Bones, Bugs, and Batesville

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(This is a reprint of an article that appeared in the FAMSA Newsletter, Spring 1999)
by Lisa Carlson
The "Body Farm" it's been called—the brain-child of Dr. William Bass, a forensic anthropologist—and the only location of its kind in the country. Several out-of-town acres owned by the University of Tennessee (UT) in Knoxville have been set aside to study body decomposition and the relevant stages of insect development.

The bodies there have been donated for scientific study, and—for the most part—will end up in the university's collection of skeletons that make up a large database of body-types. With a growing collection, forensic experts are charting the differences between male and female, old and young, black and white, tall and short, heavy and thin. The skeletal studies provide a basis for computer whizzes who can then reconstruct likely features as an aid in identification.

In addition to the skeletal studies, the rate of organ degeneration after death—especially the liver—is being studied. Ultimately, that should allow the time of death to be pinpointed with increasing accuracy.

With the unique and valuable knowledge generated by these forensic studies, UT staff are regularly in demand for training police, medical examiners, and FBI investigators. Some graduates have gone on to work in law enforcement.

I first learned of this center from a Popular Science article sent in by John White of the Hawaii society and mentioned it in an earlier newsletter—more out of random curiosity than anything.

But I had a new reason for my interest that prompted me to drag my husband away from a day in our April vacation for a visit.

Barbara Osborne, a woman from Mississippi, had had no reservations about spending $4,000 for Daddy's "protective" copper casket. The mortuary agreed to hold it while a private family mausoleum was being built. Two months later—when Barbara went to place flowers for Father's Day—the casket was "stinking to high heaven." Batesville took four months to supply a new casket. A video of the rotting flesh made during the transfer confirmed Barbara's worst fears. Barbara now has an $8 million law suit against Batesville for consumer fraud.

When Barbara discovered FAMSA last summer (a friend had seen the U.S. News article), she was relieved to find a sympathetic ear and someone who understood the issues. Sometimes Barbara called me every day, several times a day. "Do you know any experts on decomposition," she lamented during one such call. Fishing for something—anything—she could research on her own, I casually mentioned the Body Farm.

Barbara is a sharp lady, a real bull-dog and go-getter. So I shouldn't have been surprised when she called back the next day. She had learned the name of the director and found Dr. Bass off on a summer sabbatical at Tulane University. In the course of their conversation, Dr. Bass mentioned that UT had had a contract with Batesville Caskets for almost eight years. Staff at the forensic center monitored monthly the gases being expelled from the caskets that Batesville had shipped there. Barbara quickly asked him if he would testify in her court case. Dr. Bass agreed.

Barbara excitedly gave me his number at Tulane and urged me to call. Dr. Bass and I had a delightful conversation. I read him some of the casket chapter from my nearly-finished book, and he was quite amused—"You really know what you're talking about. I'll have to buy a copy," he chuckled. "I'll send you one," I offered, and made sure his name was on the list for gratis copies when it was finally published last fall.

It was with some shock that Barbara learned at the end of March this year that Dr. Bass was now under retainer for Batesville Casket Co. That probably explained, in part, the protective order that Batesville lawyers had wanted Barbara's lawyers to sign off on—with that in place, anything that Batesville chose to mark "Confidential" during the trial could not be made public.

But "confidential" was not what Barabara had in mind. Although she has suffered personally—nightmares and a consuming anguish over the unwitting casket choice—she feels strongly that "protective" caskets need to be exposed to the public as consumer fraud. It's hard not to agree. The Batesville web site states:

The urge to keep our loved ones protected and safe is fundamental to all of us. No wonder so many families are comforted by the ability to protect their loved ones with the Batesville Monoseal protective casket.

It's going to keep out air, water, and other elements, we're told. But Batesville doesn't bother to reveal that—by keeping air out—a sealed casket (in anything but the most frigid weather) becomes a crock-pot that is likely to turn the body into a smelly stew, whether it's embalmed or not. And Batesville had six caskets at the forensic center to study this stew!

If Batesville were going to ask the court to keep Dr. Bass's testimony confidential during the trial, then maybe we had to find another way to bring this intriguing Batesville study into the open. Surely not everyone at UT was under retainer to Batesville. A visit to poke around seemed imperative. In fact, it seemed fated, with Knoxville already scheduled as the first stop on our vacation.

I called Dr. Bass, and we chatted about my book. He was impressed, he said, and had been sharing information from it with others. I mentioned that I would be visiting Knoxville in a couple of weeks and would love a tour of the Body Farm. (I didn't mention Batesville.) Proud of the distinction he'd created for UT with the forensic center, he was eager to oblige. But, alas, he would be on a speaking trip that week. Not to worry, he said. He'd get someone else to show me around. How convenient, I thought, though I was disappointed not to meet this colorful man who always seemed to have a twinkle in his voice.

Dr. Murray Marks has been at UT off and on for nearly ten years. With Dr. Bass on emeritus status, Dr. Marks has taken over most of the classes Dr. Bass used to teach. He also supervises many of the projects that go on at the Body Farm—a name he doesn't much like, he said, because he doesn't think it sounds respectful of the work there.

We followed his pickup out of town to the remote location. A high wooden fence blocked any view through the metal-link barrier, topped by a coil of razor wire, that surrounded the wooded acreage. Before we went in, Dr. Marks gave us a history of the center. Only a few of the bodies there are from unclaimed indigents. The majority have been donated for scientific study, he emphasized, and remains can be returned to the family if requested. Most, however, will join the skeletal collection the university is building.

"It's almost beautiful," commented Dr. Marks, of the natural events that follow decomposition and the body's disintegration into the cycle of nature. As the gates swung open and I noticed the spring wild-flowers beside the hillside paths, I had to agree. With most bodies 20 feet apart or so, there was no overwhelming "smell," though the day was still early. An aroma of pungent"spring earth" was more like it.

We saw 15 or 20 corpses in varying stages of decay above ground as we walked the paths, some covered by tarpaulins to keep off the vultures, though we saw armadillo-like bugs busy at work when we peeked underneath. Others have been buried and will be exhumed at various stages. A marker next to each cadaver noted the date it had been laid out. After only four winter and spring months of Tennessee weather, all that remained of one was the skeleton with clinging fragments of leathery skin, tangled with pieces of disintegrated clothing—a flimsy nightie, perhaps, or a wrapping sheet. In the summer, it takes about two weeks, I was told. As the body decays, volatile fatty acids are released, with the liquid run-off killing the vegetation nearby.

Two had been embalmed. "Only the vascular system is preserved," pointed out Dr. Marks, the visceral cavity agape and empty, the skin more white and intact than on others we saw. It didn't look "natural." The other bodies were becoming a rich sienna brown, an earthen color—"scorched" as the tissues broke down and fatty acids ran off into the soil. (Soil under a decomposing body is another subject of study.)

But the object of my greatest curiosity was at the center of this almost park-like area—the Batesville study. Four cement vaults (painted black to absorb more heat) sat side-by-side on top of the ground. Two tubes ran out of the end of each into a mechanical unit tucked under a small shelter nearby—one outlet marked "liquid," the other marked "air." They had cut down some trees to increase the sunlight, said Dr. Marks. I asked what the purpose of the study was. Dr. Marks said that formaldehyde boils at 115 degrees and that he'd understood there were problems at mausoleums in the Southwest.

If Batesville already knew about hot weather mausoleum problems (long before Barbara Osborne bought her protective casket), what would this study show? I wasn't able to learn much in the way of details because the first graduate student on the project, Brent Goodman, had signed a silence agreement with Batesville at the beginning of the study. I had to glean bits and pieces from others.

Every month for the first few years, data would be collected and sent off to a Batesville laboratory in Indiana. That included a paper tape where a stylus had logged the daily temperature and humidity inside each casket/vault. Liquids were drawn out with a manual pump. Those samples, along with gas samples, were shipped off, too. By the end of three years, there wasn't much change in the composition of the samples, but the study has continued on for nearly five years more, with liquid and air drawn less frequently. (In contrast, bodies exposed to the elements had finished the decomposition process and were totally dehydrated in a fraction of the time.)

If different caskets and different embalming methods were used, as I'd been told, was there an obvious difference from one to the next? And where did Batesville get the bodies for these four above-ground vaults and another two buried in the hillside. Dr. Marks didn't know.

When I called Batesville to see what I could learn, I was referred to Joe Weigel, director of public relations for the casket company. He was very cordial and very smooth. He told me that the reason Batesville did the study was to "help Dr. Bass build more knowledge and to help improve our products." When I asked what they learned, he said the study wasn't finished— "We don't have enough information yet." That was strange, I said, because after the first three years, there apparently was no change in the character of samplings. He insisted that the project wasn't over. Maybe I'll call him again in September—five months from now—when it is.

