Dip Me in Honey and Bury Me Someplace Nice
I wonder sometimes about what to do with myself after I die.
Or maybe not myself. I think I mean what to do with body after I die, because maybe myself will be off somewhere else at that point. (Fingers crossed.) But there will still be this BODY just hanging out there, in the place where I was when I died. Someone will stumble upon it, or someone will already be sitting there next to it watching me leave? There will be a body. For a while, too—the body takes a while to go away. So you have to do something with it.
And you get to decide! You get to tell the people around you what to do with your body after you are gone. And they, mostly, do what you ask, I guess. You can even go to a lawyer and get a piece of paper that tells people what to do with your body, and if they don’t do it, they get in trouble. Like, legal trouble. With more lawyers. Lawyers get involved.
It sounds awesome.
There are all sorts of options! I can get put into a box and then that box gets buried under the dirt. And the box just hangs out under there, surrounded by dirt. Seems dull. Seems like a waste of dirt—dirt with which you could do other things. Why waste dirt? Why get buried and surrounded by dirt? In a box that will way too slowly fall apart, while your body way too slowly falls apart, too.
I should mention that in that case, they drain your body of all its liquids and pump a bunch of other liquids into you. Which, why? That seems like a waste of two kinds of liquids: Your liquids, which you used all through your life, and their liquids, which only get a little time to act as your liquids before they throw you into the dirt and they just settle into the bottom of your body until you fall apart and they leak out into the wasted dirt.
My dad died. (I’m sorry if I mention that a lot.) We burned his body. (Well, not “we” as in us, his family. We asked someone else to do it.) His ashes will go in a wall at a church. That’s a way you can deal with a body after the person in the body has left it. You can set it on fire and let it turn to a little, more manageable pile of ashes. It takes up less space, and if you know it’s the body of someone you loved, then it will always feel like the body to you, even if it doesn’t look like the body.
Maybe that’s what I’ll have done to me after I die, but maybe I’ll ask that my family—my wife and my son—NOT just put it in a wall. They could scatter the ashes somewhere nice. It might feel like, in my final moments knowing that my family is going to scatter me around somewhere then maybe I might be able to move around. Travel. See some places. That seems better than being stuck in a wall.
When you are stuck in a wall, other people can visit you, I suppose. My wife and my son. But I’ve read that on average, a grave is only visited twice after it is filled with a body. Give a body a resting place, stop by once, stop by a second time, and let it sit lonely for the rest of forever.
Scatter me in the air, and this is a possibility: my wife and my son can pretend that wherever they are, there I am. I mean, why not? A clump of ash is tossed up into the wind. It breaks apart and follows the eddies of air, maybe up and out and around the whole wide world on jet streams, and there I am, a little pinch of ash anywhere and everywhere you are. You can visit me always wherever. You’ll breathe me in and won’t even know it. We’ll be traveling companions. We’ll never be apart. Maybe I’ll be in all of you. And you’ll never get rid of me.
That seems like a nice fiction. One I can work with, anyway.
You could be dumped in the sea. You can get a permit. I spent some time considering this as an option after I learned about whale fall. “Whale fall” is a beautiful phrase, and often naming something in a beautiful way can convince me to connect myself to a thing. I would also like to fall!
Whales are resource rich, though, and I am not. As I get older, I become more resource rich, but no amount of age-related weight gain will make me truly valuable to the sea. I will never be abundant enough. Not abundant like a whale. I’d be a meager meal to crabs and fish. Hardly worth the gas it takes to sail out to a nice place to dump me.
Also, when I really start to think about being buried at sea, I become nervous about how cold it would be. This is, I am aware, totally irrational. This is an irrational argument against burying myself at sea—this idea that I might be too cold. That down deep in the water, it gets colder and colder and my body will get colder and colder. Blue and chilled from skin to marrow. But I will be dead. I will not feel the cold.
And yet rationality is rarely a part of my calculation when it comes to the way I contend with my own mortality. My death scares me, so I allow myself some irrationality. I allow myself, in this case, to veto a burial option for an irrational reason, and not for the sake of the corpse that I will be, but for the sake of the person contemplating the corpse that I am now. It’s self care.
My friends Stesha says she wants to be a tree. That seems nice. Not for me, I don’t think—I think I would like the option to move. Again, irrational. But again, I allow myself the opportunity to let the living me make decisions the dead me won’t ever care about as I tell myself that the dead me would appreciate the decision the living me has made. This is what we talk about when we talk about our corpses.
Andrew wrote to say that I could feed mushrooms after I die. This seems like a nice idea. The site says that it would clean out all the “toxins” from my body. I’m not sure what that means. I probably have toxins, I guess. I hear a lot of people talk about all the toxins in my body. In their bodies. In all bodies. The modern world fills us with toxins, they say.
I’m betting if there are toxins, my body has its share. I’m pretty sure whatever toxins are, I enjoy having them in my coffee in the morning, or on my pancakes. I likely enjoy dipping my french fries in toxins. I bet toxins make all of those things delicious. Every food company in the world is right now running a lab that makes toxins that hit our tongues and light up all kinds of pleasure receptors in our brains.
Doing something that gets rid of the toxins sounds nice, but also sounds so vague as to mean nothing.
But being a mushroom feels like it would be remarkable. I imagine that a nice benefit to dying and becoming a mushroom is that there are all sorts of people who really enjoy going out and searching for mushrooms, finding mushrooms, identifying mushrooms, picking mushrooms—so all kinds of people would be out searching for me, finding me, identifying me, picking me. Who doesn’t want to be picked? Who among us is not, at our basest, at our more fundamentally psychological level, not just wanting to be picked?
My family could come and visit my body, but also strangers would come and find the mushrooms fed by my body. My resting place could be a place of sadness for the people closest to me, but a place of discovery and joy for the people with whom I have no relationship. I once wrote a whole story about becoming a mushroom. Sounds great. I’d like to be a mushroom.
I received a postcard in the mail last week. I think my wife recycled it, otherwise I could take a picture of it for you.
It said that if I wanted, I could be mellified. It was from a company that offered that service. They have a hospice you can check into. They have a bed for you when you are close to death. A few weeks from the end, you can check in, get a room all to yourself, and wait there to die.
And they will feed you nothing but honey. Your body will expel all the other things you have eaten within 72 hours, and then nothing in the belly, nothing in the intestines, nothing enters or exits except honey.
And then when you die, they seal you in a honey-filled bag. They have a storage space reserved for all their clients. They will note the year and day of your death. In 100 years, they will pull you from storage, cut you to pieces, and then?
You can, and I would, opt to have your remains given to your family. Whoever is left gets a box of you, mellified, turned to candy, edible.
My son’s son’s son? My son’s son’s daughter? Someone?
I might go nicely with a soft cheese. They can enjoy me on a cracker.
People can get together and all consume me at a party. I’ll be a party guest, one last time.
That’s what I want.