Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘funerals’

Pierre Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

On the blog no topic is ever really dead, so no surprise at today’s resurrection of overpopulation of this planet by humans as issue du jour again.

A recent reference to Soylent Green as a menu item that would reduce burdens created by more mouths to feed on fewer resources brought recycling into the discussion. What the heck, heh?

As this article in today’s BBC points out, we’re quickly running out of room for storing all the empty containers we will all drop …

Resting beside our loved ones when the time comes is a reassuring notion for the living. Families pay thousands of pounds for land where generations can rest in peace together for eternity.

But in the UK at least, the ground is filling up.

Should I wish to, I could not be buried near to my relatives at Yardley Cemetery in south Birmingham. Space there ran out in 1962.

Similarly, I would struggle to find a place near another strand of my family in Halesowen. There is no room left underground there and other facilities at nearby Lye and Wollescote are expected to run out in the next four years.

What if I head south? I lived in Brighton once and a seaside burial sounds quite nice. But four of the seven cemeteries run by Brighton and Hove Council are already full, and of the three remaining, one is for Orthodox Jews only.

Yes, the days of great whopping tombs constructed over the illustrious dead are about done, and even the standard single 3’x7’x77″ plot is only a short term stopgap measure in some places.

Some countries use a “double decker” approach to avoid overcrowding.

In Germany, graves are reused after only 30 years, the existing remains usually being exhumed and cremated. In Australia and New Zealand, “dig and deepen” is carried out in urban areas as a matter of routine.

Tim Morris, chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, says it is time to change tack.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he says. “Re-use is common in lots of other countries, and was common practice in the UK until the 1850s. I’ve spent some time with some German gravediggers and there the limit is 30 years, but people aren’t happy with that, they want it lowered to 20.”

With my son buried between my father and my grandfather within feet of my great-grandparents, the idea of breaking up the family appalls me, but I do understand the need to free up space in areas more populated than the tiny town in Northern California where they lie. Even there the population of dead outnumbers the living by about 300%.

Those laid to rest in one spot in perpetuity add up over the centuries, after all, and even though the real estate per occupant may be no bigger than a broom closet acres can covered in just a couple of generations. Where habitation has been continuous for hundreds of generations … well … a visit to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris gives a clue to what crowding looks like.

Cremation, of course, is not only an option but a societal dictate in some cultures. There’s no doubt it leaves more land available for the living, but it’s not everyone’s idea of an appropriate exit strategy.

With death being such a huge part of life, traditional methods of dealing with our dead are almost hardwired, and although some of us couldn’t care less what happens with our form once we shuck it those we leave behind usually react with strong feelings and attachments to one comforting protocol or another.

Even the realm of the dead is changing, however.

With space for the living growing more spare and precious and increasing concerns over our impact on our Earth, another method of dealing with the dead has been invented … and patented.

Promession may just be the way to go in future.

Promession is different from all other alternative burial methods because it is a gentle and clean process which uses vibration to reduce the body remains.

The method is based on three steps:

— Reducing the body of the deceased to a fine powder, thereby allowing subsequent decomposition to be aerobic. This is achieved by submerging the body in liquid nitrogen, making the remains so brittle that they shatter into a powder as the result of slight vibrations. The powder is then dried, reducing the deceased remains to around 30% of their original body weight.

— Removing and recycling metals within the powdered remains.

— Shallow-burying the powder in a biodegradable casket.

It is clear that to produce liquid nitrogen or LN2 on its own would be relatively costly, however this is offset by other factors when it is used to replace environmentally hazardous alternatives; Nitrogen is a by-product of the essential oxygen industry and for every 1 part oxygen, there are 4 parts of nitrogen produced; therefore the Promession method effectively recycles this waste product which otherwise is released back into the atmosphere.

Sweden, Great Britain and South Korea are already close to opening Promatoria (facilities for Promession-based funerals) that will fill the bill environmentally and legally.

The volume of remains left is about a third of the original body weight; the advantages include avoiding the release of pollutants into the atmosphere (for instance, mercury vapour from dental fillings) and the rapid decomposition of the remains (within 6 to 12 months of burial) and the return of the body to life’s cycle. Promession allows for families to be buried in the same plot without disturbing previous remains and meets the requirements of new European Union pollution laws.

It is yet to be seen if Promession will catch on, but I suspect some will sign up to have liquid nitrogen with their obsequies. It is more palatable than ending up on a cracker.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I don’t know why, but it came as a shock to me that because my son was not married, it was up to his father and me as next of kin to make a whole load of decisions we so did not want to make when he died: cremation or burial; where to bury; casket color and style and open or closed; clothes to dress him in; headstone material, design, size and copy; music … and words.

His dad thought it right that I write something for the funeral “program”, an idea that jarred me to my bones, to say the least. I could not imagine that I could find any words at all … but I did.

Here they are as they appear on the back page of the whatever-the-mortuary-handout-thing-is-called:

Jaren Eli Combes
17 February 1971 – 2 June 2009

The bluest eyes
The sharpest mind
The brightest wit
The kindest soul
The biggest heart

From tiny baby boy to
Big Guy
In stumbling steps
through 38 years
Reaching
Dreaming
Hoping
Giving
half of his last cookie
the shirt off his back
acceptance without judgement
love without condition

Illustrated composer
repository of memories
assuager of consciences
We laughed and danced in
his quirky brilliance

Too James Dean
to stick around too long
We run with the thought of
a rock & roll heaven

Find peace, my son

Read Full Post »