As to where Batesville got the bodies—through "the proper channels for scientific study" was all Weigel would say. Mmmmm. I suspect that's a new wrinkle for body donors to consider.

If there had been any substantial revelation in this study, it likely would have been put to good use in the industry as soon as it was known. Having read the trade journals for over 12 years, I've seen no such news appear.

My guess is that this study merely verified what any cemeterian and most funeral directors already know: Embalmed or not, dead bodies decompose to one degree or another. And a sealed casket creates a smelly stew.

Last Updated ( Monday, 14 July 2008 14:41 )  
Comments (102)
1 Friday, 10 October 2008 11:55
I think it is just horrible to prey on families with the "sealed caskets", etc. I don't encourage people to purchase sealed caskets. I encourage people to buy caskets purely for the looks and make it clear that when caskets are surrounded by flowers they all look very similar. I sell funerals for 1/4 what other funeral directors sell for and I stay very busy. The funeral industry is full of funeral directors that are waiting to prey on the consumer.
2 Friday, 11 September 2009 15:35
rita van wetten
dr. Marks. is it at all possible that phenol and cresol found in the jaw, tooth, brain, liver and kidneys of a buried body and nowhere in the soil have been part of decomposition or due to embalming?
3 Monday, 21 September 2009 15:03
Ann Allegrini
My sister is considering an above the ground burial, but is not sure if bugs can enter the casket of those buried in those walls.

We were told when we buried our parents that they would stay intact and look as if they were just buried for about 25 yeras. This isn't true? There's the "stew" you spoke about. That happens in mausoleums too? Bugs happen too?

Isn't cremation cleaner?

Ann
4 Monday, 21 September 2009 15:19
Josh Slocum
Hi Ann,

The truth is that no matter where you're buried - in the ground, or in a crypt above ground - microbes and bugs are going to be there. There is nothing you can buy - no type of casket, no sealing vault - that will stop decomposition or keep air, water, dirt, or fauna out for any indefinite period of time.

Anyone who told you that a person buried in a mausoleum will look just the way they did 25 years ago is lying, and in a particularly cruel way.

It's wise to remember that decomposition is a natural process, and that there's nothing you can do to stop it. Folks like your sister are ripe targets for a funeral home or cemetery willing to take advantage of her fears about decomposition and bugs in order to sell her overpriced options that won't do a thing to stop it.

I think it's far better for her to try to stop focusing on things she cannot change (what happens to her dead body and the fact that it will decompose), and that - truthfully - she's not going to know about anyway. Otherwise, she'll have her pocketbook emptied by an unscrupulous salesman.


Josh Slocum
exec. director, FCA
5 Thursday, 19 November 2009 12:50
dick
i think this is very intersting
6 Thursday, 10 June 2010 20:12
J. Cofer
I talked to a cemetery lot salesman today because I was interested in 2 burial lots. We discussed the prices of the lots then went into the other costs affiliated with a burial. The morturary is a separate expense, i.e., casket, flowers, viewing, church services, and grave side service. The burial site will have you making decisions in minutes. First, there is the valt that is necessary to keep the ground from caving in, and there are types ranging from $1000 to $2500. The salesman was quick to say that the $1,000 valt was not "waterproof". I asked him, " Well, who would want to know that they buried their loved one in a valt that would allow water to seep in?
He said, "You would be surprised". I have researched and now know that there is no casket, valt, container, that will keep the body intact, indefinitely. A sealed tight container is the worse, because the loved one produces various gases and substances that will create a "stew", like a crock pot! I would certainly not want that. I now realize that decomposition is not a bad thing and that it is nature's way of doing the right thing for the right reasons. A simple wooden coffin is the best way to go, and I would get the least expensive liner/valt that meets specifications and commit our loved one to the soil, from whence they came. Remember man, that thou art dust, and to dust (earth) ye shall return. Remember the joy and love and bury your loved ones with dignity and love for nature. You will have enough expenses with the opening and closing of the grave site, the memorial marker, and if it is a Saturday, you will pay extra in some states because the crews are all part of a union and they get extra pay. Remember, this is a business and don't think that you need to be prey to the "emotional Pocket book syndrome". Use the left over money to help someone in need, have a great party celebrating their life and know that you did your very best. A good lesson was learned by me today!
7 Thursday, 10 June 2010 20:19
Josh Slocum, FCA Executive Director
Kudos to you, J. Cofer! I'm glad the article helped put your mind at ease about the condition of the body at burial. I doubt many of us would think, on our own, that we "needed" a "waterproof vault" if it weren't for the salesmanship in the industry. It's good to get free of unrealistic expectations and fears (cheaper, too).
8 Monday, 05 July 2010 14:46
peter santamaria
after reading all these articles, which i found extremely interesting i am going to be cremated....My mind is made up..
9 Thursday, 08 July 2010 15:01
Tyler Batley
Rotting in the ground or burning in a retort. Before you commit to cremation, perhaps you should read an article or two describing what exactly happens during that process. Of course, as Mr. Slocum says, it's best to not focus on what you can't change and won't even know about.
10 Friday, 30 July 2010 21:55
MantaRay
Simple question to people who work or have worked in the cemetery business. As far as Mausoleums/crypts go.....how fast/slow is the decomposing stage in a regular environment (in other words not in the AZ desert, but just the middle of the road conditions and with the casket not sealed). I'm sure some of you have seen the insides of caskets stored in crypts from a few months to several decades. I was just wondering what is a typical timeline and what would be seen or not seen.

So like after 10 years? 40 years? 75 years?

Thanks in advance for your reply...I always wondered about this.
11 Saturday, 14 August 2010 16:56
Anonymous funeral director/embalmer
Hi MantaRay, I'm happy to answer your question regarding the decomposition of human remains that are interred in crypts. Crypts have air vents and drains in them. The crypt floor has a slight slope to it to allow body fluids to flow towards the back of the crypt where the drain is, should they leak out of the casket. Using an unsealed casket allows dry air to flow over the remains. As the body decomposes, body fluids start to leak out of the remains. By having airflow, this allows the fluids to evaporate and allows for dessication of the body (drying up) The end result is a dehydrated, body. Some faces are recognizable and some are not. Each is uniquely different. There are many variables on how long this process could take. Are the remains inside an air conditioned mausoleum, or are the remains outside in wall crypts where the temperatures can get very hot. But it's been my experience that the remains in a non-sealed casket are usually completely dessicated within 7-10 years.

Sealer caskets on the other hand, do not allow any air to reach the remains or for any body fluids to evaporate. And that allows for up to several gallons of body fluids and embalming fluids for the remains to float in, and turn to mush. Eventually, the fluids will eat through the casket from the inside, and leak out into the crypt chamber. In some cases, it can run down the front of the crypt into the public area and make a horrific mess. Not only in sight, but smell as well. And don't forget, that since a sealer casket doesn't allow gasses to escape, the casket remains under pressure, and when it leaks, it comes out under force. Most crypts are designed and built to take care of this problem behind the scenes, so the public never knows. But in some cases, there are leaks.

I hope this answers your question. I apologize for being graphic in my description, but I want to give you an honest answer. My credentials are over 35-years in the funeral industry.
12 Friday, 20 August 2010 21:01
Mike Nichols
Your answers to these questions are the best I've ever read, and I've learned more from the past few minutes of reading your writings, than I've known in my lifetime. Thank you for your to the point, up front answers.
13 Sunday, 29 August 2010 18:11
MantaRay
:-)
14 Wednesday, 01 September 2010 22:52
Eric
This is more or less a followup to an answer already given previously. My dad passed away in April 2008 from esophageal cancer and is buried indoors in an air conditioned/heated moseleum on the heart level. I have seen the insides of the crypts. They are solid concrete all the way around with no openings (solid cement tube). The only part that is not solid concrete is the front. That has a marble front. The casket is placed on a tray that has sides to it. On average, how much of the body can i expect to see to be still around right now ? Since the crypt is indoors and the crypt walls have no openings (solid cement tube), how can there be bugs/insects/flies ? If there are bugs, how would they get in ? Where would they come from ? I know there is no exposure to temperature changes or to water/moisture. It just seems that when a person is buried indoors in a crypt that is solid concrete on all sides except the front, it would serve to isolate the remains from the outside.
15 Sunday, 31 October 2010 21:47
Lucy
When being burried, are you required to buy a vault?
16 Sunday, 14 November 2010 22:52
cool in washington
I purchased two indoor crypts several years ago but now have been taking more of an interest due to a diagnosis of a terminal disease. I've been to the mausoleum several times in the last few months. There is a very strong odor in there; not particularly that of discomposing bodies but more of an embalming fluid, chemical kind of smell. The casket that I chose is a Batesville with the seal. From reading these comments I think I am better off to choose a less expensive coffin minus the "seal" feature because I don't really care about being preserved, nearly as much as becoming a toxic stew. I'm completely happy to just dessicate and become a skeleton. Burial is simply not an option for me personally because of the claustaphobia issues and cremation is out as well. Do you think that the mortuary would answer my questions honestly if I asked to meet with them about my concerns, ie: the odor, the decomposition, the seal?
17 Monday, 15 November 2010 17:33
Josh Slocum, FCA Exec. Director
Hi there,

I don't know whether the funeral home will be honest with you, but we can hope so. You're right that a sealer is exactly the kind of casket you *don't* want in a mausoleum. Or, you could give the funeral home and mausoleum permission to not to lock the lid down so that air can get in (but yes, the extra expense of a sealed casket is a waste of money).

