Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death

by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
I added this book to my TBR list after reading Lotus Read's review. I was particularly intrigued with the "Biodegradable You" chapter that discusses 'green' burials. Maybe it's because I've been a biology teacher that the idea of the nutrients in my body cycling back into use in the environment appeals to me. Now I just convince my local cemetery and county officials to allow green burials.

Another chapter in the book discusses choices in caskets, such as 'Afterlife Vehicles'. You would expect cars, but what about lobsters or a wood plane?

Cullen discusses having your cremated ashes (or those of a loved one) scattered over the sea, placed in creative urns, or even turned into diamonds that can be set in jewelry. Speaking of being buried at sea, that is possible. There's even a company who makes beehive shaped monuments from cement and cremains. Loved ones can leave hand prints before the cement sets up.

The two most bizarre stories take place close to my part of the world. In Nederlands, Colorado there is a frozen dead man being stored in a Tuff Shed (a new one has been donated by the company). Every year Nederlands celebrates this oddity with the Frozen Dead Guys festival. There are parades, tours to the Tuff Shed, frozen head rolls (turkeys), coffin races and a costumed Polar-Bear Plunge (people jump into frozen ponds).

Number 2 bizarre story is from Salt Lake City, Utah where can actually have your body mummified inside a pyramid-shaped building. The process sounds quite disgusting to me and the man who runs things sounds even crazier.

If the green burial, ashes turned into diamonds or cement beehives is not your thing, you may consider having your body plasticized.

There are chapters that deal with traditional U.S. funerals and also the changes that need to be implemented for all the foreign-born U.S. citizens that want to follow their cultural traditions in death. There are some interesting ideas that need to be considered that aren't allowed for with laws as they currently stand.

Remember Me was an insightful read. I'm glad I read it.


Jill said...

Wow, that sounds fascinating! I've always thought that green burials were sort of a no-brainer, but most people don't seem to lean that way. My husband just wants to donate his body to science - no burial, no casket choosing, etc. When the time comes, that is! I see his point, but haven't quite come around to his way of thinking. It is kind of funny all the thought that goes into this sort of thing, when we won't really be around to care, isn't it?!

Framed said...

I like the idea of ashes to diamonds. It gives me incentive to gain weight so I can leave more karats for my kids.

Anonymous said...

My mum is obsessed with green burials right now. Even though she is only 41, she believes in forward planning and is tryingn to convince me to buy her a book on green burials for her next birthday. Personally, I think it is a little morbid to give a parent as a gift!

Booklogged said...

Darla, I wonder how one goes about donating your body to science. I wish Cullen would have included a chapter on that.

Framed, good idea. Gaining weight will just show our kids how much we love them!

Traveller, the baby boomers seem to want to plan their death and have a say in what's going to happen. I know I care much more about it than my mother, who is 85, does.

Bookfool said...

I read this book as an ARC from First Look and enjoyed it.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, booklogged!

So glad you read and liked the book...I found it most interesting, I honestly didn't realize the many options one had when it came to honoring the departed. I can see how the idea of turning a loved one's ashes into a diamond could be appealing to many, but it creeps me out a little..guess I grew up with too much folklore and I much prefer the more traditional ways like a regular/green burial or a cremation.

Want to know what book I picked to read shortly after this one? "Body Brokers: Inside America's Underground Trade in Human Remains"! lol

And you are right, I think the author could have used a chapter on how one goes about donating one's body to science.

I'm really glad you liked the book and thank you for the mention!

maggie moran said...

I'm reading Big Bam, one of many books on Babe Ruth, and in the photos it shows his deceased wife being carried in a woven basket. Now, I sort of like that idea.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this book sounds just like a documentary I watched called Lasting Images. It highlights various alternatives to traditional burials. I found several ideas that I liked, and they touched on the "Life Gem' diamond idea.
I prefer going out in a fireworks memorial, it really suits my personality best. That is what I like about all the alternatives... they are creative and can be a perfect fit for certain personalities.
here is a link to the film, if you are interested: