OK, I admit it’s not the most delightful of subjects to write about: death. Having said that, there is a “recommendation” writers get from their editors or publishers: write what you know about. Well, one thing I know – I’m going to die.

All of my children and wife have heard me say (or order) repeatedly, “When I die, no casket, wake or whining.”

Please, no church, preachers, Bibles, grief counseling or all in black attire. At my vigil, lots of rum will be fine and plenty of chin wagging about me is acceptable. You can even say nasty, defamatory stuff … I will not be around to rebuke your commentary.

The word has been out a few years now: Cayman is running out of burial ground, and to make provisions for what’s inevitable, Scott Ruby, director of Bodden Funeral Home, has announced that Cayman’s first crematorium will open.

The local response to ashes, rather than lavish funerals, will be most interesting. Caymanians are accustomed to funerals. I have a Bracker friend who will fly to the Brac for nearly every burial, whether he knows the deceased or not. This really puzzles me. Why intentionally surround yourself with gloom? It seems like a morbid addiction, yet it’s a practice – a deeply rooted tradition that is still a rite of passage to indigenous Caymanians.

Paid mourners

I recall back in the early ‘70s passing a funeral in West Bay. The chorus of mourning and sobbing was ear-splitting. This must have been some very popular person with a huge family; a politician, maybe, or he owed a lot of people money. I found out later that the deceased was actually a young lad who had died in a car accident and a majority of the crying and wailing came from paid mourners. Now, that really threw me for a loop. Why would anyone want to cry and grieve when they do not have to – even if it is for money?

“Hiring a stranger to weep at a funeral may seem a bit quirky, but it’s a deep-seated tradition in the East,” expert Jasmine Birtles of Essex, England, says. “It’s still a niche market at the moment, but demand for professional mourners in the U.K. is increasing year on year as more people from East Asian and Middle Eastern countries move to the U.K., bringing their customs with them.”

From information I have gathered, the tradition was brought to Cayman via Jamaica.

Burial at sea

My first choice would be a burial at sea … let the marine life eat me. After all, I have taken so much of the sea’s bounty (fish, lobster, conch) during my time on Earth, I figure I should return the favor.

I do not know about Cayman, but in other parts of the world, burial at sea can involve a lot of red-tape. For example, here is an excerpt from some U.S. regulations: Burial at sea of human remains which are not cremated shall take place no closer than 3 nautical miles from land and in water no less than one hundred fathoms (six hundred feet) deep and in no less than three hundred fathoms (eighteen hundred feet). All necessary measures shall be taken to ensure that the remains sink to the bottom rapidly and permanently.

Cremation

My second choice is the classic “spread my ashes” approach, which leads to some rather interesting wishes requested by others. Video cameras at Disneyland have recorded an alarming trend: More and more visitors are spreading the cremated ashes of their loved ones on their favorite attractions. For example, a woman was caught sprinkling ashes from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. By the end of the attraction’s 15-minute duration, she had managed to cover much of the Captain’s Quarters with the powdery remains of her beloved.

I have some rather rude erotic requests for the disposal of my ashes, however the editor of this publication would never print my intentions, nor would any member of my family fulfill my final postlude – so I’ll take the tree option.

Becoming a tree

Better than being eaten by worms, you can turn into a tree after you die. You, your loved ones, or your pets can be buried in a life-assuring kind of way by transforming ashes into a tree. What an ingenious idea (in my opinion)!

This could change the way people see death, converting the “end of life” into a transformation and a return to life through nature. It’s an ecologically friendly way to approach what’s probably one of the most important moments in human life.

The urn used to convert you into a tree is 100 percent biodegradable, made of coconut shell, compacted peat and cellulose. It has two parts – a top capsule for the seed and a bottom part for the ashes. This structure allows the seed to germinate separated from the ashes and their high acidity.

Once the urn starts to biodegrade, the seed roots are already strong enough to contact them and the entire set becomes part of the sub-soil. When ordering these urns, the customers can pick the type of seed they would like – oak, maple, pine, gingko, beech, ash, or choose to get an urn without a seed in order to use their own. I hope they do coconut trees or maiden plum.

Think about it – planting a tree definitely seems like a better option than planting a tombstone. So there you are in the back yard, you departed some years ago, yet you are part of a breathing, living tree. Your wife can greet you every morning with a “Hello dear, you are looking very alive today,” and she can even water you with a can of beer. Or your neighbor’s dog, the one you used to always tease, can come by and lift his hind leg to your memory.

For more information, Google Eterni Trees or Bios Urns.

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