Posted 25 days ago
At first, I thought uff, and didn't know if I could read an entire piece on this subject. But between Lisa Well's elegant and beautiful writing and the hopeful goals of Recompose and its founder, Katrina Spade, it turned out that this was well-worth reading.
There are obviously tons of ways to broach this subject, but the two that seem clearest to me are either grave seriousness or sensitive levity. Wells opts for the latter, opening the article with a comical (yet serious) quote from a wife that had given her husband's body to Recompose:
I asked her what it was like to have her husband home again, piled up in her driveway.
“Well, it’s compost,” she told me. “It’s still precious because it was his body. But it’s also compost.”
I thought, wow, that was an excellent way to make this piece less serious, and to open up our minds a little bit. As somebody who is 0% religious, I can't imagine how somebody who is religious would approach this piece. That witty comment helps open up dialog, I think.
On that note, every religion and culture has their own form of dealing with the dead. Wells makes a very good point that regardless of how they do it, the unifying factor that makes us all human is intention:
The only characteristic that funerary mores seem to share is intentionality. Disposing of the dead in an arbitrary manner—leaving a body where it fell on the battlefield, or tossing it with others into a mass grave, limbs akimbo—is a universal sign of disrespect. Intention is how we signal care, whether or not we believe that the soul persists, or whether we believe in a soul at all.
Trying to do something meaningful, no matter with how that gets executed, is the most important factor here. Recompose is fulfulling a desire that people who are concerned with ecology will find intriguing and meaninful. and goes with Wells's thought that "thinking about the kind of death I wanted taught me about the kind of life I wanted." How we go is meaninful not only to us before we part, but to those around us and how they will remember us afterwards. Death is not the end of something but the start of another relationship, another form of meaning. Wells's reporting and contemplation on these ideas was excellent.