If you go to funeral home and mausoleum to ask, please come back and report what they say!
18 Sunday, 28 November 2010 21:53
Joe O.
Most modern mausoleums do have drains/vents built into them, mainly because of sealer caskets that have ruptured, sometimes spraying body fluids within the chamber. You can look around the 'net and find stories about families who have sued funeral homes after buying these sealer caskets. I hope more people begin choosing "green" funeral options, which do away with embalming and caskets. Basically you are wrapped in a biodegradable cloth, then placed in a biodegradable container such as a wicker basket, bamboo or anything that will deteriorate quickly and cleanly. No vault is needed and you simply decompose in the ground and used by nature as plant/insect food. Honestly, you won't know what method is used once you're gone and I'd rather not having my family spending a lot of money to stick in a hole, never to be seen again. To the gentleman who was afraid of the mausoleum due to claustrophobia, I assure you that no matter how you're buried, you're gonna be in tight quarters. More importantly, you will not know about it so I would suggest the cheapest method that allows your family to grieve and say goodbye without putting a financial strain on them. If you have insurance, thats great. let them spend it on something they can use versus sticking it in a hole to rot and decay with you. I am being very serious here. I understand that we have so many traditions that are hard to break; I just don't want my family robbed by a funeral home while they're in the midst of grieving...which is a bad time to have to buy funeral services.
19 Monday, 03 January 2011 20:56
George Slade
After reading Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and the above comments about "green" funeral options versus the gruesome, god-awful notion of a body stewing in formaldehyde and a "sealed" casket, I'm more convinced that the less energy used to convert my flesh back into dust, the better. I'd prefer not to take up cubic footage once I'm gone. Let places and memories carry me forward; let people remember me wherever they want.
20 Friday, 07 January 2011 17:43
Elizabeth W.
I read through the comments and saw "Peter"'s response that he's made up his mind about cremation. After reading this, I have to say it certainly looks like a better option. That said... what IS involved in cremation - from a non-biased sales-oriented point of view? This article was incredibly informative, and I'd like to find something similar about crematory services also.
21 Sunday, 13 February 2011 19:31
Tyler Batley
Ask your funeral director why sealers are so much better when their "top of the line" are most likely uber expensive wood caskets that don't seal. Prepare for a song and dance fit for Broadway.

Still, I'm going in a B'vlle Oregon. Just leave the vent cap off.
22 Tuesday, 29 March 2011 00:17
Living Forever
Keep breathing is the secret to long life.
23 Sunday, 12 June 2011 02:29
Ugh.
Horrific. OMG. : (
24 Sunday, 30 October 2011 08:41
marc stayduhar

Hi all, I can't remember where, but I recently glanced over an article on mausoleums that where leaking in the western PA area where I live. That got me to thinking- both my parents, and several aunts, uncles, and cousins are interred above ground in mausoleums. I have always realized that embalming is to keep things tidy during viewing, and in no way gaurantees no decay. However, I never gave any thought to leaving the casket lids slightly open in the crypts. I can remember bumping heads with my families funeral home's ( the one all my relatives have passed through) owner/director back in 1985 when my mother passed on. He tried to tell me that the casket I chose for her was gauranteed water tight for thirty years, and told him he was full of crap! I have been in construction all my adult life and I can accurately tell you "nothing" is water tight around here for thirty years! But that didn't matter because she was interred above ground. Here in the northeast I wonder if the time of year will determine the rate of decomp? It seems logical that, as an example, my parents where interred in Nov, and Dec, and my aunt in july.  I think this week, I'm going to pay the cemetery a vist and get some answers, along with the funeral director. I hate being lied to, and I will kic k ass and take names if that is the case! thanks for a great article, more people need to read up on this subject regardless of their ability to handle the truth. It's just another fact of life.

25 Wednesday, 29 February 2012 23:41
Linda Smith

I found your article very informative as I am considering a career in embalming. I have done a lot of research on this subject and so far your article has given the most information. I believe that the dead should be shown respect and the utmost care when they are laid to rest. My mother passed while living in Florida and I was living in Indiana. Due to greedy relatives her funeral and service were arranged and carried out within three days. I got to Florida a half hour before the funeral. She looked terrible. She didn't have her teeth in or her glasses on, and her hair was not combed. She was buried in the same housecoat duster she died in. The funeral home said they recieved a dress for her, but then lost it. She was buried in such a shameful way, and that got me wondering how many people this happens to. I know that if I were in charge of someone's loved one, I would do my very best to make them presentable and send them off with the dignity everyone deserves.

26 Thursday, 15 March 2012 16:20
Paco May

Mary Roach's book is great - I recommend to everyone - this article was very informative for sure.. not sure if I will do burial or cremation, but would sure like to know more about the cremation options - since you can't be there during the process, how do you know you are getting the right ashes back? What if they lump you in with someone else to save money? I'm sure that stuff must happen if there are so many unscrupulous people in the funeral industry...


Can someone clue us in regarding cremation and how to ensure you are getting back your person and not a "mix"


Thanks!

27 Thursday, 15 March 2012 17:39
Josh Slocum, FCA Exec. Director

Hey Paco,


There's no absolutely fool-proof way to know you're getting the right ashes unless you witness the cremation (some funeral homes and crematories allow this; others don't). From time to time you will hear of multiple bodies being cremated together or ashes being mixed up, but that's pretty rare.  While there are dishonest people in the business, most funeral home and crematory operators make a concerted effort to do the right thing when it comes to cremation and returning the ashes. 


Some questions to ask of a business:



  • What's your chain-of-custody process throughout the service?

  • Do you cross-check paperwork and identity when retrieving a body or delivering it to a third-party crematory? What is the crematory's own procedure? 

  • Are bodies tagged with wrist or ankle bands?

  • Do you use a metal disc with a unique ID number that survives the cremation process? 


Of course, it's hard to know what's happening behind closed doors, but I don't think it's worth much anxiety. Even if you get the wrong ashes you're very likely never going to know.


Thanks for writing!

28 Wednesday, 28 March 2012 12:17
Fudge - Hartlepool - England
My mum passed away in March 2008 of a very rare form of cancer, although it has taken me such a long time to get passed lots of demons connected to mum's death, one demon I can't seem to get passed is the image I have in my head about the state of her body inside her coffin. I have never been a person who is easily upset or horrified with blood and guts or anything connected to death etc... But now after all of this time I feel ready to know about how a cadaver does decompose naturally in the ground, and I do think that having this knowledge will help me to dispel these demons that I have been living with for so long now.
Mum was buried in a very dense clay soil and along with our great British weather the ground at the cemetary becomes very soggy and wet throughout the winter months, one thing that I cant help but notice every week when I visit her grave is the fact that the plot where she is burried is sinking and the headstone seems to be also sinking slightly to one side too! Is this because of the decomposition of her body? would her coffin after this time have rotted away therefore causing the sinking in of the soil? I'd also like to know would any of her clothes still be visible? I have so many questions that I would like to ask because I do feel that knowing the answers to them will help me with my healing process, plus I still don't know as yet if I want to be buried or cremated myself!!
I would basically just like to know what my mum's body will be like now after 4 years and then maybe after 10 years for example under normal conditions please?!
This information would be greatly appreciated if anyone can help me, and I would also like to say that all of the information I have learned from this site already has been such a great help too, and thank you to everyone who has taken their time to answer other people's questions.

