Mistaken Cultural Expectations of Elders
GRAY MATTERS: The Consequences of Unequal Wealth Distribution

My Bodily Remains

category_bug_journal2.gif We're old, most of us who hang around this blog and with age, death becomes a topic of consideration. Try as we might to ignore it, such necessities as wills, medical directives, the question of burial versus cremation, financial arrangements, even the choice of music at our funerals and a host of other decisions make it hard to avoid thoughts of our demise.

But none of these things nor death itself are what bother me in thinking about the end of my days. They feel more like paying the monthly bills or taking out the garbage – just stuff that needs to be done.

No, what bothers me most about dying is my naked body - who will see it, who will touch it and what they will do with it.

I'm not concerned that my body isn't as cute as when I was young. Nowadays, it's pudgy, wrinkled, discolored here and there, scarred in a couple of places and an amazing number of parts are droopy. No one's interested in this body for a Playboy centerfold but, then, they never were. The aged condition of it is not the issue.

However, what if I'm caught dead on a day when I haven't shaved my underarms for a couple of weeks? Or I'm in a favorite shabby shirt I never wear out of the house? Or what if I drop dead before I've had a chance to shower and I'm dirty? How embarrassing.

And that's just the beginning of what bothers me about being newly dead.

I might die in my sleep, nightgown bunched up around my waist with my private parts hanging out? I would hate that.

Remember that photograph years ago of dead Lenny Bruce lying naked next to the toilet with a needle in his arm? Okay, I'm not a junkie, but there are all sorts of inelegant positions and places and states of undress one might be in when death strikes. How undignified.

If I die at home, they'll zip me up in a body bag and wheel me out on a gurney where the neighbors can watch. Don't like that either.

When you think about onlookers, dropping on the street is even worse. They might all just walk around me thinking I'm a old drunk who passed out, and who knows how long I'd be there for people to stare at, an object of derision before someone figures out I'm dead.

If I die by suspect means or an obscure disease that puzzles scientists, there may be an autopsy. On television, they cover or blank out the private bits of the dead body, but I doubt that's what happens in real-life death.

In that case, a medical examiner will cut a huge Y down the front of my naked body to open up my guts. They might probe my body cavities. Eew. They might take pieces of me and perhaps whole organs to study under microscopes. Please, please no.

When all these things are done and depending on state law, someone, as though a vampire, will drain all my blood. I doubt anyone drinks it (I think I remember that vampires want living blood, anyway), but what do they do with it? Flush it down a drain? That blood is part of me.

Having opted for cremation, I might avoid the Dracula phase. And I'm pretty sure, since I don't want there to be a viewing (are you reading this, bro?), they will forego the ghastly makeup. But I know from past experience that the funeral home will request clothing to dress me in – yes, even for a cremation - and a stranger will touch me all over getting my body into them. Ugh.

All my life, my naked body has been sacrosanct, exposed only by my choice – to a physician or a lover. Custom and the law, too, do not allow other people to touch us except with our permission. It's personal, my body, private. But when I'm dead, strangers can stare and poke and touch and cut. I shiver at the prospect.

Oh, all right. I'm mostly kidding about all this and as a practical sort who does not usually dwell upon what I cannot control, I exaggerate. But as you can see, I have put more than a little thought to the disposal of my bodily remains.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Alzheimer's Part 10 – The Nursing Home

Comments

Fortunately, 99% of the things we worry about...never occur.

And don't forget Elvis dying on the toilet! Ronni, how funny. Now I have something brand new to worry about.

I thought I was the only person with worries like this.

Oh my - I am just "hoping" I die with a hoe or shovel in my hand in the garden.
My request - children please honor..
No funeral - just loved ones when ashes are spread on my garden or in the woods.
Simple - plus no flowers - just do something for someone.
Also, if anyone wants to do something for me do it now. If you have something nice to say - I would like to hear it.

