Tuesday 8 February 2011

When I'm Gone - decisions, decisions!

I've not yet made arrangements for disposal of my remains when the time comes. It's high time it was done. One of my brothers died just over two years ago (at an age younger than I am now) and he'd left no indications at all about what his wishes were, leaving my sister (9 years older than me, and living closest to him) to sort out his funeral as well as having to wind up his business affairs (he was a freelance wedding photographer with a diary full of future committed assignments). A massive prolonged headache it was for her too. I don't want any of my remaining surviving siblings to have the same trouble, though one thing I won't be leaving is any debts. My credit cards were taken off me 15 years ago following my inability to pay them off. I've lived daily hand-to-mouth ever since with no loans and no regrets about that. When I don't have the cash I simply can't buy it.
I won't be the only one who has had departed friends who've made clear that they do NOT want a religious funeral, only to have their parents stubbornly over-rule them after death. The last such friend for me got the full works of an incense-fumed Requiem Mass even though he'd been sacked by the Church who'd employed him as social counsellor when he came out as being gay. I don't know if he would have been deeply hurt or would have laughed!
I've already told my sister that any form of religious service is definitely out for me. Ideally I want to be buried (rather than cremated) in a cardboard eco-coffin (rapidly bio-degradable) in some woodlands, though the price for this type of disposal is quite significantly higher. (Around £5,000 or more, 0r $8,000). On the other hand I don't expect one single person to attend my funeral so there wouldn't be the costs of a cortege or a religious minister's expenses. I've told my family that it's too far for them to travel - and what's the point, anyway?. I certainly don't see why anyone should bear the expense of my body being transported up to the area where my two brothers and sister live and where I was brought up, only to have it buried there. As for wreaths or flowers, I don't want them. (Any donations in lieu of flowers to 'Animal Rescue' please!)
Andrew, on his 'the widow's world' blog, has, with perfect timing, talked about donating his organs or entire body for research - and I should throw this into the mix of possibilities although we both share a squeamishness about the idea. But I must give it serious thought. It's not something which can be postponed for long. (I suppose one can always change one's mind later.)
So, a morbid subject but it's got to be faced by all of us. Better take a deep breath and get on with it.


  1. Donating your organs to others is a good idea. I'm doing that myself. My old boss/mentor needed a new heart and died waiting for one, while hundreds of people die everyday with perfectly good hearts and other organs that would be acceptable for transplant. It makes complete sense to be a donor.

  2. I agree with you entirely, Cubby - but there's always the thought that one doesn't like the idea of one being eviscerated, even when no longer capable of consciousness. I suppose it's the same repugnance some of us feel at being cremated, though even then, is being stuck in a box and suffocatingly buried any better? Obviously got to work on my irrational phobias and see the life-saving opportunities which organ donation can offer to others. I know that if I was in need of an organ replacement I wouldn't have such reservations.

  3. I had always planned on a Buddhist funeral and cremation. But donating my body to science had not occurred to me before. Food for thought...

  4. Thanks for visiting, Tiger T. In the past 40 years or so I too have been particularly drawn towards Buddhist teachings, far more attractive to my mind than the Ibrahamic religions with their strict legalistic notions of "one chance - too bad if you fluff it". But must admit the thought of a Buddhist funeral had not entered my mind. Although both green and Buddhist funerals would be an express acknowledgment of the life-death-life cycle, donating one's organs offers an attractive immediacy of assistance to waiting recipients. I've still got to get over my feelings of squeamishness though!

  5. This was a difficult post to get through as I plead guilty to taking no action. My biggest worry is what will happen to my three? I've learned that you can't always count on others and even if your wishes are known, who is going to monitor their well being. You can't control what the future will bring. So I console my self with the fact that they were all rescue cats and have since, lived very comfortable lives.

    I realize that cremation is probably the wisest thing to do, but I can't convince myself to submit to that. Life is hard, and the end of it, even harder.

  6. Paul, yet again it's clear that we are mentally so alike. If I had to name my single biggest concern it would also be the welfare of my cats. I know that others would say that this is getting things hopelessly out of proportion, but it's OUR lives and our feelings.
    As to disposal, I suppose straight-forward cremation is the 'neatest' way to get the nasty business over with, but I'd like to do something a bit more constructively helpful to the earth and its environment, the future of which I worry about more frequently than some, I think.
    Yes, death is an unpleasant business and I'd rather not think about it. Like Woody Allen, I'm not too bothered about dying (as long as it's quick and relatively painless), I just don't want to be there when it happens!

  7. Hard thoughts Ray, but necessary all the same. Stan and I have started to work out some of those details as well. It is better to work everything out before it is too late. Not only does does early prep make sure that your wishes are known to those around you, but it clears the way for any requests to be honored by those that love you. Grief makes people daft and emotional. Not the time to be making rash decisions, financial or spritual.

  8. EXACTLY, Kyle. It's not a thought that one can ignore in the hope that it'll go away, though pretty well everybody wishes it would.