Keep breathing for as long as you can everyone :-)
29 Tuesday, 03 April 2012 12:13
Thomas
For religious folks, the Bible makes it clear; "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return" (Genesis 3:19). For non-believers, it's ''nature at work''. Decomposition of the organic material (including our loved ones) should not be prevented, it is against the laws of nature and we know that humankind can not beat the nature,so all those preservation studies are vain attempts. Actually Orthodox Jews and Muslims encourage their flock ''green burial'' in order to accelerate the natural decomposition process. In Israel, people are buried without coffins, just with tallit (burial shroud) because they take the Biblical verse literally. I think we should bury our deceased in coffins due to sanitary reasons (without a coffin or container, you can still smell the stench of rotting flesh buried underground through soil cracks when it's hot in summer) but all those so-called ''protective,sealed'' caskets are useless money traps. And i think those casket manufacturers should stop selling such ''sealed caskets'' and they should produce coffins which would allow the natural decomposition instead, as the way it should be!
30 Tuesday, 03 April 2012 12:29
Josh Slocum, FCA Exec. Director
Thomas wrote:

" but all those so-called ''protective,sealed'' caskets are useless money traps."

Absolutely agreed. But:

" I think we should bury our deceased in coffins due to sanitary reasons (without a coffin or container, you can still smell the stench of rotting flesh buried underground through soil cracks when it's hot in summer)"

That is absolutely untrue and I wonder who told you that. That simply does not happen. Coffins wouldn't stop that anyway as many of them break apart very soon after burial.
31 Tuesday, 03 April 2012 16:12
Thomas
That's the regulation in Austria and many other parts of the continental Europe (caskets/outer container required for burials) .

And if it's an above-ground interment, the deceased must be interred in a lead-lined coffin by law.

Unlike in US, there is limited available cemetery space and cemeteries re-use old graves after a suitable lapse of time, as it's a common practice in Europe. The bright side is, people can ''adopt'' old Victorian or Gothic monuments and the overall deterioration of the cemetery minimized. In France, they adopted a standard practice of issuing 30-year leases on gravesites, so that if a lease is not renewed by the family, the remains can be removed, space made for a new grave. The exhumed remains (mostly skeletal) are stored in smaller boxes in an ossuary (a chapel on the cemetery grounds built for this purpose). I know most people in US wouldn't like the idea of burying a loved one in a ''second-hand grave'' but in overly populated places such as NYC where they run out of grave space,this option should be considered.
32 Tuesday, 03 April 2012 16:31
Thomas
And i know many European funeral directors use less formalin compared to US or Canada (dilluted with water) when they embalm, because the aim is short-term preservation, as the cemeteries re-use old graves, the natural decomposition of the body is encouraged. Since the climate is cold and wet, the embalming may cause adipocere formation (known as 'grave wax') in wet soil and that's something unwanted..In Germany, they sometimes use some chemicals to accelerate the decomposition.
33 Tuesday, 03 April 2012 18:56
Thomas
It's impossible to give a definite answer to such questions like ''What does my mum/dad/son etc. look like after spending years in the grave?'' because it varies greatly (depending on the climate,soil type etc.) and each individual case is unique. It is impossible to know the macabre answer unless you exhume the body..As a matter of fact, decomposition is faster in temperate climates and sandy porous soil (because the decomposition process requires oxygen). Due to this reason, (the ability of breaking down organic material into simple forms) when they establish and open a new cemetery/burial ground, sandy soil is preferred over clay..Dry, low-humidity climates can lead to mummification, as the skin dehydrates and brownish,leathery appearance occurs...On the contrary, when the climate is too wet and cold, the water-logged graves might turn bodies into wax corpses which is caused by adipocere formation - a form of 'mummification' ; then the skin has a greasy,waxy look with mold growing.. When forensic examiners determine the time of death, they use ''Casper's ratio''..when there is free access of air, a body decomposes twice as fast than if immersed in water, and eight times faster than if buried in earth..Under normal circumstances, a human body shows the external signs of decomposition within first week (3-to-7 days). According to Casper's ratio, it is equal to around 20-50 days when the body is buried underground,depending on the depth of grave,how deep it's dug..(shallow burial=faster decomposition) and the type of casket/vault (access to oxygen). And as a matter of rule, autopsied bodies (or any trauma) rot faster,regardless of embalming,whether embalmed or not. And plus, depending on medications (or drugs) that the deceased person was taking, can adversely affect the embalming fluid (one of the reasons why late Anna Nicole Smith was decomposing faster than expected). Wooden or metal casket? Wood allows faster but natural decomposition whilst rubber-gasketed metal caskets keep the remains longer; but might create this smelly stew,mushy skin (like those 'undead' zombies you see in horror movies). An unembalmed body that's buried in a wooden coffin (most likely) starts to decompose between 1 and 3 months (depending on the season of the year) but as i said, each case is unique and there is no definite answer.

But it shouldn't really matter ,since they are no longer our ''loved ones'' but rather empty shells,that's why we call them ''remains''...
I heard from so many people attending a viewing/open casket funeral saying '' That wasn't my mum/dad/grandma etc. in the coffin'' . The person is gone when the body is deprived of the life of the spirit, it's just like when you cut your nails or hair, it's not a part of your body anymore..
34 Sunday, 29 April 2012 16:19
Wisconsin
WOW! What an awesome education I have received here. This was really helpful to me in making decisions not only for myself but for my parents pre-burial planning. The funeral home that I had visited recently, did mention the gasket seal of the casket. They also promoted the 18 gauge steel caskets. Now I know what I am looking for. The only problem I have to contend with now is the vault requirement by the cemetery. It was suggested to me to get a fiberglass casket so no vault is needed. But I don't think the cemetery is going to go for that. I will be looking at wooden caskets and purchasing the cheapest vault available. Where do I look for my states embalming requirements? I never did like the idea of embalming. Thank you, Thank you for this site!
35 Sunday, 29 April 2012 20:45
Josh Slocum
So glad you found it useful! What state are you in? You might check out the downloadable state chapters from the book Final Rights. You can find them in our bookstore. I'll be happy to answer your questions here too.
36 Friday, 01 June 2012 13:33
darwin drake
there is one way to preserve a body. Freeze drying with polymerization. This is a long drawn out process that few can afford. The body is flash frozen then placed into a vacuum chamber. This removes all the moisture in the body and then the body is treated which basically turns you into a chunk of plastic. My preference is to lay me out in the open air and let nature take its course. As everyone has said, You are dead and will not know anything going on.
37 Sunday, 03 June 2012 17:22
Alan Brandt
Freeze drying a body will only preserve it long enough for the dust-mites to send out the invitation to the feast. Once dust-mites finds a freeze dried corpse, an hour is about all it will take for the body to completely vanish.
38 Thursday, 14 June 2012 18:04
Darlene Stampley
Today my Mother was cremated. After reading all of this, I am sure we made the right choice.
39 Thursday, 16 August 2012 16:30
Tod Peterson
Okay, we have talked about the lack of oxygen by using "sealer caskets" and the implications of that in "above ground" burials. However, even if you use a wooden/non sealer casket, place in a vault and bury at 6 feet, there is still no oxygen. So it does not matter if you use sealed, or non sealed with a ground burial and vault, or even no vault for that matter....there is no oxygen buried under 6 feet of dirt. Do you still become subject to anaerobic breakdown and smelly stew underground no matter what you are in?
40 Wednesday, 22 August 2012 20:08
Juanita Rodriguez
My husband was buried in a wooden casket, with a "sectioned grave liner" in 1987 in Eugene, Or where we get a lot of rain.
I have recently discovered a lovely old cemetery near my house and want to have his remains disinterred.
After 25 years in this climate, do you think ANYTHING is left?
What are my options if I want "him" moved to this nearby cemetery?
41 Friday, 24 August 2012 23:06
Tom Puckett
The Body Farm is in a "remote location?" Bull!!! It is on the hill directly behind University of Tennessee hospital. It is behind the hospital's employee parking lot. The body farm does great work but I find it disgusting that they were, and probably still are, on Batesville retainer. It is funded by the State of Tennessee and my tax dollars. A body will rot. There is no question about that. Nothing will stop it short of mummification. I'd much rather be cremated than to lie in a metal box stewing in my own juices.
42 Sunday, 26 August 2012 15:20
Tod Peterson
Juanita