I want the traditional way: a viewing, a funeral Mass, and I want to be buried, not embalmed. I'd like a "green burial:" you're buried in a plain wooden coffin and you and it just go back to Mother Earth.A granite marker in a cemetery.

The sad thing is that I've begun to wonder about spending the money. The cost of a plot is a few thousand and opening the grave is about $3,000. That's not even counting the viewing.

What's a dead person to do?!!!

Geez...and up 'til now I just worried about the clean underwear thing...

Among those pre-death "chores" should be a list of wishes, which you should sign before a notary. Give copies to all your loved ones. You can include anything you want, which I presume might state that only ______will be allowed to dress you for cremation.

My understanding it that wish lists aren't legally binding. However, if your loved ones are good guys they probably will make a sincere effort to do what you want, including spreading ashes in a specific location or planting you in a pine box.

If your wishes are ignored, you won't be around to gnash your teeth (if you have any at that point), anyway.

They might all just walk around me thinking I'm a old drunk who passed out, and who knows how long I'd be there for people to stare at, an object of derision before someone figures out I'm dead.

Well, I guess when you think the time is right, you could take a cruise. Pop a few of your favorite sedatives with a bottle of fine wine, then take a swim off the back of the liner late at night.

You could be one with Poseidon, the little mermaid and the fishys in the deep blue sea.

Or, you could go out like Gram Parsons: have your friends load up the booze, haul your dead butt out to Joshua Tree and have a fun party then set your body on fire for the wind to scatter you all over the desert.

Then you have a helluva wake by pasting beer bottles with some homemade labels featuring a bad likeness of yourself and the legend, "Ronni Pilsner: A stiff drink for what ales you." Dr. Demento for a deejay, and add some live music by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers of "Monster Mash" fame.

Oh shoot, I just want to be cremated and no service of any kind. The baggage I carry around and call my body will no longer matter when I take my last breath.

And you to make sure you have a caretaker for Ollie. With 4 of us here and 3 cats, we're covered. And I have a backup person on top of that.
I was going to put them in my will but haven't had to do that yet. However, if it was only me, there would be a substantial amount left to the care of my feline companions.
I've seen bereaved animals lost and confused in the local shelter, it is not good.

Great posts by all.
My father, who took care of everything, even managed to have my brother get him to the toilet just before he died so that there would not be a mess in the bed!! Think of that ladies and gentlemen. When we die our system "lets go."

I want cremation and haven't worried about the body part of it but have thought where do I want the ashes put. Definitely no fancy urn and ideally probably in water somewhere. It's too bad they don't put them in a biodegradable container as I have been told it isn't always easy to remove them all. I like the idea of not dividing them even though I know they get separated once they are thrown into the water. Maybe before it becomes an issue, a place will be obvious to me. I also do not want any funerals, no flowers, etc.

I have thought of every one of these things that you list, Ronni. I always thought it was because I live alone and the prospects of things taking a turn to the extraordinary with my death are compounded exponentially by the solitary nature of my lifestyle. Something I saw recently helped me with these thoughts preying on my mind, however. It was the movie "Departed" which takes an intimate look at a different culture's handling of the dead body. I forgot about it until you posted this.

I did some research on alternative funerals and I'm going to take a look at this film I found today: "A Family Undertaking" [it is an instant play on Netflix, BTW]. It looks to be an interesting and informative film.

It occurs to me after reading the film description that there is one sure-fire way to make sure you have a death with dignity: Make it the subject of a film. There will be people around you to take care of your every whim until your last breath!

Rain

Here ya go!

Bio Urns


There's one consolation, Ronni. You won't know if any of those bad scenes happen so you can't be embarrassed.

I am more concerned about suddenly being taken to the hospital after a day of hard work and not having showered yet. Now that would be embarassing as lots of people see, and smell, your body then. And even if you are in extreme pain and don't care at the time, the picture will come back later to haunt you. ;-)

I am going to be creamated and it's up to my children to decide how they want to handle a service because I won't know what is happening and any service is for them and their confort. I would guess that they will have a celebration of life at my home.

