My question today relates to our bodies. I don't think anyone still believes that once we die we need our earthly body any more. Some like to be buried and some choose cremation. But now the Church of England is studying another idea. That of 'terramation' where the body is put into a capsule which is reusable and then surrounded with all kinds of suitable material - woodchips, sawdust, straw and alfalfa to speed up decomposition. And amazingly this speeds up the whole process so that in around 60 days microbes have reduced the body into enought 'soil' to fill two wheelbarrows. Then it can be returned to the family who can spread it on their garden as compost - because the temperatures reached in the process have been high enough to kill all pathogens.
The C of E are also considering resomation. Here the body is put into a biodegradable coffin which is then put i nto a water cremator. Hot water and alkali are added to reduce the corpse and the whole process after four hours leaves just ash and water. The ash can then be given to the family and the fluid drained away.
The remains of Archbishop Desmond Tutu chose resomation for the disposal of his body. They were laid to rest in Capetown.
We have to accept that ground for us all is running out. So a couple of interesting alternatives look likely to be introduced.
There is something very reassuring about burial isn't there? I suppose it is the idea of being able to visit. My parents and my sister and her husband, along with three of their babies who died shortly after birth (they were what used to be called 'blue babies' I believe - before the discovery of a way of dealing with it.) They are all buried in the family plot and have graves and have stones. But none of us live anywhere near now and it is all so long ago.
My first husband died over thirty years ago but I have remarried since then so I no longer wish to be buried with him although there is a plot purchased for the purpose. And my farmer's ashes were scattered by the side of the beck in his favourite pasture on the farm near to the marsh marigolds he so loved.
There is something quite comforting about gravestones isn't there? When my son lived in London many years ago he took me to Highgate Cemetery to see the grave of Karl Marx. Such an impressive tombstone. And, of course, when I visited Beijing I walked past the preserved 'remains' of Chairman MaoTsetung. Very impressive (especially for someone who had never seen him 'in the flesh'.)
And I remember vividly visiting the family plot in Old Bennington, Vermont where one of my favourite poets - Robert Frost - is buried along with generations of his family. I can still remember Old Bennington as a beautiful, peaceful 'village' with many trees and lots of green spaces. And the very large cemetery with so many tombstones. The farmer and I separated and searched different areas because we knew his resting place would be hard to find, The farmer found it - a large plot - and he called me over. I stood there and remembered my favourite poem 'The Road not taken'. It was a moment I have never forgotten.
So there we have it. It looks as though we have more choices coming up. Does it matter? It is only our body. We are no longer there. If you are a believer in the survival of our spirit then maybe it matters to you. To me (a Humanist) I just hope those dear to me remember me - that's all.