I doubt there would be much remaining. Absent a sealed vault, water soaked the wooden casket and it would be gone by now. Essentially, your husband is in the ssoil surrounding the casket. There would be some remains though. Maybe more than you would expect. However, in your situation and with the time that has passed and the way he was buried, bones and clothing might be it. You would need to purchase a new casket, (they can be found online at very reasonable cost), get appropriate approvals and then begin the process. I wish you the best.
43 Wednesday, 05 September 2012 20:25
antonio
On tha mornin jan 13 2003 my grandmother died in her sleep i miss her so its been ten years we buried her in a vault an a regular metal casket i wonder wat she look like now
44 Thursday, 06 September 2012 12:47
Percy Persinger
moved grandmom and grandad out of an indoor mausoleum that was falling apart last fall. She was buried in a sealed batesville copper casket. he was placed in the mausoleum in 1959. she was in the mausoleum since 1962 and even though it was sealed she was "dried out" her hair and clothes were perfect as if they had just been done. same story for grandad - according to the funeral director. We used the same caskets to reinter because they were perfect condition
45 Thursday, 04 October 2012 21:11
Marilyn
My mother has made arrangements to have her remains interred in an above-ground mausoleum. Is embalming required(IL)? What happens to her remains a century or two from now when the concrete mausoleum starts crumbling? I am wondering if before my death, or her grandchildren's death, if we should have her remains eventually interred in the ground in some remote cemetery out in the country where hopefully they will not be touched again. Would this be a good idea if I want to make sure her bones are not just thrown in a trash dump in a few centuries when the mausoleum building deteriorates and must be destroyed?
46 Friday, 05 October 2012 13:23
Josh Slocum, FCA Exec. Director
Hi Marilyn,

The truth is that everyone's remains, sooner or later, will go back to the earth. There is literally nothing you can do to ensure that the bones won't be touched, crushed, or scattered with time in hundreds of years. Though it's understandable that we want to know our families' bodies remain in their grave while descendants are around who have an interest in this, trying to control the remains centuries in the future is not only impossible but strikes me as an unhelpful stressor. Even if you could, somehow, control this, the truth is you'll never know after you've died. Be very careful about anyone in the burial business making promises to you about perpetuity---that's a fast ticket to draining your wallet.

We all make a mark on this earth---small or large---during our time on it. The dissolution of our bodies and bones doesn't negate that. I recommend focusing on the memories and good deeds done by our deceased family members instead of ruminating on the bones they've left behind.

I hope this is helpful.
47 Friday, 05 October 2012 13:33
Josh Slocum, FCA Exec. Director
Oh, and your question on embalming. No, it's not required in any state, including Illinois, as a condition of mausoleum burial. Some mausoleums require it though. Remember that embalming is a *very* temporary preservation---it's only really meant to slow decomposition down enough to allow a viewing.
48 Tuesday, 18 December 2012 22:28
Betty R Knight
Gee, I want to be respectful to the dead and the living. From dust to dust. RIP.
49 Sunday, 30 December 2012 21:31
Chris
Hi, my mother just passed away this friday, I am going to be shopping for a casket this week for her, she will be buried underground. What should I be looking for?
50 Friday, 11 January 2013 01:06
Keith
I really appreciate this web site. My mother died several hours ago and I have to visit the funeral home tomorrow. I now have the knowledge to make a better decision. I thank God for your web site and hopefully make a better decision for my mother.

Keith
51 Monday, 04 March 2013 12:55
Sue
Will a vault rupture from the gases excaped from the body?
52 Friday, 22 March 2013 14:30
Steve
After reading this I have decided that I will be buried somewhere in the Arctic...How much could it cost to fly a body from the USA , and have someone put me in a wooden box a few feet under the ice?

I remember about 10-15 years a go reading a National Geographic article with photos of a couple of bodies discovered in the Arctic, that were sailors from a waling ship that got stuck in the ice in 1840. There was almost no decomposition. Their bodies and clothing looked like they could sit up and ask for a warm cup of coffee!!!

I am SURE it would be cheaper than being frozen in liquid nitrogen for a hundreds years with the hope of being re-animated in the year 3013!

But this is all mute, because like all of us, we don't REALLY think WE are going to die..do we? No, it's always the other guy!
53 Saturday, 23 March 2013 16:40
grumpy gus
to crib a phrase from Woody Allen"I'm not afraid of death I just don't want to be there when it happens".
54 Monday, 25 March 2013 00:55
NPR
I used to work in a funeral home in Illinois, and I'm sure the laws very from state to state but in Illinois rest assured the cremated remains you get back are indeed those of your loved one. The process here goes like this: when a body is ready for cremation 2 ID tags are made with a number designated for each corpse, that number is exclusive to that person and that person only. It can be referenced back to in information on file of the decedent. One tag is placed in with the body the other is hung on an information card on the outside of the retort. When cream action is complete the numbers are matched up and the tag that was in the retort with the remains goes inside the urn with the cremaines and the other stays in the deceased file. That way if their is ever any question about the identity of the remains the info can be verified at the funeral home.
55 Wednesday, 03 April 2013 09:47
Louis
Just wish I could be buried in a pine box and on the side of a hill here in rural Appalchia. Water runs downhill, so drainage would be taken care of. No chance of "stewing in my own juices." Bury me like they would have two hundred years ago.
56 Thursday, 11 April 2013 16:56
John Campbell
I've still not seen an answer to an earlier question. We've pretty much established that sealer caskets are extra large "crock pots". But, when you put a wooden and or non-sealer metal casket in the ground and in an AIR TIGHT VAULT......don't you get the same "stew" even though you've selected a casket that doesn't seal? Aren't those deluxe, heavy duty, plastic,steel,copper and bronze lined vaults every bit as bad as sealer caskets? Seems like a wooden casket and porus concrete, non seal vault would be the best bet.
57 Tuesday, 16 April 2013 20:59
John
All of the above can be reasonable, and true. The biggest factor in embalming, and preservation is the condition of the subject to be embalmed, the conditions in which interment will take place. I have conducted many dis interments. I have seen bodies buried more than 20 years still be in very good condition, in Batesville, Aurora and other manufacturers. I have also witnessed the opposite. Embalming is a science. The skill of the practitioner, his/her level of experience and conditions of the deceased are important. Bodies embalmed for medical schools are kept for many years after being embalmed. Look at Lenin, Stalin, the have been on display for decades. Abraham Lincoln's body was recognizable many years after he was embalmed, and he was carted around on a train, and buried in a lead casket. Embalming is only as good as the embalmer, chemicals and techniques used.
John
58 Monday, 13 May 2013 13:38
Kat Rios
My grandson and I had a conversation in the mausoleum my parents are in. He said the bugs can get in the caskets there just like in the ground. Out of the mouths of babes! I want to be cremated because I know it is cheaper and cleaner. The only question left is how much money does it takes to fire up the oven? We have some friends that just pre-paid about 20,000.00 dollars for their two plots etc. I want to go as cheap as possible, bugs or no bugs.
59 Monday, 20 May 2013 19:44
S Young
I have learned more on this subject with tonight's reading than I have in my whole life. That being said, my father in law passed and we buried him in a " cheap" casket, as life insurance was minimal. I have felt guilty for years about this, the funeral director informing us that it will not stay tightly closed. I feel better now and am glad we made that choice of inexpensive casket at that time. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge.
60 Friday, 24 May 2013 13:23
Josh Slocum, exec. director
S. Young, you can't imagine how good it was to read that. That's what we hope to do for people. Thank you for letting us know we helped!

