Display and Disposal Choices

Sep 11, 2009 | 1 comment

Decomposition of a human body is a smelly, messy, germ-ridden process. While it’s a part of the natural order of birth, growth, death and decay, it’s still kind of creepy. Prompt disposal of the body is key to the funeral practices of many cultures.

Throughout history, all civilizations developed ways to dispose of human remains into one of the four elements – earth: burial, fire: cremation, water: burial at sea, and most infrequently, air. With sky burials in Tibet, where the ground is rocky and fuel for fire scarce, bodies are placed on a mountaintop for birds of prey to eat the flesh. Then the bones are crushed, the birds have at it again, and any remains are dispersed by the wind and rain. Notwithstanding the film Psycho where the character Norman Bates mummified his mother, keeping the bodies of our loved ones around once they have given up the ghost is not an option.

Chances are, if you’re working with a funeral home, you’ll be considering burial or cremation. With both options, there are additional choices to make.

Do you want to put the body on display before final disposition, either at a private viewing or at the funeral? Would you want your body put on display for people to look at? Most viewings require embalming, unless the death was within 24 hours and the body will be immediately cremated or buried. Generally, viewings are avoided when a person has died violently.

If so desired, the mortician can do additional services of embalming, cosmetic work, dressing the body, and positioning it in the casket to put on display. Funeral directors have long extolled the benefits of the last look to form a “memory picture” for mourners to process their grief.

“There are usually three types of learning styles: auditory, learning by listening; the kinesthetic learners, people who need to actually, physically touch; then there are the visual ones who need to see,” said Gloria Salazar, Family Service Director with Reflections Funerals & Life Celebrations. “Some people need to see that there is a body, dead as it is, in a casket, to fully realize the person is in fact dead, to get to the final stages of acceptance.”

Myself, my preference is to NOT be put on display. How about you?

A Good Goodbye