A good life deserves a good death. My great-grandmother lived to be just north of ninety and died in mid-sentence, walking down the hallway. She lived her life precisely the way she wanted to live, hardly slowed down a bit, and when her time came–BAM. She was gone.
I thought of her when I read this account of an elderly couple in Wales who were found dead in the garden next to the lawn mower. Margaret and Monty were both 87 years old and had been together for 67 years. There’s no telltale evidence of any kind, but the family suspects that Monty had a heart attack while firing up the lawn mower, and when Margaret came out and found him–well, the shock was just too great.
It’s not a sad story, really–if you’ve ever seen a widow linger on, lonely, bereft, in failing health–you know that there is really no better way to go than to live a long, happy life together and drop suddenly in the garden within minutes of each other. As far as I’m concerned, Margaret and Monty won this round.
I don’t really fantasize about some perfect death involving a warm day in the garden and a pitcher of mojitos and a crew of sweaty young laborers (but if you do, please share!), but I do earnestly hope that whoever ends up in charge of my remains does not pump them full of chemicals and stick them in the ground. That would be an entirely unfit ending for an organic gardener, wouldn’t it?
The green burial movement rejects the ridiculous notion of embalming a body with formaldehyde and burying it in a chipboard veneer casket with plastic handles painted to look like brass. (You didn’t think they sold you real brass, did you?) No–instead, just drop ’em in the ground, plant a tree on top, and let the worms do the rest. There’s an ecological burial ground in New York state that lets you do just that; Canada has an association devoted to natural burial; and now there’s a book out called Grave Matters that explores the issue in more–well, depth. The author, Mark Harris, is blogging about the book here.
I guess it doesn’t matter what happens with my remains. I won’t be around to rant about it anyway. But I can think of no better ending that to be dumped at the bottom of the compost pile and have chicken manure and shredded leaves piled on top. Put me to good use–let me fertilize the lilacs.
Backyard burials? Ashes scattered at Kew? Memorial trees? What do you think? Any–uh–final thoughts?