Tree burials in Japan

As early as the 1970s, public officials in Japan were concerned about a lack of adequate burial space in urban areas. They offered a variety of novel solutions, from cemeteries in distant resort towns where families could organize a vacation around a visit for traditional graveside rituals, to chartered bus trips to rural areas to bury loved ones. Beginning in 1990, the Grave-Free Promotion Society, a volunteer social organization, publicly advocated for the scattering of human ashes.

Since 1999, the Shōunji temple in northern Japan has attempted to offer a more innovative solution to this crisis through Jumokusō, or “tree burials.” In these burials, families place cremated remains in the ground and a tree is planted over the ashes to mark the gravesite…

While many families electing for tree burials do not explicitly identify as Buddhist or associate with a Buddhist temple, the practice reflects Japanese Buddhism’s larger interest in environmental responsibility. Perhaps influenced by Shinto beliefs about gods living in the natural world, Japanese Buddhism has historically been unique among Buddhist traditions for its focus on the environmental world.

All good news as far as I’m concerned. Over time, both of my parents were cremated and ended up in our family flower garden.

I wouldn’t mind just blowing in the wind up on top of the Caja del Rio mesa. Many fond memories of exploring walks up top. It commands the view to the West every day on my fenceline exercise walks.

A Dead Man Was Cremated in Arizona, No One Knew He Was Radioactive

❝ In 2017, a 69-year-old man with pancreatic cancer went to hospital with abnormally low blood pressure. Sadly, he died only two days later, and his remains were cremated.

What nobody at the hospital or the crematorium knew, was that this hadn’t been the man’s only recent trip to hospital.

Just one day earlier, in fact, he had been injected with a radioactive compound at another hospital to treat his tumour – and when his mortal remains were incinerated, this radioactive and potentially dangerous dose of lutetium Lu 177 dotatate was still inside his body.

❝ This alarming case, reported in a new research letter this week, illustrates the collateral risks potentially posed by on average 18.6 million nuclear medicine procedures involving radiopharmaceuticals performed in the US every year.

❝ While rules regulate how these drugs are administered to living patients, the picture can become less clear when those patients die, thanks to a patchwork of different laws and standards in each state – not to mention situations like the 69-year-old man, whose radioactive status simply slipped through the cracks.

Phew! Gotta love states’ rights when the primary function only seems to be dividing the spoils for folks avoiding federal regulation for one reason or another. Or is it just our elected representatives doing as little as possible.

More than 80 bodies surface in Ganges River — sanitation must supersede religion


“Normal” pollution

India’s special environmental court has criticised the government for its failure to curb river pollution, a lawyer petitioning the court has said, after scores of bodies surfaced in the Ganges river.

Last week more than 80 bodies – mostly decomposed skeletons and half-burned corpses – surfaced in the river in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh after a drop in water levels.

Their emergence has reignited concerns among environmentalists over the uncontrolled practice of body disposal in the Ganges by Hindus, who consider the river to be sacred.

On Monday the National Green Tribunal, a court set up to look at environmental grievances, ordered both the water resources and environment ministries to explain who should be held responsible for the pollution in the Ganges…

Millions visit places along its banks, such as the sacred city of Varanasi, to cremate their dead and scatter their ashes in the river.

Others bathe in the Ganges in an act of ritual purification, believing the river cleanses them of sin and frees them from the cycle of rebirth.

Authorities say the corpses in the Ganges are the deceased from poor families who cannot afford to buy enough firewood for cremation and are forced to immerse the half-burned bodies of their loved ones in the river.

Unmarried women and children are often buried in shallow graves along the riverbank, and their remains can be washed into the river when water levels rise.

Bansal said at least 3,000 bodies were recovered from the Ganges annually, yet the government had remained a “mute spectator” to the health risks of cremations and burials along its banks.

Exactly the kind of reason requiring the separation of religion from the civic responsibilities of government.