There is a ntaional organization that I belong to called National Funeral Alliance that work with a local mortuary and they handle the whole thing for a nominal fee. They provide information on green funerals and home funerals where the family can prepare the body with guidance from a home funeral guide. Their web site in Tucson is: www.funerals.org/affiliates/tucson. I imagine you could use that web site and type in your own city at the end if you are interested in saving the costly alternatives.

I've thought about donating my aged remains to a medical school, but I have to admit that the thought of "kids" carving up my body creeps me out.

Don't forget to leave a list of people to be notified of your death (your Christmas Card roster?). It's a bummer to discover months after the fact that an old friend, colleague or someone who's been in your life, even casually, has died and your condolences are now belated.

Okay, this has been kinda weird. I don't think you should read any more Steig Larsson books.


Heh, heh, Bert. Yeah, I realized while I was writing this that it was "kinda weird," but I like how everyone who has commented is running with it.

Well, Ronnie, you really got into this subject didn't you? Covered, or rather to the point, uncovered, um excuse me, the bare facts.
I wonder if having given birth dissolves an older woman's issue of naked death?


I was taken by the woman who wanted her cremains mixed in with fireworks powder.
Guess she really wanted to make a spectacle of herself.

I have made a list of my "final wishes" and given copies of it to my children, and one for my doctor. I want to be cremated, because, if there is even the slightest chance that I might come back, I don't want to come back in this body!

Best to choose a CycledBurial(TM) over a cremation or a burial. Your clothing with need to be silk, wool, or leather. www.CycledLife.com.

Thank you, Pattie. I bookmarked that site, very neat, and actually had a cry when I watched the video with the rose petals and the envelope like urn floating on the water. Very beautiful and far better than what some have described to me of trying to get all the 'remains' out of the container.

My family stopped doing funerals with my father's as he didn't want anything but what we did instead was have a graveside time where anybody could talk who wanted to do so and then came back to the farm for a meal and family and friend time. That has been how we have done it since. With cremation the time would be with letting the ashes go, I guess.

They can do anything to me. I won't be caring then.

I'm with Technobabe--cremation and no service. I just might be around to see what happens! Doubt that I will care, though. I do want a marker in the cemetery where most of my family is interred, even if I'm not there. They come in handy later when relatives are looking up their ancestors.

Those who specify no service are I think very selfish - those you leave behind may need or want the opportunity to say good-bye and to share their loss with others. You life has impact on others - let them decide how to honor that.

Never occurred to me before to be worried about the air pollution caused by all the boomer cremations coming up.

Peeked at the CycledLife site and accidentally found myself confronted by the dead hog slide. It's too late at night and I've weirded and worried myself out totally. No R.I.P. for me tonight! I'll have to bookmark this for a morning visit.

I think about this all the time. My father was sitting at the dining room table, naked, eating watermelon when he died. He lay on the floor for 2 days before they found him.

I always make sure I'm dressed if I'm going to sit down and eat something!

http://www.yourlawyer.com/articles/read/11533


The illegal trade in body parts is first on my list of ghoulish worries

Oo, Ronni, you do come up with some corkers! Like another writer here, I'd be more concerned about unexpected hospital admission - do I have a proper nightie, will they lose my teeth, what about these boobs hanging down to my knees. Daft stuff like that.

When I'm dead, I won't care.

I've already paid for my cremation with the Neptune Society...since I'm still young (66), don't anticipate it being needed anytime soon...but just in case, the price does include delivery "home" from anywhere in the world. Maybe in my mind it's a kind of insurance so I won't die early!??

My son, who died at 26, was cremated, and I did split up his ashes into 6 or 7 containers and his friends and father distributed them literally all over the world from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Himalayas. I think he would have liked that very much as he was a great adventurer.

