Death is inevitable. Even worse, death can be expensive. Granted, we won’t live with the expense once we’re gone, but our offspring or friends may.
Fortunately, the options for disposal are many.
Among them is procrastination. Alan Derek of Bristol, England lived with his dead room-mate’s remains on his sofa for at least five years, and as many as 10, depending on which account one reads. (The BBC version of the story: “For more than five years.” The Guardian: “For up to eight years.” The Scotsman: “For nearly 10 years.”) All would agree it was a long time for a corpse to share space on a couch. Though no foul play was involved, neighbours believe that Derek, who is said to have mental health problems, was afraid to contact authorities.
On the other hand, Ivan Bosanac of Zagreb, Croatia postponed the need to dispose of his remains. Bosanac’s nephew reported him missing in 1999, but it wasn’t until August 2007 that his body was discovered by a neighbour, who told the Vecernji List he found the skeleton, dressed in a winter coat, when he went to clean the attic apartment. Said the neighbour: “I’m sure it is Ivan. I knew him for years.”
If you’d rather not linger after you’re gone, you might want to make your own arrangements. The options range from free to exorbitant. Among the latter — possibly more appealing to exhibitionists-at-heart than the average human being — is to donate your body to art. The Body Worlds exhibit displays bodies in which water in the cells is replaced with plastic. Another free alternative is to donate one’s body to science by simply following the directions on such sites as the Anatomy Gifts Registry.
If being a science experiment makes you queasy, simple cremation is a popular and inexpensive alternative, the choice of over 70% of British Columbians. It’s more expensive than donating, but you can always opt for immediate disposition: cremation with no funeral, but with an urn provided for the ashes. The costs range from $750 — $965.
Burial is more expensive and the cost is on the rise. There are several elements to consider, including coffin styles (ranging from cardboard to mahogany), linings, services, and plots. In Abbotsford, B.C. the cost of a burial plot alone will double as of April: up to $4294 from $2147. In Surrey, the cost is $1600 for residents and $2550 for non-residents. And space is running out. So little room is left in Vancouver that many of their dead now reside on the North Shore and in Burnaby.
One unique alternative is a “memorial reef,” composed of cast concrete containing cremated remains. The reef is dropped into the sea to create new habitats for marine life. Costs range from $2495 for the Sea Oates Community Reef to $6495 for the Mariner Memorial Reef, which weighs in at 3800-4000 lbs.
If you’re concerned about taking up valuable real estate above or below sea level, a classy option is to have LifeGem turn your carbon into a synthetic diamond. You’ll still have to pay for a burial or cremation, as all they need to turn you into jewelry is a strand of hair or 8 oz. or less of toasted remains. But you’ll sure be pretty. Costs range from $3499-$19,999 for a loose diamond, with settings extra.
Looking for an even more high-end after-life? For $67,000, Summum will provide permanent mummification. The finished product is then wrapped in cloth and covered in a decorative or traditional casket. Or turn yourself into a corpsicle. Cryonics is the not-so-ancient art of using cold temperatures to stop the dying process when ordinary medicine no longer can. While the law requires the individual be legally dead, cryonics begins the moment the heart stops beating, in hopes that a cure will one day be found for whatever ailed the “client,” who can then be revived and healed. Alcor Life Extension Foundation will preserve an entire body for $150,000, or, for a bargain-basement $80,000, they’ll do just the brain, a process known as neuropreservation. So far, though, proof of concept remains elusive — no cryonically-preserved corpse has yet been brought back to life.
While it’s true that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes, at least the former offers some choices. Take your pick, while you can.