The Body Farm at the University of Tennessee is overbooked. They’re been refusing dead bodies for a long time. What put the death laboratory in the public eye was the novel written by Patricia Cornwell: The Body Farm. Some of us, having discovered that corpses could be collected free of charge, saving considerable monies was more than merely attractive.
First Corinthians 15:55 asks, O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? Paul had an answer to these questions. For some of us, the sting of death is the cost of funeral and disposition of body. Anything half decent these days begins around $8,000. Cremation, perhaps $3,500. There is now a repellent name for those ashes: Cremains. The ashes of an adult body cannot possibly fit into the usual urn or box. The rest of the ashes - most of the ashes? - are disposed of by the facility. Cremains is the latest word for the unspeakable, simple facts too crass for those whose reality isn’t very real.
Not so long ago, graveyard became cemetery; undertaker, mortician; mortician, funeral director. Some of us no longer say dead or death - it’s passed away or just passed. How many times have we heard about someone losing a member of his or her family. Losing! Losing? Where was he lost? In a shopping mall? Climbing the Matterhorn?
Fear is only dispatched - or at least ameliorated - by facing what it is we fear, dying and death high on the list. It is interesting that the avowed atheists I know appear to take death in stride as opposed to the God believers. The Three Great Religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the only people of faith who worship that One God. As well, within their belief systems, there are numerous ideas about an afterlife - often called heaven - not only from those who sit or stand or kneel in church, synagogue or mosque - their clergy don’t always agree. The not-knowing or even believing - for sure - reminds me of Mrs. and Mrs. Edward G. Robinson.
He was an actor now available to be seen in movies on television, often playing a gangster. One day, his wife suddenly asked, “Eddie? After you’re dead, what do you want me to do with your body? Do you want to be buried, cremated,” then with a smile, “dispatched at sea?”
Her husband removed the inevitable cigar from his mouth, shrugged and replied, “Surprise me!”
My philosophy includes the idea that we die when we choose to do so. Speaking with an old friend in his late eighties, he asked for my new address: “So you’ll be notified when I die.”
I chuckled, “Hank! You’re not dying.”
“Yes I am,” he insisted as he listed his medical concerns.
More chuckling accompanied, “You’ll die when you want to die.”
That went back and forth for a while. There’s more story in between, but six years later, again speaking to him via the telephone, I asked, “Are you ready to die yet?’
It was his turn to chuckle as he said, “No . . . I think I’ll stick around for another two years or so.” He’ll be ninety-one this year. As well, he will choose his own time to die.
There’s more, much more, but I’m going to give this blog its own death - perhaps it’ll enjoy a new life later on.Death is a subject many people choose not to discuss. Since it’s the only way we get out of here, it seems to me that some thought should go into it, particularly when others - family members, for instance - are left behind.
University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility
Cremation (Note that there is disputation not yet resolved. I chose this site because of the photographs taken in places where death may cause sadness, but not fear.)