If you email me through the site (click contact) with your full contact information I'd love to make you a member of our organization.
61 Saturday, 01 June 2013 13:49
SC
Just because you're underground doesn't make it oxygen free. There is air in the casket, there is air in the vault and yes, air in the soil. There may not be enough for a human being but plenty for little microbs and insects. and yes there are plenty of anaerobic critters to help out.
62 Sunday, 18 August 2013 19:48
Patrick Huey
As a 22yr veteran embalmer let me assure you that we embalm for, yes, temporary preservation, as well as disinfection of the body, but also, and in my opinion the most important part of my job is to restore a peaceful and lifelike appearance to your loved one, as well as repair any damage done by accident or disease. I strive to achieve a look of peaceful serenity. This is especially important when your loved one has suffered a long, debilitating disease or sickness. It's been my experience that when mom or dad looks peaceful and at rest and no longer has the look of sickness and debilitation it makes letting go much, much easier for the family as mom or dad no longer looks like they are suffering and in pain. It is amazing how much better a good, skilled embalmer can make someone look if they take the time to make the extra effort. A lot of what we are able to achieve is due to quality chemicals, but it really comes down to the skill and ability of the professional embalmer. We are not, nor have we ever striven to create future museum pieces. I try to create a lasting memory. We all will decompose and turn to dust eventually and once we are dead and buried how that process is achieved really does not matter. None of us will know the difference. Viewing the properly embalmed and prepared body is very beneficial and therapedic for many and aids the bereavement process. Remember the funeral process is for the living, not the dead.
63 Monday, 19 August 2013 13:35
D.J. Dilworth
Re: Patrick Huey - AMEN!!!!
64 Thursday, 29 August 2013 23:55
Ross
Amazing and such a wealth of knowledge here. My nephew was murdered 2 yrs ago and the funeral people were so fast to sell my grieving brother the "sealed casket". It pains me so much to know that my nephew is in a disgusting stew because of greedy sales people. I wish there was something I could do, but know I can't. I just know that I will choose the non-sealed casket for myself and tell my loved ones to opted for that too. Thank you to all of you who took the time to help us learn about this painful process of putting our loved ones to rest and not be ripped off by greed and lies of many, like what we went thru with my nephew. Thank you!!!
65 Sunday, 01 September 2013 15:15
Sandy
Great info, a lot of knowledge.. I just learned a whole lot, so when the time comes for anyone of my loves ones, I'll know what to do, thanks
66 Monday, 02 September 2013 01:27
Robert
Patrick, I agree with you 100%. My friends 11 year old daughter was killed in a automobile accident and we were at the trauma center after she was pronounced dead from her injuries. I remember seeing her body, her face and arms were shattered from the impact. I was shocked to learn later that it was to be an open casket viewing. When I walked up to view her at the service, I was preparing myself for that same horrible sight. I was absolutely stunned when I looked at her! The massive injuries to her face were no longer visible. She looked completely unscathed. I don't know how this illusion was achieved, but I'm very thankful that was the "memory picture" and not what I saw at the hospital. It was very comforting for her family and myself to see her intact with no visible injuries and looking totally peaceful.
67 Wednesday, 09 October 2013 20:31
Deborah
I've always told my husband, if I die before he does just put me in the cheapest wooden box you can find. Now I learn there are "green" caskets made of cardboard (not U-Haul grade I'm sure) they run just over $100.00. In 1991 my father-in-law prepaid for plots, vaults, open/closing fees, grave markers etc. for both his children and their spouses. So, in theory when both my husband and I die it should only cost a little over $100 bucks for burial....and the fact that it's a "green" burial makes it even better! (Why do I sound excited about this?)
68 Wednesday, 16 October 2013 09:08
Shiraz
This was all fascinating stuff - the article as well as reading everybody's thoughts and questions. Sorry--I but not wanting to be buried in a casket because of "claustrophobia" is one of the funniest things I've ever heard. Actually, I'm not sorry at all, that is absolutely ridiculous. I feel sorryforffor display and I was trying to find out how long that might take. foror for those who want to cling to this life as a "preserved" body for a couple of years when you're gonna end up as DUST anyway. You must not have any hope of eternal life in the kingdom of heaven if you think of some moldy old bones - especially your OWN! as still being a person, and I think that's sad. I also suspect these people fixated on "preserving" the body aren't organ donors, and that's not sad, it's deplorable. Burying to ROT what could give life to several different people is one of the most selfish things I can think of. People and children dying because somebody chose to say, nope, not yours! and proceed to put a pair of lungs in a hole in the dirt is awful.

A couple more things: Mr. Slocum, you might be interested to know how I found myself on this thread. I was reading about the giant oarfish they just found (google it, it's amazing!) and the article said they are going to bury it in the ground until it's decomposed and then reconstitute the skeleton
69 Wednesday, 16 October 2013 09:17
Shiraz
(It cutcouple me off lol!) --anyway, recStifftute the skeleton for display and I was trying to find out how long that would take. I was thinking wet sand would be fastest (assuming they were going to bury it in sand) but I didn't think about how the more oxygen present the faster it will decompose, as well as allowing the heat and Sun to work on it if it's closer to the surface.

The last thing is thanks for all the info! Very interesting! And I'm so impressed at the time you took to respond to so many people and with such detail, that's super nice of you. Thanks!

p.s. a couple people mentioned the book Stiff - that book rules!
70 Sunday, 20 October 2013 22:22
Ellen
Hello!

I read the book, 'Stiff', as well and I loved it!!
Anyway, I dont understand what all the fuss is with cremation. Once your dead, your dead!! Why have loved ones fuss over your dead corpse when your soul/spirit isnt even occupying it anymore? The whole idea is a waste of money. Not to mention a huge burden. When I die, Im gonna be cremated.
71 Tuesday, 22 October 2013 05:18
Br. Gregory
Greetings in Christ!!

It seems that everyone is over concerned for the dead in a very childish manner. What happens at death should not be the concern- because no matter what the body has/is placed in, it has to deteriorate (or decompose) to be cleansed of its stain of sins and then return to the dust from whence it was made of (Genesis 3:19).

The world we know of as revealed by Christ is drawing to the Fearful Judgment, so death with decay become a necessary process in our salvation. If man was to live for eternity in his sinful inclination then can you imagine the misery?! Rather the blessed God has deigned for man a trial of life to prepare for the true life, at which death is the doorway.

To correct a myth, that I've come across in these later posts; a person once passed over their soul or spirit is still a part of the fabric of time in this world. The spirit can move, can see and relate to its body as it see's it from a distance, involves in its funeral and memorial customs. At death, the spirit seeks prayer, goof deeds and commemoration in the Liturgy. It is not too concerned over funeral orations and ridiculous seal coffins or even expensive show cases. Keep the coffin and the funeral simple as following Christ's most holy burial- it was simple. Invest your monies in the Monasteries, at the 40 day liturgies in the good to others everything to benefit the SOUL of the deceased this is your concern- not everything in between.

The living should be concerned not of their death and how they will decompose- this fantasy not reality!! But should concern over a holy life, a life served in Christ and prayer: "Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy" that's all. To be concerned only in your repentance and God's will. Leave fantasy and decomposition aside.
72 Tuesday, 22 October 2013 05:21
Br. Gregory
Greetings in Christ!!

It seems that everyone is over concerned for the dead in a very childish manner. What happens at death should not be the concern- because no matter what the body has/is placed in, it has to deteriorate (or decompose) to be cleansed of its stain of sins and then return to the dust from whence it was made of (Genesis 3:19).

The world we know of as revealed by Christ is drawing to the Fearful Judgment, so death with decay become a necessary process in our salvation. If man was to live for eternity in his sinful inclination then can you imagine the misery?! Rather the blessed God has deigned for man a trial of life to prepare for the true life, at which death is the doorway.

To correct a myth, that I've come across in these later posts; a person once passed over their soul or spirit is still a part of the fabric of time in this world. The spirit can move, can see and relate to its body as it see's it from a distance, involves in its funeral and memorial customs. At death, the spirit seeks prayer, good deeds and commemoration in the Liturgy. It is not too concerned over funeral orations and ridiculous seal coffins or even expensive show cases. Keep the coffin and the funeral simple as following Christ's most holy burial- it was simple. Invest your monies in the Monasteries, at the 40 day liturgies in the good to others everything to benefit the SOUL of the deceased this is your concern- not everything in between.

The living should be concerned not of their death and how they will decompose- this is a fantasy not a reality!! But should concern over a holy life, a life served in Christ and prayer: "Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy" that's all. To be concerned only in your repentance and God's will. Leave fantasy and decomposition aside.
73 Tuesday, 22 October 2013 05:35
Br. Gregory
Greetings in Christ!!

I would like to post one more thing in relation to death and funeral customs. It is appalling that in our day and age- especially with the consent of the Pontiff in the schismatic Christian Empire actually allows cremation to take place on human corpses!! It seems quite apparent people these days have little regard to Christ's saving grace- in which a Christian at the point of his/hers Holy Baptism- their bodies are but the very temples of the Holy Spirit. Defiling the temple is not only a process of casual affair, drugs, other stimulants, poor diet, disease, etc but more so it comes at a horrible time even at death. Cremation is a pagan ritual of sacrificing the dead to Satan. It is no where enforced or even encouraged in the Gospel of Love and Truth. Christians in particular practise sacrilege in the burning of their dead. A Christian body at death may be above buried or under the ground not "burned" in an artificial chamber offering it to Satan as a sacrifice. Modernists may argue that its time for the Church to change!! Alas in the truth of the matter- the Church truly (Orthodoxy) never changes it is the Way, the Truth and the Life of the World and it is in constant motion this vehicle of truth. Only heresies and propaganda and evil, filth and destruction is a vector that moves in time. Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The truth that the Orthodox Christian Church reveals, teaches and holds should be respected, followed and appreciated by ALL humanity. For this is the TRUTH revealed for the salvation of the human race and it begins at death for those whom have been baptized into Christ. Therefore we must respect the Body of Christ that each Orthodox Christian and heretical Christian thereafter is created in and give it PROPER and DUE attention at death. We are redeemed by Blood of the Savior and His Love we are not pagans but God's inheritance. Sin does not only capture man while man lives but even when man dies- through pagan rituals and practises especially cremation!!
74 Wednesday, 30 October 2013 17:38
lorraine cameron
after reading all these comments tonight all i can say is that its cleared up a lot of my questions in my head but not the biggest one of all and that is do i want to be buried or cremated? ive decided im never gona beable to make that choice so im gona leave that choice to my family....selfish i know!!
75 Friday, 08 November 2013 03:57
Kitten
Br Gregory - While I respect your right to your own beliefs, please do not insult people who wish a different treatment for their remains upon death besides burial. I believe you meant well when you tried to school us with your religious knowledge, but please remember that not everyone subscribes to the same religion you might, and even if they do, they might interpret the "Word" differently than you do.

