Grave Plots, Cremation, or Tibetan Sky Burial

IMG_1934I don’t know about any of you, but for me, when I die, I want to be cremated. Cremation is a choice I made many years ago, and have expressed as much to my family. I am not sure of the exact moment I decided this – was it after watching intriguing shows about death, like Six Feet Under, where the details of what to do with a body after a person dies is the focal point? Whatever the reason, what I know for sure, is that the idea of having my remains sprinkled into the strength of the ocean’s movement combined with its serenity soothes my soul.

When I was 16 years old, my brother Bill (one of my nine brothers) was killed in a car accident. At the time, amongst severe grieving, my parents purchased not only a grave site for my brother to be buried, they also bought plots for each member of our family, all thirteen of us. A little less than ten years after Bill died, my brother Scott passed away during a seizure. His body was laid to rest in a shiny casket, directly above Bill’s. And then about fifteen years after Scott, my Dad departed from this earth. He was quietly placed in the ground, next to Bill’s coffin, diagonal to Scott’s.

As one might expect, over the years, I visited the graveyard, and wondered which plot would be mine. Until I married and became a mother. Wait, I’d say to myself, while wandering over the low rolling hills. How do my husband and children fit in here? At some point, while considering options about where we should be buried, I also received, filled out and have carried around for what seems like forever, the organ donor card, which eventually became a permanent pink dot ingrained on my driver’s license. The want to be a donor furthered my thinking about where I wanted my body to go after I passed on. Ultimately, all this in-your-face information, and lots personal consideration, I knew, being a simple, no-nonsense, matter-of-fact person, that cremation is for me.

Simple. No-Nonsense. Matter-of-Fact.

And then, I was unexpectedly introduced to another, very raw and natural, way to finally let go.

Recently, I was reading Oprah’s June 2014 magazine (the theme being Age Brilliantly!) when I came across a snippet about reckoning with death by Caitlin Doughty, who also is the creator of the YouTube™ series “Ask a Mortician”. Interestingly, she talks about the ancient art of Tibetan sky burial, in which the deceased body is placed outside for vultures to eat and taken into the air with them. (Ms. Doughty does give more vivid details on her series – Episode Three, in case you’re interested). “It is one of my favorite death customs because it’s just beautiful,” she begins. “The idea of your body being taken apart and flown into the air is really powerful.”

Talk about simple, no-nonsense, and matter-of-fact.