My father wanted a military funeral. Six years ago upon his death my three brothers and I, and mother, composed the service and did it (sans minister), reading a wonderful Ogden Nash poem, among others. One brother played taps on his trumpet. We had the three man military guard, which even included a drunken sailor, which would've pleased my Dad to no end!

I've already paid for my cremation with the Neptune Society...since I'm still young (66), don't anticipate it being needed anytime soon...but just in case, the price does include delivery "home" from anywhere in the world. Maybe in my mind it's a kind of insurance so I won't die early!??

My son, who died at 26, was cremated, and I did split up his ashes into 6 or 7 containers and his friends and father distributed them literally all over the world from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Himalayas. I think he would have liked that very much as he was a great adventurer.

My father wanted a military funeral. Six years ago upon his death my three brothers and I, and mother, composed the service and did it (sans minister), reading a wonderful Ogden Nash poem, among others. One brother played taps on his trumpet. We had the three man military guard, which even included a drunken sailor, which would've pleased my Dad to no end!

It's so funny (to me) how people worry about what will happen after they die. I mean, it just isn't logical! When you DIE, you're DEAD! It won't MATTER (to YOU) who sees you or touches you or whatever because YOU'RE DEAD! If you're DEAD, you can't possibly be EMBARRASSED!! Don't you GET IT?!? Ha! It's like y'all think that your brain will still be working. It WON'T! You'll be DEAD! :) So relax!

Don't you just know that the people handling your dead body have handled a million dead bodies before YOURS and, well, it's just another dead body. Plain and simple. Your older, dead body is probably not all that interesting to someone else. Put yourself in the 'handler's' position. Would YOU want to have a good look at a strangers old-ish body? Maybe if it was a young, beautiful body - the handler would have a good look. But OUR older bodies? Naaah... don't think so. My donor card says they can use my body for absolutely any purpose under the sun. It's surely helpful for training to have bodies to work with.

Anyway, my hope for you is that you have the most tender and loving handlers. :)

I used to tell my daughter to make sure to put my eyebrows on before anyone saw me, if I should die in my sleep :-) I've long ago stopped worrying about such things. I am convinced that once that last breath is drawn, I'll be in a much better place and I won't care a hoot about what anyone thinks! Interesting topic, Ronni. But then, you are never boring!

Nikki -- Of course you are right! Better to worry about things we'll be totally conscious of alive rather than dwelling on irrational humiliation worries after DEATH. "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" (Including me.)

Ronni -- Does this set a record for # of posts to a topic? It's been fun!

I think I'll arrange to have my body dropped off at Goodwill. They know how to sell or recycle everything!

When I'm gone they can toss what's left of me in the nearest dumpster with its skirt up around its ears for all I care. We're all just temporary assemblages of atoms that will soon return to base to be recycled.
Funerals: they are for the people left behind. I want my loved ones to mark my passing in whatever way is most meaningful for them. And they need to do that, just as I have needed to do it for others in my time. It is an important part of 'grief work'. Scripting one's own funeral denies people that opportunity. I may be a control freak in life but I don't want to be one in death also!

We have all the "must do's" done...wills, DNR's etc. I don't give a rats azz about who would see my body...through the years there isn't much any medical peronnel hasn't seen already and maybe, just maybe, I would give them something to schmooze about for their coffe breaks :-))It's nothing I concern myself with; where, when, clean underwear etc. etc. won't matter for I will be on the next adventure:-))

My brother and his family are part of a group in their synagogue who come together over a dead congregant and wash and wrap the body in the plain white gown used in the burial. It's creepy to write (as I read what I've typed) but they describe it as warm and loving and I can't help but think that,if there is a soul and someplace to go once we shed this mortal coil, this is an awfully nice send-off.

I haven't laughed out loud about this topic in a while. Thanks, Ronni, for the giggles.
a/b

I never worry about this. Thoughts never entered my mind.

I sometimes feel concern, however, about how long it might take for anyone to find my body and what a mess that shall leave for the cleaners.

So many chuckles and some good ideas!
Thanks, everyone.
Ronni, at first I thought you were serious; how happy I was to discover otherwise.

