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Kirby: On burial and the form the body takes

Published February 23, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

My elderly parents are aging before my eyes. In the past few years, my mother has shrunk 5 feet. We could keep her in a shoebox.

The old man, who used to run me down on foot over stuff like what time I had to be home, today moves like an arthritic turtle. And because he drives like one, too, he's the guy with the curfew now.

I'm the executor for their estate. When they die, it will be up to me to see that their final wishes are carried out. Last week, while handing me the updated paperwork, my parents announced a desire to be cremated after death.

Cremation represents a major departure from what they believed when I was kid. Back then, I told my father that I could think of no finer form of interment than having my remains scattered by explosives. He advised against it — on religious grounds.

Mormons, he said, were (and still are) counseled by church leaders against anything other than proper burial in the ground to the tune of a ridiculous amount of money that would be better spent on just about anything else.

Cremation, vaporization, cryopreservation and mummification show a decided lack of respect for one's body, something Heavenly Father had created and planned on giving back to us in the resurrection. Turning my remains into atoms with some RDX was out of the question.

Later, when I mentioned my desire for bombification to a seminary teacher, he said the soul's temple was such a sacred thing that it should be treated with respect even after my spirit had left the building.

I used to believe that body-as-a-temple stuff until I got old. There's no greater disrespect for the body than simple old age. Nothing I ever did to myself — motorcycle, drugs, booze, food — was more disrespectful than just living this long.

You're probably thinking, "Well, my goodness, all of that disrespectful behavior just makes it worse." Maybe, but I know people who never did any of it and still look like California raisins. I'm just saying.

Know what else makes it harder for you be resurrected? Sharks. Bears, too. Also something called the Mongolian sky burial, where bodies are intentionally left in the open for vultures to eat.

The inhabitants of the island of Kiribati bury their dead, but then dig them up after a few weeks, remove the skull, polish it and put it on a shelf in their home. When it comes to keeping Grandma's memory alive, that's got to be more effective than just a picture.

But I still like my idea best. Exactly how being dead in a box is more disrespectful than being dead over half a square mile is a mystery.

It's also illegal. I called the Utah Attorney General's Office and asked a friend if burial by detonation was against any state law. His answer: "A whole bunch of them."

When the time comes, I'll honor my parents' wishes to be cremated regardless of custom, counsel or code. Cost doesn't even enter into it because, according to their trust, they have gobs of money. More than I thought they did.

Mom asked if I was OK arranging for them to be cremated after they passed away.

Me: "Absolutely. Lots of cold-case files get solved because cops are able to exhume a body."

Mom: "Maybe we should talk to your brother."

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.