Twenty years ago, Chuck and I had five young children and realized we needed to be Responsible Adults and get life insurance. If the worst ever happened, we wanted to make sure our family would be taken care of. We found someone
crazy nice enough to take in our child were we to both die and now we needed to cover the financial end. So we bought 20-year term life insurance.
Well, my friends, that 20 years is up, neither of us died, and those five children are all grown up. Now that Chuck and I are old, the price of life insurance has skyrocketed and we decided to forgo it. But the insurance company, it seems, doesn’t want us to go life insurance-less.
How kind of them.
Shortly after choosing not to renew my life insurance, a kind representative from the insurance company called. She sounded shocked (and maybe a little hurt?) when I told her I did not want to renew or purchase a new life insurance policy.
“Oh…um…may I ask why?” she asked.
“Yes. Our kids are grown and we no longer need it for them if we die”
“Oh. I see. Well, many people like to carry a policy to cover burial expenses…”
“No need for that. I donated my body to science.”
** pause **
“Yes. It’s free and when they’re done with my body, they will even send my cremated remains back to my family if they choose.”
** uncomfortable laughter **
“Ah…okay. Well please let us know if we can help with anything else”
“Sure thing. And have a great day!”
At this point, you may be wondering if I have actually donated my body to science or if I just came up with a creative way to shake off an insurance saleswoman. The answer is yes. I have registered to have my body donated to science after I die. And here’s why.
One day I heard a blurb on the radio about environmentally-friendly burials and started thinking. My errands often take me right past a cemetery in our city. I have walked through it, reading the headstones, and cleaning moss out of carved epitaphs that are a hundred years old. Taking a moment to imagine the lives of the people who are buried there. The most heartbreaking being headstones that listed just one date…babies who didn’t live long enough to have a birth and death date listed.
That led me to think about all the humans who have lived and died. Burying the dead is one thing. Preserving bodies through embalming, placing them in wooden or metal coffins, then placing that in a concrete vault is hardly sustainable. Of course, not everyone is embalmed and plenty of coffins are made of wood, but our modern American cemeteries aren’t exactly set up to accommodate every human who dies. There simply isn’t enough room in the ground.
Alternatives to Being Buried in the Ground After Death
Obviously, cremation is an age-old option. It has the benefit of reducing the human body to about five pounds of ash. But you still need to buy a coffin for that, and it isn’t exactly cheap. According to Western Cremation Alliance, “The average cost for a direct cremation in Washington is $1,570 and ranges up to $4,165.”
Earth Funeral has a process that will turn your body into “a cubic yard of nutrient-rich soil” in just 45 days. Sadly, I have no idea what this costs because they won’t release their prices until you input your information and leave your email address.
Eternal Reefs “takes the cremated remains or “cremains” of an individual and incorporates them into a proprietary, environmentally safe cement mixture designed to create artificial reef formations. The Eternal Reefs are then placed in one of our permitted ocean locations selected by the individual, friend, or family member.” An interesting idea, but Eternal Reefs start at $4500.
The Natural Burial Company has some cool eco-friendly options. They offer wicker coffins, cardboard coffins, shroud boards, and biodegradable “acorn urns” you can plant. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t want to be an Acorn Urn after they die?
Oneworld Memorials says, “the lovely Acorn Biodegradable Cremation Urn – Moss Green will quickly decompose in the earth, leaving only loving memories behind.” Does that mean my kids won’t remember the times I yelled at them, forgot to call them for dinner (#largefamilyproblems), and helped them turn in the Worst Science Fair Project Ever? If so, count me in!
Passages International has various options, including a Biotree Urn ($575) that “is engineered to nourish and grow a tree as a permanent memorial to a loved one, and includes a geotag system to create an online memorial”.
They also offer a variety of shrouds and this cool wicker carrier.
The Kiri Urn “can be used for people and pets. It can be planted in gardens, parks, and forests. It can also be planted in a pot with enough size to cover the urn completely.” You type in your zip code and have a selection of plants and trees for your climate.
Why I Donated My Body to Science
I’m not an organ donor…but that is a post another day. But here are the reasons I chose to donate my body to science.
When it comes to my personal after-death choices, embalming is out, I have made it clear to Chuck that there will be no open coffin funeral or viewing. If my immediate family *needs* to see me dead…so be it. But I have no interest in having my friends and acquaintances walk past my dead body.
All of these require some research and planning. For simplicity, I have registered to donate my body to Science Care.
I have also registered to donate my body to the University of Washington. When I die, my next of kin will need to contact Science Care or UW to let them know I am dead. My body will be collected, used, then cremated. I took some time to think about what I *wouldn’t* want my body used for after my death. Like, what is the worst possible outcome? And I decided…I really don’t care. Once I’m dead, I’m done using my body.
So there you have it. The life insurance has run out (no need to kill us now) and my dead body expenses are covered.
Now, I can sleep at night.
Just kidding, I can rarely sleep at night.