Friday, October 12, 2012

coffin creatures

Media stories have reported on the rising cost of housepet burials in the New York metropolitan area in recent years.

Basic interment at area pet cemeteries is said to cost upwards of about $1,500. However, big sticker mausoleums have also been built to provide ostentatious eternal rest for those housebroken animals with deep pockets.

When I was a child growing up in Ohio, our beloved pet cat died. We buried it behind the garage. Memory alone marked the gravesite, for me a hallowed ground that naturally faded as I got older.

But today there is a trend toward mortuary visitations for the deceased dog, cat, budgie, or iguana. It is described without irony as a loss leader for funeral homes, which reportedly charge a couple hundred dollars for a tasteful service as morticians scramble to incorporate the pet hereafter into their line.

I love animals and know our lives are enriched by pets. Still, a lavish funeral service for man's best friend strikes me as eccentric and out of line.

With global population at about seven billion people, and rising, we could one day be forced to forfeit the option of human boneyards, let alone crypts for pets. Overpopulation threatens to coerce mankind to think outside the coffin, so to speak, and adopt other, less land-intensive means of disposing of the deceased.

I was talking with an American friend who was born in Paris. He confided he would prefer to be cremated and have his ashes scattered over the Atlantic so he could "swim back" to France. In a devilish mood I told him, if I'm still around I'd be happy to see he gets back. Would even skip the cremation. Haul his dead hide direct to Montauk and toss him in the drink. Let the fishies help him find his final resting place. My friend seemed startled by the offer but deep down I'm sure he appreciated my solicitude.

Still my personal favorite is something called sky burial or giving alms to birds, a tradition in Tibet where burial in the ground is not always practical. Family members bring their deceased to a charnel grounds where Buddhist monks, for a fee of about five bucks, chop the cadaver into beak-size pieces for the buzzards, which flock together nearby in anticipation. When the monks have finished, the vultures swoop down and devour the human morsels. Within 30 minutes all is devoured. Oh those kooky Tibetans. I guess you could say the dead don't dally in the domain of the Dalai Lama.

Still, most Westerners seem determined in death to stave off the birds or the fishes or even the worms for as long as possible. While some green cemeteries suggest cardboard coffins, we typically still bury our loved ones in elaborate sarcophagi, often encased in thick concrete. Sky burial on the other hand guarantees a much swifter recycling of our star dust. From goner to guano in a half hour. And it's a lot cheaper.

Well, maybe this sums it all up. Courtesy of supremecourtjester

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