18 human heads found in Chicago’s O’Hare airport shipment

Investigators probing a shipment of 18 human heads intercepted at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport have determined they came from bodies donated for scientific research and were being transported for disposal…

U.S. Customs agents discovered the grisly package, which was shipped to Chicago from Italy shortly before Christmas, on Monday. Because the shipment’s paperwork was not in order, agents confiscated the heads and sent them to the Cook County Medical Examiner for safekeeping, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner said.

The heads, which had been used by a medical research facility in Rome, were properly embalmed, wrapped and labeled when they arrived at the airport, said Mary Paleologos, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner. Foul play has been ruled out, she said.

Phew!

On Tuesday, the cremation company that was supposed to take delivery of the heads and dispose of them presented the missing paperwork to the medical examiner, Paleologos said.

The medical examiner said the remains would not be released to the company until federal authorities verified the paperwork.

In the meantime, the medical examiner is photographing and x-raying the embalmed heads for record-keeping purposes, Paleologos said.

One of my several careers was in logistics. In fact, some of that time spent at an International Airport. Never – I repeat, never – was I called in to examine and record a shipment like this one.

NYC medical examiner forgets to include baby’s brain for burial

A New York City mother said she was shocked to find out the city medical examiner’s office kept her baby’s brain after an autopsy.

Cindy Bradshaw and her husband received a call from Dr. Rachel Lange, of the medical examiner’s office, on May 4, alerting them that their infant son Gianni’s brain was still at the medical examiner’s office…

The call came in just hours after Gianni’s funeral and four days after his body was picked up from the medical examiner.

“She said, ‘Oh, I forgot to tell you the brain was missing,'” Bradshaw said of her conversation with Lange. “And she said that like she had known me for many years and we were having a casual conversation.”

The brain was returned to Bradshaw and her husband, who had to pay additional costs to have it cremated…

Bradshaw was even more shocked to find out her son was at least the fourth person whose brain had been kept without their families’ knowledge by the medical examiner’s office after an autopsy…

A spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office said only that “the city shares its greatest sympathy with the family on their loss.”

Har. Not entirely off the subject – but, this reminds me of the classic description of the writer Richard Matheson. Harlan Ellison once said – “”Matheson has the heart of a small child. He keeps it in a jar on his desk.”

There is more to discuss of course. Starting with bureaucratic insensitivity. But, you aren’t surprised by that — are you?

Burglars steal, snort cremated ashes

Police said they will search Thursday for what is left of the cremated remains of a man and two dogs that robbers stole from a Florida house and then snorted after mistakenly thinking it was cocaine.

Members of the Marion County sheriff’s department dive team say they will search a lake in the area where they think the remainder of the ashes may have been dumped.

Are they going to run the water through a filter?

The robbery occurred in December in a home in the central Florida area of Silver Springs, the sheriff department said in a statement. A robbery crew ransacked the home taking electronics, jewelry and the cremated ashes of the homeowner’s father and two Great Danes.

“During the investigation, detectives learned that the ashes were taken because the suspects mistook the ashes for either cocaine or heroin. It was soon discovered that the suspects snorted some of the ashes believing they were snorting cocaine,” a sheriff’s department statement said.

Three teens and two juveniles were arrested in the case.

For a grand total of five idiots.

Ain’t nothing like gas heat – plus a little bit more

Undertakers in the Austrian capital say they’re planning to use a crematorium to help heat their new headquarters.

Bestattung Wien spokesman Juergen Sild says cremation requires generating very high temperatures and that the idea, in times of environmental awareness, is to put the excess energy created to good use instead of letting it go to waste.

Sild added Friday that the headquarters, to be situated next to the crematorium and due to be completed next year, would also be warmed with gas.

Well, you need a backup when there aren’t sufficient cremations to keep the place toasty.

Where do you want your ashes to go?

Want to be cremated, but worry that your ashes will just end up sitting in some boring urn?

Fear not! Have a look at these 10 bizarre places that ashes have gone.