My personal remains are my own - it is NOT my wish to take up real estate, nor is it my wish to "stew" in a coffin in the dirt, or (worse, in my opinion) in an tomb above ground, rotting in the heat. I plan to donate any and all viable organs that medical science can use to improve the lives of others and then be cremated and scattered in a location that is close to my heart. This is my wish, and it is my fervent hope my wishes are respected when I pass away.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own preferences regarding final disposition.

Shiraz - while I personally wish to donate my organs upon my death, I respect that others wish to be disposed of with their organs intact. Simply because everyone does not wish to be harvested for organs does NOT = They are being selfish. You were born with all of your organs (most of us were, at least), and it's your right to die and whither away with all of your own organs if you so choose.

Also, I completely relate to the person above who wrote that he's claustrophic and due to his phobia, wishes to NOT be buried below ground. If he wishes to be permanently laid to rest in an above ground tomb due to this, it's well within his rights and shouldn't be belittled or patronized for his choices.

While we will not all agree on burial/disposition techniques, we must respect everyone's personal choices.
76 Tuesday, 19 November 2013 19:45
Grim Reaper
At the end of the day, the funeral industry stays in business because most of the idiots on this board buy overpriced caskets that only their loved ones will appreciate. Sealer caskets are a joke: when you're dead, you have no choice over anything. Your body will turn into dust, regardless of what casket you're in. GET OVER IT!
77 Wednesday, 27 November 2013 00:09
nevpena
Good to see there are smart people concerning economic ways to let the body go without making funer homes richer. Im a Christian. I know the Lord is going to take my soul after Im cremated. The funeral homes should worry about where their souls will go after hundreds of years preying on YOUR wallets!!! Dont try to justify your thievery which only insults people even more. And for the ones that think the crock of stew is the Christian way to go, how do you figure that? When we are resurrected, our new body will be youthful & new again...so why burden the family or help the funeral directer get richer.???
78 Monday, 09 December 2013 05:25
Jimbob
Br. Gregory. As another author just stated, I too respect your belief and your passion therefore. May I add the Christ allowed His body to be defiled? To be whipped and beaten, nailed to a cross, speared and long thongs wedged into his skull. That our body is the temple of Christ is certainly true, but only when we are alive. The Bible is clear that our home is not of this earth, that it is our spirit that is eternal, and that our bodies return to dust. A position that cremation is somehow a work of Satan offers little hope for those poor soule who perish in fiery car accidents or house fires; through which their bodies are cremated, often beyond recognition. To the Christian belief, what becomes of your body after death is irrelevant, just as God himself has not body but is Spirit. Perhaps the only concern regarding your dead body is that cremation may show more consideration of future generations as land becomes more scarce, a final selfless act, (but in no part suggesting a traditional burial is not fully honorable)
79 Wednesday, 25 December 2013 15:52
devoted daughter
A funeral home that was talked to in trying to decide which if any to choose ,without cosent written or otherwise given to the medical exa-miner or funeral home went and got my moth-ers body and even performed embalming also without permission and now is claiming to have been given verbal consent and demand- ing payment to for these services as well as to take her body back to the medical examiners . Which i also have issue with because they rel- leased her body without consent ,but they me contradictory statements about the condition. Of her body and cause of death and refused to perform an autopsy. Can someone please tell. Where or to whom i can make a formal com- plaint. Thank you anyone.
80 Thursday, 16 January 2014 17:42
kathy
Questions : Before I bought my casket, I asked the cemetery people what kind of casket is required to be in their indoor crypts. They said it must have a rubber gasket and be a metal sealer casket. So I bought a brand new casket from a supplier on Ebay for under $500. It is a 20 gage metal sealer that locks with a crank at one end,( I bought a crank too) and it also has a black rubber gasket that goes around where the lids close together. I keep it in my attic in my house locked shut. I know that this rubber gasket can come off if need be. I found out that the actual price for a rubber gasket is around $50 ( mortuaries charge like 120% more for a rubber gasket,) I was wondering will this rubber gasket be ruined with the climate changes over time with hot and cold in my attic? I live in the North Midwest USA. Also do you think that the cemetery staff will not seal my casket once they put it into the crypt, if that is requested so that my body does not turn to stew or blow up from the gas if the casket was cranked down and locked for my entombment ? Also does a body need to be embalmed with more chemicals to be entombed in an indoor crypt, compared to if a body was to be put under ground ?
81 Thursday, 16 January 2014 18:42
Kathy
I wanted to know; if I wanted to make a time capsule of photos, CD, DVD and a player etc. for the future, just incase some far in the future archeologist opens my crypt, what is the best way to preserve things about myself ? What will hold up forever inside of a casket, a plastic box sealed with silicone sealant, a vacuum sealed bag like you see on TV for clothes and stuff or whatever ? Also would it be wise to keep it at the foot of the body, or under the mattress bed ? How many inches are there after the bed is cranked down before they close the casket for good ? Also I would want to make a collage of artwork on the lid of my casket all about me and my life, what is the best thing to use to keep it from rotting off a metal casket ? I even thought about having a vinyl life size photo of me made by Fathead company stuck on top of the casket lid. I have many ideas, but need some advice on this. I am artistic and would make my own stuff if possible. I have seen wrapped caskets sold with pictures and designs on them, but since I have my own casket already seems I could make my own kind of design on it. Btw. I have lots of time to do this in, hopefully not dying very soon, but who knows, one never knows when the time is going to be, and then you think in spirit damn I should had done this sooner.
82 Friday, 17 January 2014 11:54
Josh Slocum, exec. director, FCA
Hi Kathy,

1. No gasket will hold up over time, just as no coffin will.

2. I have no idea whether the cemetery will unseal the casket. Given the lack of sensible knowledge about this I've seen in cemetery staff, nothing would surprise me. I would not, however, spend much emotional energy worrying about it.

3. Nothing is going to hold up forever inside a casket. If you want to be remembered, why not leave your personal effects and artistic creations around for the living instead of moldering in the ground?
83 Friday, 17 January 2014 16:01
Kathy
Josh, You did not really answer my question about a container for things. I guess you really do not have the answer. I thought you were a FCA director and would know something. I am not going into the ground, I said have a indoor Crypt. I want things in the casket about me for the future, like way in the future, like how the Egyptians had, and then researchers found things. How else will they know who I am if all the crypts are opened up say in 2,000 or more ? I am to be entombed next to a famous person that was my friend. The living dies and if you give your stuff to them, it ends up in the garbage, since it is not important to other people. My stuff might have importance to the future that has to do with my famous friend.
84 Friday, 17 January 2014 16:28
Josh Slocum, FCA exec. director
Kathy, it's usual when asking for advice not to be demanding about it.

I don't know what kind of container you should use. This isn't something I've spent any time researching as it's not a priority consumer advocacy issue. I wouldn't put things in your casket, though. Your body is going to decompose and it would be an awful mess all over your stuff. If you've got the crypt indoors, I'd store the things outside the casket.

