing it to liquid and ash over several hours. Of course, another option is to dedicate your corpse to medical science, where it can at least be of use before it is cremated. Just don’t die during the Christmas holidays when medical schools tend not to accept bodies.
Finally, don’t forget that you are leaving your alt-body behind at the same time as your death, that of your social media. James Norris, the founder of Digital Legacy Association, shows the importance of this. “It’s an altruistic thing,” he says. “If you make no plans for your digital legacy, you’re next of kin have no idea about the tranche of precious photographs on Facebook, for instance. Or, you might decide you want to live forever (online, that is). A few companies that promise “cyber funerals, also promise cyber legacies, such as Eterni.me and an app called Augmented Eternity. Both promise a version of “digital immortality” by scraping your online data to create a digital avatar capable of interacting with people on your behalf after your death.
As Hayden says, “ultimately, the value in thinking about death is that it makes you value your finite life more.”