How do you dispose of a body?

It has been a long time since I have posted.  I’d like to say I have a good excuse but its simply because I have subscribed to Netflix…  so you know, binge-watching…

My brother was here a few weeks ago from New Zealand, on a short break between finishing up with his old job and starting his new one.  As my partner was away, it was the first time my brother, my Mum and I spent any time together – with just the 3 of us.  In many ways, it was like old times – when it was just the 3 of us – a close-knit family unit – before partners and kids.

As we enjoyed the outdoors, the weather here being gorgeous in August, we took the opportunity to go on a bushwalk… and talked about disposing of a body, or two…

To be fair this was a serious conversation, but with our dark humour, it was also light-hearted.  Death has never been a subject we have avoided talking about.  One of the first tasks we tackled on migrating to Australia was getting new wills written up along with end of life medical directives and signing up as organ donors.

But the topic of conversation on this particular day was exactly how we handle the disposal of my Dad’s corpse and belongings.  He’s not actually dead yet – a minor technicality – but he’s had a number of very serious health scares over the years – each of which he was not supposed to survive.

As an obese, diabetic, alcoholic who has survived multiple heart attacks and a massive stroke – he clearly is part cat.  But realistically, time is likely against him. As a family, we need to be very clear exactly what each of our parts in this end of life scenario will be.

In case you haven’t yet realised, we are not a sentimental family.  Including Dad.  He really doesn’t care what happens to his remains.  If he was sentimental, he would have arranged for my grandparent’s remains to be dealt with.  As it is, their ashes are sitting on a shelf and my brother has already stated he will throw them in the rubbish bin when Dad goes.

Dad’s main concern is that his disposal will cost as little as possible.   Years ago he signed up to have his body donated to science, primarily due to it being free.  Due to his obesity now, he’s too heavy to transport.

So what now?  It might make us the talk of the town, but we see no point in having a service.  My father, like myself and my Mum, are devout atheists – there is no religious aspect to consider.   Mum and I also don’t need to make a trip to New Zealand to watch his body go up in flames in order to get closure.

So who would the service be for?  His friends?  Too bad.  I don’t give a shit what they say or think.  I wouldn’t be able to be polite to them anyway.  Their false platitudes and “sympathy” would make me livid in two minutes.  Their influence contributed largely to the breakdown of my parent’s marriage and through this, my relationship with my father from my teens through until recent years.

So this leaves my brother with the job of finding the cheapest way to dispose of Dad’s body when the time comes.  Ringing around to the local funeral directors to see who can do a no-frills body disposal.  Despite New Zealand being a farming country, apparently throwing a human body down a dead sheep hole is frowned upon.  So, no service, no casket, no flowers, no embalming and the cheapest possible disposal.

The final decisions really have to be for my brother to decide.  After all, he will be the one organising and arranging it all – we won’t be there and Dad wouldn’t expect us to be.  He would see it as completely pointless for us to go to New Zealand.

What my Mum and I will need to do though is help with the clearance of my Dad’s unit and his vast number of belongings – which are stored in a very large shed at my brother’s place.  My brother in all likelyhood would take everything to landfill or burn it.   This seems a terrible waste when most could be reused by someone still in the land of the living.  My father would hate that his precious belongings didn’t find a home with someone else.

As for Mum, we plan on donating her to science.  Apparently, the local university medical school takes donated bodies.  Not sure if we can pop her on the tram or maybe an Uber? -unless they have a “no dead bodies” rule?   But we have to wait a bit as she said she’s not dead yet either…

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2 comments

  1. I love your dark humour, and also that you discuss these things. Too many people don’t and when the time comes the families don’t know what to do. My mother was a churchgoer so we did have a memorial service but she didn’t want a coffin and had an unattended cremation. At the memorial one of my cousins asked me “Is Joan here?”. I think she was a bit shocked when I told her that Mum was at home in Dad’s shoe cupboard.

  2. Death and grieving are often very traumatic and difficult times for families. There is so much hurt and emotion plus stress involved. Talking about it in advance is good. Then there is less chance of misunderstandings.

    I did laugh about your mother being in the shoe cupboard. It’s the sort of thing I would say.

    Thanks for reading! 🙂

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