12 October 2006

Turn Me Into Buzzard Snacks, Please

Sky Burial: Why is it that at every party you go to everyone always
hangs out in the kitchen?


Last I heard you were moving and you were going to give me your new address. And that was definitely The Last I heard from you. Hopefully you're not living in your tuba. I can just see you burying that thing up to its bell in the desert sand, then crouching inside it like an ant lion, springing forth to snatch errant hobos as they shamble past, and pulling them down into the warren-like tubing to feast upon their tender innards. Don't tell me you haven't thought of it.

If you have fallen off the social grid into main shaft of the Mines of Endless Leisure (read: homeless), then hopefully either the Reno Public Library or Reverend Dick's Gospel Shelter has Web access and you're reading this right now.

So let me update you on a small family matter which also involves a change of residence: the folks have arrived on the door of their future mortuary. No, they're not dead. They're in Missouri.

I don't know if you spoke to them any time during the run up to their eventual departure to the Ozarks. It wasn't the lack of intellectual stimulus or the abundance of ticks, chiggers and hillbillies that sold them on the place. It was, in fact, the absence of laws governing where and how deep one can bury their relatives. Apparently in Missouri, once a person stops whittling and the corncob pipe drops from their slackened jaws, they're fair game for the mulch pile. None of those fancy rules about "coffins" and "water tables".

Don't get me wrong. Even though I'm clearly not on the Missouri Board of Tourism, I completely understand the motivation behind self-determination at the end of life. Aging is an undeniable process that robs you of functions and freedoms one by one. If you've been on life's stage as long as our folks have (over a century and a half at last reckoning), I think you oughtta be able to have a say regarding your exit.

So, while we're on the subject, and El Dia de los Muertos is right around the corner, I think I'll go ahead and publish my burial instructions right here and now. They're real simple: Don't bury me.

Here's what you do. Buy my corpse a ticket to Bhutan. (If I've planned things right, I should be there already when I give up the ghost. My current death fantasy is to die in Bhutan while hiking - quickly and and by accident, of course. Age of death doesn't matter. I'm in Bhutan, which is a fundamentally a Buddhist theocracy. I'm hiking and I couldn't be happier. What better time to kack?)

So once I've accomplished the kacking part, I want what they call a "sky burial". Here's how it works. The undertaker hauls your corpse up into the mountains. Then he whips out his Amazing Ginsu, flenses your flesh from your bones, and pounds it into meal with a little flour. (I'd like some cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar added. The idea of being turned into a meaty cinnamon roll appeals to me.) Then he feeds the Death Dough to the buzzards who have by now congregated close by and in great number. Once they've eaten all the dough and licked the plates, the undertaker hauls the leftovers - bones and gristle and whatnot - back down the mountain and throws it all into the crematorium. (Sometimes not. Sometimes your bones get pounded into meal too, which would be fine by me. I pray for an undertaker who can swing a sledgehammer like John Henry.) And there you are. The buzzards crap you onto the bottom rung of the food chain and your ashes go in the garden. I can't think of a more wonderful and fitting end.

Of course you're going to say, "It's your funeral. You won't be there. What do you care?" Yeah, so you're right. After I die, I plan to be in the bardo for the next 42 days playing single-platoon old school football with Grampa Teachout (that is until I'm reincarnated as a cold sore for my abysmally horrid karma). Let's just say I want to do this because I believe in recycling. As a matter of fact, I think I'll go have "Please Recycle" tattooed on my sternum, right next to my favorite haiku* and "Do Not Resuscitate" in twenty seven languages. I hope I have a broad enough sternum and enough skin.

So yeah, when I die, be a peach and get me a sky burial, wouldja?



*It is a dewdrop world
Surely it is
And yet
And yet -

-Kobayashi Issa