what’ll I do with my corpse, &/or when I am dead (& shall not care)?

Got stoned, saw a post on highrise burial in Japan, looked up cremation on yellow pages.com.au, found SE Qld site figure for $2500, I could probably close a cremation deal for me & maybe N might want one too, now we can think the ashes could be buried in a hole dug for a sapling — yes Jews they say don’t get cremated (at least not voluntarily, especially when they’re still alive until they start to burn) — & I think I’ll go for it, seems the most sensible & ultimately most ecological way to dispose of my corpse, tho I wonder how many years of growth & with how much watering would it take to cover the damage of the emissions from burning it. So maybe burial’s better after all. In a cardboard coffin, cheaper, & quickly bio-graded see what kind of deal I can get…

So is this a meditation on What’ll I do with my corpse (a short way of saying what arrangements will I make to dispose of it) or on my being dead, my coming not-being — in the tradition of those meditations sometimes actually practised inside a real coffin, like George Herbert’s meditation poem Church monuments in which he gets to feelingly “know / That flesh is but the glass which holds the dust / That measures all our time; which also shall / Be crumbled into dust”?

Though for me, it is not my flesh, which I don’t see, but my skin which I do see & sometimes feel when parts of it itch, that is, if not yet the glass, that through which i see, & which still manages to hold together everything inside it that will one day, like it, also crumble into dust, if not ashes, after its fluids evaporate or whatever. This thin thin skin, mottled with large & small bruises all over my arms & legs, deep purplish red on tanned “white” leopard skin, with plasters here & there where wounds so easily caused by the slightest graze strip off the epidermis & sometimes some of the dermis, & because of the blood-thinners I’m taking to keep the blood flowing easily into my heart after my two angioplasties — two stents the first time when I was 65 & a double stent a few months ago — the bleeding from these wounds may take days to totally stop, & take ages to heal because of the cortisone I’m still taking for my psoriasis among other things… But hey, that’s not about my corpse, it’s about this living body that’s going to be a corpse one day in the not too distant future, & I’m glad I can arrange for its disposal myself.

& no, these thoughts don’t make me want to sum up my life,
I don’t think any life can be justly summed up,
Not by oneself, not by anyone else.
Any summary must be partial & momentary.
Any life is all it is & has been & will be.

& yes, I sometimes remember Carlos Castenada’s Don Juan’s instruction to remember that Death is always there waiting for me, & I can see how the death meditations can have positive effects, for example this one, especially when you get to this point: ‘Just believe firmly that you are dying really and say to yourself: “Yes ! I am dying here and now. There are many unfulfilled desires, many dreams to realize, many responsibilities to be taken care of. However, all these desires, dreams and responsibilities are losing their relevance in this moment of death. Really visualize that all desires, emotions, dreams, and responsibilities which you would like to fulfill had you got a chance to live further and says to yourself – “No matter how important they are for me, Since I am dying, nothing matters.”‘

I find this beautifully expressed in a song I first loved several decades ago, Pearls Before Swine’s I Shall Not Care, from their album One Nation Underground, 1967. I suggest you click the link & listen to the song as (or before) you continue reading.


When I am dead
And over me bright April
Shakes out her rain-drenched hair
Though you should lean
Above me broken-hearted
I shall not care
Words that were not said
Songs that were not sung
Tears that were not shed
Deeds that were not done
I was not
I was
I am not
I do not care
Words that were not said
Songs that were not sung
Tears that were not shed
Deeds that were not done
I shall have peace
As leafy trees are peaceful
When rain bends down the bow
And I shall be
More silent and cold-hearted
Than you are now

& here’s my take of these lyrics:

When I am dead
I’ll be & have nothing
I won’t be anywhere
But while I still breathe
& feel what’s happening elsewhere
I still do care.
& there’s
Words still to be said
Songs still to be sung
Tears still to be shed
Deeds still to be done
I was not     [I’d read these 4 lines normally, not in a “dead” voice as in the song]
I was
I still am
I still do care
& there’s
Words still to be said
Songs still to be sung
Tears still to be shed
Deeds still to be done
While there’s no peace
& no longer a safe future
where people force & kill
While I still breathe
To be unsilent & warm-hearted
Is my wish still.

& among the things I care about, there’s this one I started musing on, & do want to make arrangements for — how to dispose of my corpse. I don’t want to lay that on N or our sons. Do it the simplest way. Maybe get buried on the property. No tombstone, maybe even no tree. If they want to sell the property later, no worries. My memory needn’t be in a particular geographical location where they can all gather to remember me. It’s a nice thought, but I don’t need to make provisions for that. If they ever want to gather to remember me, they can do it anywhere. I have no idea if they’d want to sit shiv’ah, or gather on a yahrzeit, these are not traditions I grew up with or have followed, N’s family did it, O’s & T’s families do it, they might do it, but they don’t need a grave for that. My Mum & I didn’t sit shiv’ah for my Dad, & I didn’t for her, & I was never a yahrzeit keeper, in fact all calendar remembrances seem a bit forced to me, I remember someone, my mother, my father, my grandmother, one friend or another, a famous person, an event, when I remember them & as I remember them then, but if they want to it’s ok by me now, & as for then, I shall not care. Meanwhile, there’s other things I care about…


One thought on “what’ll I do with my corpse, &/or when I am dead (& shall not care)?

  1. Hi Dear Richard. Things you have been writing recently have touched my heart very deeply. I so much long for us all to talk about death, and life, and death, and life – as all one thing. Yes – do I care about my corpse when I am dead, or how they will mourn for me? But – as you so rightly say – I want to care, I want my heart to tick with warmth and compassion for the world – till I die. Bless you. Shelley (Sheffie)…


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