And they may well not know who you are, if any archaeologist happens upon your tomb. Most of us aren't going to stand the test of time or be remembered in thousands of years.
85 Friday, 17 January 2014 17:14
Kathy
Josh, I can see your point in all that you said. I guess I seemed rude for the return comment. I have been thinking, that if nothing will be left of my body but a black chemical spill inside of my and my friends caskets, and nothing left for anyone to see as a reconizable human being, I guess cremation would be a better way to go in the long run. I can always put the crypt up for sale, (which the cost has doubled in price already) from when I paid for it in full several years ago. I guess I have this fantasy that I would still be a skeleton in a dress or something LOL. Guess not, according to another website that showed photos of a bucket when the rusted metal sealer casket turned some man's body into a gooey mess in a above ground burial crypt after a number of years. Too bad hey. As you say everything rots !
86 Tuesday, 21 January 2014 08:39
kael nevets
so uh you're saying though the public is told that their loved ones will look much as they do at the time of burial lasting some 50 years,due to the embalming,and fine casket,and vault all of this the public pays extra for trusting the funeral director at their word actually is a fraud?
87 Tuesday, 21 January 2014 08:43
kael nevets
so uh you're saying though the public is told that their loved ones will look much as they do at the time of burial lasting some 50 years,due to the embalming,and fine casket,and vault all of this the public pays extra for trusting the funeral director at their word actually is a fraud?
88 Tuesday, 21 January 2014 14:08
Josh Slocum, FCA exec. director
Hi Kathy,

Well, I think we all end up looking not very pretty in the end, no matter whether it's by burial, cremation, or something else! We're fragile stuff, we humans, and nature takes us back on its own schedule. Anyone in the funeral business who's honest will say it's impossible to tell what will or won't remain of a person after any period of time. Sometimes people end up well preserved, other times there's nothing left but a few bones, even all other things being apparently equal.

Good luck to you on whatever you choose.
89 Tuesday, 28 January 2014 16:27
al080448@gmx.com
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CANDID ANSWERS ON THE SUBJECT OF HUMAN REMAINS.
I FEEL YOU HAVE DONE A GREAT SERVICE TO MANY PEOPLE WHO OTHER WISE WOULDN'T GET THE HONEST ANSWERS. AS WE ALL KNOW MANY FUNERAL DIRECTORS ARE DIS HONEST
90 Thursday, 06 February 2014 20:33
John Merker
Dear Br. Gregory,
I agree with you wholeheartedly let's leave fantasy aside
- the tooth fairy
-Santa Clause
-the Easter Bunny
-Need I go on??
91 Friday, 07 February 2014 12:51
Wolfgang Schmidtt
Maybe Br. Gregory should diversify his portfolio to include some shares from an crematorium, as well as the cemetery, and coffin manufacturers he currently holding??!
92 Saturday, 08 February 2014 13:08
John V. Adamson
I understand what both sides of the argument are trying to focus on here. However, beating up funeral homes and those MOSTLY good people isn't fair. We all know were "rot" at some point. However, funerals are psychologically a great thing. If someone wants to buy an expensive casket then let them! If they want a cheaper casket then let them! Don't force something cheap all the time in order to make those folks look bad. Go beat up car dealerships....we all know that any car can take us from A to B. Im sure their caskets reflect every budget around. Weddings cost WAY more money than funerals, but I sure can tell you a wedding isn't guaranteed....but a funeral is cuz weddings don't last.....death does.
93 Tuesday, 11 March 2014 10:33
Michelle H.
This was a great read. And the comments were interesting as well. I have a friend who's mother-in-law just died this past weekend (Sunday into Monday).
I was looking at these websites to figure out what types of options there are, etc. They only have the ground plot covered (financially), not from her deathbed at home to when she will be laid to rest. I can see the part that needs to keep the ground from sinking, but beyond that, there isn't really any other need to "enclose" the body in more than just a pine box. After reading all of these articles and commentary, I personally don't want anyone to waste money on a "special" casket or to put me in an above ground crypt...
It is good to put the person to rest in a respectful way. It is also helpful for family members to see the person the way they "remember" them during the last showing (for emotional reasons).
From a very young age (high school and later) I already considered it rather ridiculous for people to pick out a super expensive casket for the "living" to admire for a few days.
I had not thought about the concept of the "crock pot" effect of a body being "enclosed". That kind of decay seems worse than the regular way that happens when the body is just shrouded or in a non-sealed box. I think I'd rather have the latter happen to my body. It is natural process for our bodies to decay after death (ashes to ashes).
I would think the only "upsetting" part of cemetery people removing the body to make space for the next "newly dead" person would be the financial cost the family paid to have the remains to be "in that spot".
There are some people who go to a grave sight more frequently, but there are a lot of families who just don't feel like visiting a grave.
I think it would be good to have a place in a cemetery where people can choose to have the remains (pine box) placed so that it can decompose and that spot can be where all the different families would come to visit their loved one...instead of taking up one spot and being charged out the wazoo for that spot.
There are nice people in the funeral business, but we must remember that it is a business, so they continue being in business by creating revenue.
Remember that as humans we were only meant to be upon this earth for a little while, so it isn't necessary to expect your body to be "preserved" long term after the last breath has left your body.
I hope the best for all of you, whether deciding for your own body or for the body of a loved one.
Peace to you all.
94 Tuesday, 11 March 2014 16:00
Jennifer
Why not face the facts. They are dead. Our loved ones will not continue to look the way that they looked when they were buried. There is no way to preserve the body for forever. We are a part of the cycle. We live, we die, and we contribute to the earth by becoming a part of the earth. There is no casket that is going to completely preserve our bodies for eternity. Several different types of coffins have been designed using metal, wood, steel, etc and it still comes down to the fact that we decompose, sometimes we are preserved well enough to last for years, but we will still decompose at some point. It is just a cycle of life. We are recycled by earth. We take from her and therefor when we die, we give back.
95 Thursday, 20 March 2014 12:26
Caron
Br. Gregory, you are entitled to your beliefs, but how predictable of you to use this forum to push your religious beliefs on others!!!!! You only confirmed my dislike of religion.
96 Sunday, 13 April 2014 21:55
Sue C
This was very interesting information..cremation is looking better all the time.. Thank you..
97 Wednesday, 16 April 2014 22:11
Connie H
My father passed away in 2007 and we went to the funeral home to pick out his casket and they only had batesville I believe his was a 18 gauge blue steel , But none the less he loved reading his bible everyday and always wanted a rainbow text one like mine so when he passed I laid mine in his casket open to his favorite verse to be buried with him inground because you never saw my father without a bible and a highlighter, after reading all of these informative comments I wonder if it was wrong of me to place a bible with him? of course grandchildren and great grands placed pictures and little notes with him also I just wonder if its all just rotted away
98 Wednesday, 14 May 2014 13:41
Nan
Connie,
I would not think of it as 'rotting away'. True, nothing can stay intact and perfect forever, but if nothing else, the natural processes will break the Bible and pictures and notes down, along with your father's remains. Ultimately, in a way, those things will all join and be mingled with him, one way or another. Think of it as the physical manifestation of how your memories and feelings about him are a part of you, carried in your mind and heart.

When my father-in-law died, our family put all manner of things in the casket with him. Why? Because they were things he had liked in life, and we wanted him to have nice things. Yes, it's silly from a rational standpoint, but if those things go with him and become a part of him, in a sense, then I suppose we will always be with him, just as he will always be with us in our memories. Maybe that's really why we humans have come to do such things.

It's never wrong to show respect and love to people. Just remember to treasure your loved ones while they are still alive, too. It's easy to take people for granted.
99 Tuesday, 17 June 2014 00:19
Lynn
This is a fascinating discussion and it's nice to know there are other people out there who lose sleep over this stuff! I am very interested in the mummification service that Summum offers. Can anyone tell me if and how such a process would forestall decomposition? Thanks so much.
100 Monday, 07 July 2014 13:07
Robert Harris
Thank you! Very informative site!
101 Tuesday, 12 August 2014 07:33
Bettyanna
I buried my father in 2007 and received a call from the cemetery saying that they were unable to locate the body and then another call back saying that they have finally found him and needed to move him. So I had to be there for the exhuming and reburial which was a nightmare. They exhumed the vault took it under an oak tree, proceeded to open the vault to view the casket...stupid me went running over to the casket to wipe off the water which was not water at all but body fluid. I was covered in a smell that I will never forget. They were going to put the casket in another vault and reseal for burial but, that was not going to happen because as soon as they put straps on the casket to lift it out of the vault the bottom of the casket started to fall apart. I can't believe that the casket would not hold up longer than it did. My father being a fallen firefighter....this was such a disgrace :( I will never remember him they way I did when we first buried him only remembering the aweful smell and nightmares that this now gives me. I am most concerned about everyone that was there that day...being exposed to body fluids and particles in the air. No one was protected with gloves or masks...my mother was hospitalized for bronchial pneumonia a few days later. I don't think that I could be buried in a casket after going through this...not that I would even know when I die..but, for my loved ones sake, I would say cremate me!
102 Saturday, 18 October 2014 12:16
Erich
My mother passed away in July 2007. She's gone, but her memory lives on. When I visit her grave, her shell remains but her spirit moves like the wind.

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