1. Into a comic book

When longtime Marvel Comics editor Mark Gruenwald died in 1996, he left an interesting final wish: he wanted to have his ashes mixed into the ink used in one of Marvel’s titles. The company obliged by reprinting a 1985 collection of the Gruenwald-penned Squadron Supreme with the specially prepared ink in 1997. Gruenwald’s widow, Catherine, wrote in the book’s foreword, “He has truly become one with the story.”

2. Into fireworks

Writer Hunter S. Thompson literally went out with a bang. Thompson’s appropriately gonzo 2005 memorial service featured a fireworks show in which each boom and crack dispersed some of the writer’s ashes. Johnny Depp underwrote the fireworks display at a cost of $2 million.

3. Into a Pringles can

The name Fredric Baur may not ring any bells, but you know his most famous creation. In 1966 Baur invented the Pringles can so Procter & Gamble could ship its new chips without using bags.

Baur was so proud of the achievement that he told his children he wanted to be buried in the iconic can. When he died in 2008 at 89, they honored his wishes by placing his ashes in a Pringles can before burying them…

It’s a great list. Though I probably wouldn’t consider this last one:

10. Up Keith Richards’ nose?

In 2007 music mag NME asked Rolling Stones guitarist to name the strangest thing he’d ever snorted. The reporter was probably expecting an odd answer given Richards’ legendary proclivity for partying, but Richards’ response was a jaw-dropper.

Richards told the magazine, “The strangest thing I’ve tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow.”

Har!

Bio-cremation is burial alternative

California funeral directors are eager to start offering clients a new natural and greener way to dispose of their loved ones’ remains, but they need a change in state law first.

Funeral homes and crematoria want to use a liquid chemical process to dissolve bodies instead of cremating them with fire.

“It’s green. It’s clean. It’s environmentally friendly and it reduces the carbon footprint,” said California state Assemblyman Jeff Miller (R-Corona), who wrote legislation to make the so-called bio-cremation method legal.

Miller said his bill was prompted by a funeral home director in his district who might may buy a bio-cremation machine. The measure would broaden the definition of cremation to include the use of either both fire or and water…

Though no one has started using bio-cremation commercially, the technology already has grabbed the funeral industry’s attention, said Bob Achermann, executive director of the California Funeral Directors Assn.

There will be consumer demand,” he said, especially among people who have personal or environmental qualms about combustion cremation.

One advantage of bio-cremation to the state’s 1,000 funeral homes and crematoria is that it doesn’t require them to go through the difficult and expensive procedure for obtaining air emission permits from local air pollution agencies.

Sounds neat to me. A couple hundred dollar$ more than traditional cremation. So they say.

The article says only Florida has permitted the process, so far. Wrong. Add-in Minnesota, Maine and Oregon.

I’d love to be poured on the ground next to my favorite tree.

Funeral home caught stacking bodies in a garage


This is from their “gallery” – which doesn’t include the garage

A Maryland funeral home has lost its license after investigators found about 40 bodies stacked on top of each other, leaking fluid, in a garage, a state official said.

The state Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors revoked the license of Chambers Funeral Home & Crematorium in Riverdale, Maryland after an April 26 visit to the site.

Hari Close, president of the the state funeral board, told CNN Tuesday that some of the bodies were cadavers who had been donated to a local university for research. Other bodies came from other funeral homes, Close said…

When investigators inspected the funeral home they were warned by an employee, who told them, “Don’t get upset about all the bodies in there,” according to documents released by the state funeral board.

Inside the room was a “large pile, approximately 12 by 12 feet, of body bags containing human remains strewn on the floor of the garage in front of a removal van. There was visible leakage from the body bags as well as a pungent odor,” the documents said.

“The investigator also observed writing on some of the body bags,” they said. “However, fluid leakage from the body bags caused the writing to smear and become illegible. As a result, it was not immediately possible to determine the identity of the remains.”

There will be a hearing at the end of the month to determine whether the funeral home will get its license back, Close said.

The state of the bodies is a crime. Whether or not they get their license back – of course – is a question of politics.