I, too, think I won't care. I do hope to have all estate matters completely in hand, and have on my list the plan for making sure I don't lie dead in an empty house for any length of time.

I hope to able to throw my own celebration of living some years down the road, but I tend to agree with Marian about a post-croaking service: it's for those left; let them decide what they need/want.

And, since naked or near it is my favorite state of dress, I think I'll hang a robe near the door. : )

When I am gone to my final rest,
I won't care about what's the best,
Or worst that can happen to my bod!
For when I'm gone to my reward,
I won't remember how I went,
And I'll be free of worry thank the Lord!

professorp12000 (Syd)

1. HECM = paid off and picked out funeral stuff etc.
2. Aish.com - story She Is Pure about the Chevrah Kaddisha (holy society for burials)
3. When I said to the funeral person what I wanted ie. graveside...his reply what your family wants...you won't be there...
4. Ronni - always good to Plan Ahead!!!!!!

5. One last note - the night before My Mother died, she called me up and "said come to the nursing home and bring a garbage bag and put me in it for pick up in the morning"...she knew it was almost over - yet 13 years later it still seems unreal-my 8 year old grandaughter went with me to the cemetary because she wanted to put a stone on the grave of the Grandmother she only knew somewhere "out there" in spirit land.

When my husband died in a hospital's hospice, as a last, loving gesture my daughter and I washed his body while we waited for the driver from the funeral home to come. We had requested cremation and no one asked us to supply clothes - I guess his hospital johnny was considered enough.

So many great commets!! And so many have chosen to be cremated (like me). I have little left to say that won't repeat many of the intelligent comments above -- except, please consider the following;
Eternal Reefs www.eternalreefs.com
This will be where my ashes go ... to bring man-made reefs to replace the ones that we are so busy killing with pollution.

I'm just not going to die. I've had last rites twice and I'm still here. I figure heaven doesn't want me and Satan's afraid I'll take over!!!

Cremate me, and while my body is heading south, play this song:

"Running Down a Dream," by Tom Petty

I wanna hear the "wooo hoos" at the end of the song... from the tarmac of my next life.

Don't worry, upon landing, I'll be returning as a vet who makes house calls, so Ollie will be well taken care of in his next life.

No charge.

Hmmmm....Most of the concerns regarding death are pretty materialistic...I have feeling that the next dimension won't be so. I have been a funeral director for 27 years and don't anguish!!! Medical examiners, doctors and funeral directors see bodies everyday and approach things from a clinical prospective. As a mortician our biggest concerns center around satisfying the desires and whims of the various families and next-of-kin that we serve. My advice to all of you would to be sure that you make arrangements with your chosen mortician, even if it is to tell them what you want. You don't have to put $$ aside to get your wishes down in writing. I don't know how many times I sat around a table with a grieving family questioning, "I wonder what Mom/Dad would have wanted us to do. While it is nice for families to have some control at a very difficult time, it is also nice if they have some idea of your wishes..And you can make a request to just have them wrap a blanket around you before cremation - not to dress you!!! Any requests that you make are respected. My husband (also a mortician) and I are both being cremated, but having our ashes buried in a remote northern cemetery. After years in the "service", we both feel that a permanent memorial spot is important for the rest of the family. I also have a sneaking feeling that people should be crying when we are born and laughing when we die....."God is not malicious but he does have a sense of humor"..of that I am sure. Any questions?

Wow, that was intense. I hadn't thought about this stuff before. Except when I had some surgery a little while ago, I was a little weirded out by how I was going to be unconscious and anyone could do anything to my body.

I've been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thank you, I'll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your site? daeeekdfedgaeeka

As a nurse who has dealt with many dead bodies, I can tell you they all look alike: DEAD
The living scant look at them. Too horrifying for what mortality actually means.
Ahhh, if you are worrying about whether your legs are shaved or not, you are not even close to dying!!!!!! Have a blast while you last!

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