Life from loss: Burial design gives ultimate opportunity to give back

By Haley Erickson

Death is never a very fun thing to talk about, but it’s something that is inevitable. We’re all used to funerals where the body is laid to rest in a casket. This is to pay as much respect as possible to the body. Caskets and coffins can even have extra protective layers added to delay the gruesome but natural decomposition of the body. Coffins are still used during cremation as well. Cremation was originally discouraged in many religions, but today it has become more accepted. Long ago, Greeks and Romans paid little attention to the body and practiced cremation because they believed the spirit was eternal.

On the other hand, Christian gravesites are sleeping places for the people who believe in future resurrection, similar to the resurrection of Jesus. If the body is cremated, the vessel for the soul is demolished. In the case of martyrs being burned to death, Christians believed that God would bring them back undamaged upon resurrection. This reasoning gives people the option of cremation. The Catholic denomination has changed to allow cremation, but Eastern Orthodox still prohibits it.

Now that the history of death-care has been explained, we can discuss what options are available to us now. Inside the green movement, which has been going on for decades, a smaller focus is what we do with bodies after the funeral. Many support the idea of the earth taking our bodies and allowing the life cycle to manifest naturally. Staying with the traditional idea of using a casket, there are different materials that work nicely for allowing decomposition of the body. Caskets made out of bamboo, hemp, teak, wool, cork and many others are classified as “low-impact” caskets. This means they break down much easier and cost less. Commercially produced caskets take a very long time to break down in the soil because of the chemical treatments to the wood as well as metal decorations and attachments. Another thing that scares people away from traditional caskets is the embalming process, where they drain the body of blood, feces and urine, and fill it with formalin (a dangerous chemical) to preserve the body for the funeral. Imagining these things can be disturbing to some so it’s good to have other options for themselves or loved ones.

For the future, there are many different high-tech methods like sending ashes to space and freezing the body for a possible future revival with some sort of medical advancement. But an idea from the Capsula Mundi project will bring us back to our roots.

The Italian duo, Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel, created a design for a biodegradable pod that turns the person’s remains into nutrients that will nourish a seed connected to the pod. Instead of depressing cemeteries, there could be magical forests full of the spirits of loved ones. It would add beauty to the sadness of losing a loved one, as well as covering the earth with trees and green.

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