Sunday, July 24, 2016

Alternative Means to My End


Over the years, my friend Jay has given me some great gifts. My first real perfume, Chanel No. 5 at age 16, my first crystal vase, my first life size Penguin statue (everyone should have one of those) and then my most recent gift, my future headstone.

Standing five foot high, like me, made of concrete but looking like metal, and etched in the knots of my ancestors, this Celtic Cross makes me giddy happy whenever I pass it at the end of our front sidewalk.


I love this gift because, for over a decade, due primarily to my years in hospice and Keith's loss of his first wife at the young age of 30, we have been planning our own deaths. Unlike so many, we are certain we are not getting out of this life thing, alive. So, rather than follow the expensive, impersonal trend millions of Americans follow, we plan to be buried right here on this Poor Farm property.  We will not be embalmed or encased in a metal coffin left to slide around on fake silk for eternity. Keith is leaning towards a simple pine box while I like the wrapped in linen (bought at a garage sale) route. Linen breathes so well in the heat.

I envision a sweet Irish graveyard, something like this:


Or perhaps a serene spot under a tree like Forrest did for his dear Jenny.
He knew what love was after all.


Our immediate family is fearful though, that our cemetery to-be may end of looking like this:


Oh that Stephen, he can make anything scary can't he? But I think todays funeral costs and customs are far more frightening than any piece of fiction. In 2016 the average funeral costs are close to $10,000. Cremation, which used to be cheaper, is about the same. Even if you go really cheap with cardboard coffins covered in blue velvet ( how Elvis) and no visitation service, you are paying big bucks for other amenities like: transportation of your deceased butt from place of death- to funeral home- to graveyard, embalming, death certificates, flowers, cemetery vaults, headstones, and on and on.

Turns out, most of that is not required by law. Every state has its own rules and of course each county and each cemetery has its own regulations, but you would be surprised what is not actually required by regulating agencies.  In Illinois for example, there are no laws that require a casket or embalming. See NOLO.com  for more info. You can investigate your specific state requirements on that site as well.

Soon, I'll be contacting our local coroners office to get the low down for us going way down in the ground, on our own property. We are all about natural composting here. Then I'll work my way through Public Health. They pitched such a fit with our outhouse a couple of years ago, I can't wait to hear them gasp out loud when I bring up THIS topic. Stay tuned for my progress on this road rarely taken. It promises to be a great ride.




23 comments:

  1. I love your Blog. You discuss such important life & death things. My Ex - back in the 60s - bought a 'Family' burial plot complete with transportation, one burial & up to 7 cremations tucked in the same plot, opening & closing of the plot & a box to put everyone into - on the monthly payment plan. Smart family planning, especially when you aren't yet married. I've already told him that if he goes first, he will be planted in his prepaid plot. If I go first, I told him not to tell anyone that he knows me. I have always maintained that burial & all the trappings are a bloody waste of money. Just burn me up or grind me for fertilizer - I'd rather be planted under a blackberry bush than planted in a cemetery. Brrrrrr - that's me shuddering!! Lovely headstone though, you have interesting friends.

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  2. Ah yes, Jay is an interesting friend indeed, whom I love dearly. We ran away together (along with his twin brother) when we were all 16. Quite the scene since my father was a juvenile officer of the county at that time. My poor parents. I put them through hell on earth so Heaven must be that much sweeter for them now.

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    1. Yup, why am I surprised. I identify totally.

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  3. Your cross is gorgeous. Jay is quite talented. And it sounds like he is great at giving gifts. Lucky you. You are very practical about end of like issues. I can't wait to hear more about your contacts with various authorities.

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    1. He is truly a gift in himself. My years in hospice made me practical. Too much at times, I can talk about the music I want played at my after death party all day, while other folks would rather talk politics. Go figure

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  4. My daughter said she wanted to donate her body to a cannibal, when she passes away. Because apparently its not illegal, if you didn't kill them and they gave their consent. Or at least, that's what my daughter tells me. ;)

    Death is not a topic that comes up in conversation much, I have to say. It makes me feel squeamish. However, it's inevitable for us all.

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    1. Chris, years ago when I would speak to nurses and doctors about hospice care I would say "Cottage cheese and drivers licenses expire, people don't expire, they die" That's me. blunt to a fault sometimes.

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    2. Where's the like button, LOL

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  5. We would both like to buried on our own land in a willow coffin and defiantly no embalming, however this is Ireland and to get planning permission to be buried in such a way would cost up to 20.000 euros and five years of arguments. there is only one Green burial site in the whole of Ireland and that's the other end of the country. However in the UK you can be buried in your back garden, just a matter of applying for a green form!

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    1. That is outrageous! Wish I knew someone in power there, I'd change all the rules immediately! In the meantime I say, plan your death, get your friends to bury you at midnight, and have your spirit meet me at O'Loughlins Whiskey Pub in Ballyvaughan. I'm buying.

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  6. "Death Party", I love that idea. I'm curious as to your thoughts on cremation, not cost wise but just as an option? Both of my parents were cremated and it was substantially less than $1000 each time (I think my Mom's cremation was about $575). Then we just hosted our own memorial service later and I have the ashes that I will spread when appropriate.

    That Celtic

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    1. Oops, hit enter by accident. That Celtic headstone is BEAUTIFUL!

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    2. Cremation is cheaper, we have learned in this county, as long as you do not have a service or have the ashes interned in a cemetary. My mother was cremated in 1999 and I scattered her ashes while riding my horse, all over our (then) farm. She liked horses as I did so seemed fitting. My good friend Jay has put it in his will that I have paid trip to Australia to scatter his ashes. He and I are all about the grand death party!

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  7. I totally agree with you on the whole money making funeral process. I would be quite happy to be popped in an organic bag of some kind and planted under a tree on my own land. Haven't the land at the moment, but working on it! Your headstone is a thing of beauty and what a fantastic friend you have in Jay.

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    1. Check out http://www.naturalburialcompany.com/
      lots of great organic materials there for your last siesta. Have fun shopping!

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    2. I dare not look at the site but I surprise people when I say I want to be buried in a sheet of linen too (though I'd rather have a new one !). It is totally unheard of in France (not to mention illegal). Like Jacqui, I haven't got the land to do as I please anyway; being buried at sea and feedings crabs and fish is appealing too ....

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    3. I too love the sea! I always tell my hubby if, while in Ireland one time I should slip and fall off the Cliffs of Moher, (cause I love to hang my head over the edge like a Labrador out the window of a pickup truck)not to feel bad or try to search for my body. Being an eternal part of those waves would be just fine with me!

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  9. Donna thank you! I knew that burial customs and laws are usually miles apart but didn't know how to begin to research it. If I'm trying to avoid the consumer traps in life, I certainly don't want to fall into them in death!

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  10. I'm with the movement to not take up space alive AND dead. The planet is getting crowded! My mom says she's looking forward to her ashes spread in my sitting garden. All she asks is a nice cup of coffee poured around now and then so we can still have our morning chats (although I'm going to switch here to decaf - don't want her up all night haunting me LOL). I'm glad you linked to the NOLO site. Lots of info there. Take care.

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