It’s no secret that conventional burials are geared toward having one’s remains buried in such a way as to survive whatever environmental, nuclear, zombie, or space alien disaster chooses to wipe out earth’s population first. The goal is that embalmed bodies will survive along with rats, roaches, and the weeds in Life in the Boomer Lane’s backyard, on a planet that will have endless parking spaces available at the local Target.
One might wonder why we choose this form of burial. First, the embalming process creates a life-like appearance in the deceased, geared to help to ease the grief of surviving family and friends. It is also is used to preserve the body. Metal coffins with rubber gaskets can help to prevent water from seeping in. Concrete grave liners and vaults also serve to protect the body against natural decomposition.
As with the pharaohs of old, eventually, even the most extraordinary of measures will keep the body from decomposing indefinitely. Titanium hips and knees and perky breast implants aside, humans, it appears, are mostly made of organic materials. And organic material will eventually win out.
Enter the latest era of “green burials” (as opposed to the thousands of years of green burials that occurred in prehistory), an option that is becoming more and more popular. Bodies are not embalmed, there are no cement grave liners and the caskets, if they’re used, are made of biodegradable materials such as pine and wicker. If one chooses to be buried without a casket, one has the option of being wrapped in a shroud (i.e.: sheet) like an oversize burrito, sans the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and hot sauce. The sky’s the limit on the shroud, all the way from a plain white sheet from Marshalls to some fabulous designer fabric.
Beyond green burials, recent years have seen a wave of entrepreneurs offering creative options for those who choose cremation: a biodegradable urn that contains a seed so that a tree will grow from the ashes; a Chicago company that turns human ashes into diamonds (five color choices available); a British firm for music lovers called And Vinyly that presses ashes into vinyl records; and a field of crafty Etsy vendors who will turn your loved ones into glass art or canvas paintings or jewelry. The last option goes well beyond “This was my mother’s ring” all the way to “This is my mother.”
Not surprisingly, the wave of green burials and all other alternatives to the conventional burial are being fueled by baby boomers, most of whom have noticed a disturbing pattern of death all around them lately. In spite of shrieking articles about 60 being the new 20 and sex being w-a-y better after age 50 and every single boomer suddenly competing in marathons and triathlons, the fact is that most boomers are becoming aware of a decrease in their ranks. And many are starting to give serious thought as to how they want to exit this planet.
Choices in life diminish as we advance in age. Self-determination, for many, erodes. Even determining when and how we exit this world can be daunting, if not downright illegal. But some decisions are in our power. LBL knows someone who threw a party. A real party, in a restaurant. She wanted to be surrounded by loved ones while she was still able to enjoy them to thank them for having been in her life. LBL thinks that is a swell idea. She (LBL) knows for sure that she doesn’t want to be put into the ground. She is figuring out the rest of it, now. The choices are pretty endless. And deciding to have a choice about this huge part of one’s life cycle seems like a slam dunk to her.
The question is: Dancing in the Street or I Want to Hold Your Hand or Baby Love?