Your Remains

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website:

Now, on to my blog:


It’s a morbid and depressing subject, but somebody’s got to tackle it. What’s going to happen to your body after you’re done with it? The majority of people or their family members spend a lot of money on fancy caskets, cemetery plots, and funeral services to bury the deceased in the ground. If you’ve served your country in the military, your coffin may come draped with an American flag, and you can even arrange to have an honor guard at your funeral.

You can have a closed casket service, or people can view you lying in your expensive box, made up to look better than you ever looked when you were alive. Now, you can even buy your coffin in advance and store it in your closet or garage, or even use it as a backup bed when guests arrive unexpectedly (that will get rid of them quick.)

You can be cremated and your ashes dealt with however:  buried; entombed in a crypt; set in a niche of a columbarium (a room at a cemetery for urns containing cremation ashes); given to someone to take home and save in a decorative container on the fireplace mantel, a china cabinet, an unused back closet, or any other location of your choice; or scattered in your favorite place such as a hiking trail, beach, mountain top, or even flushed down the toilet of a favorite restaurant as someone I know did to fulfill a request.

You can opt for a sky burial, but your body will have to be shipped to Tibet, Mongolia, or parts nearby. Then, you will be placed on a mountaintop to decompose while exposed to the weather or to be eaten by scavenging animals, especially carrion birds such as vultures.  Hey, vultures gotta live, too, ya know. And, they will excrete you as they fly, scattering you to add to the cycle of life.

On the other hand, there are other options. Here are a few particularly interesting ones:

Donate your body for medical research. Call the medical university nearest to your residence, and they will arrange to have your remains picked up when the magic notification is received. It requires some advance paperwork by you, but think of how you’ll be contributing to medical science to help humans of the future, maybe even those carrying your own genes. And, it is free. My parents first foisted that idea upon me when they announced it as their choice. I was upset, refused to talk about it, and avoided the discussion for years. Now, I like the idea and am thinking about doing the same.

The Neptune Society has been around since 1973. It, also, requires advance planning but is not a freebie. For a fee, you will be cremated, and they will scatter your ashes at sea.

Here’s another very compelling idea I just learned about. It’s a true ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust cycle that makes me feel good. Bios Urn places your ashes into a biodegradable urn designed to convert you into a tree after life. The urn contains a seed which will grow to be a tree aided by the essence of you. Although I haven’t researched it, I think it can be planted in the location of your choice. I’m not sure about the type of tree you get. If I opt for this path, I’d like mine to be a Redwood; why not go out with a bang? Here’s the link:

If you do choose one of the above, you or your family can pay or donate money and have a plaque installed in some special place such as a mortuary, university, or park where your loved ones can visit and remember you. Or, they could just remember you on their own. Be kind and generous to them when you’re alive so they will want to do so when you’re not.


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Photo credit: 50 Watts via Visual hunt / CC BY


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11 responses to “Your Remains

  1. boy – you actually make sound like fun – almost 🙂


    Hi Lee Gale, Another useful and meaningful blog. My mom was cremated, but I donated her brain to UCLA’s Alzheimer’s research team. We have plots and coffins at Mt Sinai, but I’ve been thinking about donating my brain for research too. Hope all is well. Love, Sheila

  3. Roger Trammell

    …a good topic, LGG. My wife and I have already made arrangements with Neptune Society. We’ve got 2 beautiful urns stored on a shelf in our bedroom. I told my wife to take a few of my ashes to sprinkle on the basketball courts in Venice where I’ve played since the 70s. The rest will be fish food. Turn-about is fair play. :=)

  4. Marlene

    Useful and thought provoking. I had not heard of Bios Urns, particularly appealing given that climate change will only get worse. Another option is green or natural burial. No embalming fluid is used and the body is buried in a biodegradable casket or shroud. My mother’s cremains were scattered from a plane over a forest, and I have a miniature mother-of-pearl ginger jar with a teaspoon of the ashes on a bookshelf next to the last photo of us together. Finally, I remember a long-ago discussion with a friend about what to do with the cremains of her rejecting mother from hell. She jokingly (I think!) considered mixing them in with the cat box litter, so her cat could do to her mother what the woman had done to my friend all her life. Meow!

    • I like the green or natural burial option, also. And, to those nasty types among us, change your evil ways now before you end up in the cat box litter option–so appropriate for some:-)

  5. Tricia

    I enjoyed this given that I just left my personal instructions to my husband and son. I think they will laugh at parts of it–but it’s what I want.

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