For dignity’s sake, cremation is the way to go

Prof C Explains
4 min readNov 21, 2006

by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist

OK, that’s it. I’m getting cremated when I die. I don’t care how. Stick me in the city power plant, I really don’t care. I’ll just get scattered on the road with the cinders.

Regardless of how it is done, I don’t want anything left of me.

What has got me so freaked out is that I just finished reading an article about the “daughter of Lucy,” a child whose fossil remains have been dug up after 3 million years. Not an actual blood relative of the famous Lucy fossil, but a member of the same species of human, Australopithecus afarensis. Apparently this poor child fell into a tar bog and was preserved for modern-day scientists to discover in the African desert. To quote from the Nature article about the find, “The skeleton’s brain case also suggests the brain of the species had started to evolve towards that of modern humans.”

I do not want some anthropologist digging me up 3 million years from now, showing my cranium to his friends and asking, “How do you think he managed to get by with such a primitive brain?” I don’t care if that means I am denying him the opportunity to be published in Nature. He’ll just have to find someone else to dig up.

Besides, burial is expensive, and who knows if you’ll be buried anyway? When Alistair Cooke, the longtime host of “Masterpiece Theatre,” died, his family thought they had laid him to a peaceful rest. Turns out the undertaker buried an empty coffin and sold off the bits of poor Alistair to various “medical research” firms. What shocks me most is that there is a market for bits of old English gentlemen. Who knew?

I had actually been thinking that donating my body to medical research would be a good end. After a recent trip to a local osteopath, I am not so sure. His office was decorated with old-time photographs of the Class of 1894 from the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. One was a picture of a nice spring day — a nice spring day when the students decided to dress up their cadavers and bring them outside for a picnic and class photo.

Look, I don’t even like to get photographed now! I certainly don’t want to have my picture taken after I am dead. In fact, I am going to start taking proactive measures the next time I have surgery. Not only will I write “Don’t cut off” on all my good extremities, but also “NO PHOTOS” on my forehead, just in case I don’t…

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Prof C Explains

J Scott Christianson: UM Teaching Prof, Technologist & Entrepreneur. Connect with me here: https://www.christiansonjs.com/