At 83, my expiration date is looming. (Actually, some days I think it's past due and I've been stood up by the Reaper.) Naturally, as an atheist, I have no illusions about an afterlife, as presented by most known religions. What I do believe is that, being comprised of matter and energy which we know can be neither created nor destroyed and has therefore always existed and always will exist in one form or another, (take a breath) "I" will simply be recycled when I lose consciousness for the last time.
With this in mind, my question is this: what is the most efficient way to recycle the remains, with as little waste as possible? Of course, I'm an organ donor, although I doubt there will be much of use left to donate. I mean, my heart is shot, my lungs barely function, and my skin would have to be thoroughly ironed before re-use. But, aside from whatever parts could be harvested, what about the other stuff? I could donate the whole thing to a medical school for research. I could go the traditional routes of either burial or cremation. I might be able to induce my son and some of his friends to conduct a Viking funeral or just dump me into the sea, as is. But I'm sure I'm overlooking other options and am searching for ideas.

So, what do you think is the best way to recycle the leftovers?

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Hey Ruth. My Mum is 84 and I've told her, "Bugger the funeral, you're just going straight into the compost heap!" ;-) We have an image of just a couple of legs sticking up out of the top dressing.

Seriously, we've both written our wills which stipulate the cheapest possible cremation, and our ashes to be scattered on our garden at home. No official 'funeral', no clergy - just a family gathering (as per usual) in our garden. Christians members of our family are welcome to say a prayer if that gives them comfort (it ain't gonna effect us one way or the other), but there will be no hypocrisy of saying, "Well, perhaps they repented with their last breath."

Speak to your local funeral home - I'm sure they'll have great suggestions for an eco-friendly exit - but not too soon, eh? My 2nd cousin, Jeanie, is 92 and still dying her hair honey blonde and letting fly with the odd 'f' word - so you have a few good years left in you yet! Mum is 84 and still heads off into the garden each morning in her army fatigue pants - a sight to behold! She reckons she's going to thwart all our attempts to get the inheritance - by outliving the lot of us!
Now that I am a few years past the half-century mark I, too, find myself thinking about what's to be done with my mortal coil when I expire.
I have considered cremation and donation to science but I have been hearing more about 'green burials' lately.
The idea gives me a little comfort to think I might actually be giving something back, even if I don't need it anymore.
Here's some FAQ's from Green Burials:
I always used to think that cemeteries were a waste of space: then I drove by one here in Sacramento, and it really was like an oasis ...
Of course like every one else, I'm donating every thing that they'll take, charbroiling the rest, and returning it to Mother Earth, unless someone comes up with something more exciting, like making my ashes into a diamond, or using me in their own specially commemorative exfoliant mineral soap.
People think of stuff all the time ...
You can already have your carbon remains turned into a diamond. Google "LifeGem". We just looked it up with Mum standing over my shoulder.
"Hmmm, I wonder what determines, the size," she mused. "The size of the person?"
Then she looked at me and said, "You'd make a bloody big diamond, wouldn't you?"
Typical - I'm just the comic relief around her! Sigh!
I'm sorry but that made me LOL.
I'm young enough that I still think I'll live forever. But I have no interest in being buried. At this point I would settle for donating my body to science or cremation (ashes scattered of course).

Wouldn't it be a cool to have your ashes scattered in space? Talk about stardust to stardust. Ultimately I guess I won't care once I'm gone.
I would prefer a green burial if at all possible. Cremation if not. What I would really like is to be wrapped in a blanket or tule mat and put out in the forest. This is what I have done for my animals over the years. I would like to be treated with as much respect as my dogs and cats have gotten.
I have often thought it might be interesting to be put into the African jungle for predators to munch upon. Become part of the food chain, hopefully ending up as a few molecules of a big cat...maybe the roar of a lioness! Wouldn't that be a kick?
First of all, assuming that at the age of 83, in the year 2008, you may have been stood up by the Reeper isn't an entirely fair assessment of reality. We may easily get to keep you as a member here on Nexus for another decade or two or more.

About your "quick ways to recycle" question: Cremation is likely the most efficient way.

Since we are by far mostly compose of water, driving apart our molecular bonds with water by any means at all (and heat is perhaps the most efficient method available) is going to immediately yield the roughly $10 worth of remaining commonly found elements as free and available units to recombine into new compounds, both of the organic and inorganic types. However, if you have a liking for the sea, becoming fish food is a good naturally driven method that will constitute a far more efficient decomposition than any type of burial in the soil.

Whatever method you finally decide on, Ruth - and I'll repeat that you might possibly have plenty of time to make your decision several times over - I sincerely hope you'll go out in the same outstanding style that you've shown us all by posting this morbidly bazaar yet intellectually entertaining question.

Ruth Dickson ... Yer a hoot.

Going for fish food reminds me of a story (probably apocraphyl) of the burial at sea of Lady Edwina, wife of Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Watching the event on television, the Queen Mother reportedly saw her old rival despatched into the briny and quipped, "Edwina always did like to make a splash!"
I like the idea of recycling, and it irks me that when people are buried, the coffin is so totally sealed, thus not allowing any natural decay of the body. I have always planned to be cremated, and have my ashes spread somewhere meaningful, but now I will look into this "green burial" idea.

(My daughter used to say she'd scatter my ashes over the mall....)

Ruth, you better not go too soon. Those of us who are inspired by your humor and intelligence would be really pissed off.
Is there such a thing as a solar cremator?
Right now, I'm picturing a gigantic aluminum reflector dish, with my corpse at the focus ...




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