This Is What Happens to Your Debts After You Die

By Aubrey Cohen

Your debts become the responsibility of your estate.

Coffin on stage

When you die, any debts you leave behind could eat up assets that you had hoped to leave to heirs. In some cases, family members could even be on the hook for your debt. Many people buy life insurance not only to leave something behind for their loved ones but also to help deal with any debt and final expenses.

Will your debts die with you?

After you die, your debts become the responsibility of your estate — which is everything you owned at the time of your death. The process of paying your bills and distributing what’s left is called probate.

Your executor (the person responsible for dealing with your will and estate after your death) will use your assets to pay off your debts. This could mean writing checks from a bank account or selling off property to get the money. If there isn’t enough to cover your debts, creditors generally are out of luck.

But specific kinds of debts have their own wrinkles.

Mortgages and home-equity loans

If a property has a mortgage, the lender has some protection, at least up to the value of the property.

But federal law bars lenders from forcing a joint owner to pay off the mortgage immediately after the death of another co-owner. This also applies to any relative who inherits the home and lives in it. Practically, this means the family member or co-owner can simply take over the mortgage payments.

An outstanding home-equity loan against the property is different. A lender can force someone who inherits a home to repay the loan immediately, which could require selling the house. That said, lenders might work with new owners to allow them to simply take over the payments on the home-equity loan as well.

Auto loans

In the case of an auto that is not fully paid off, the lender has the right to repossess the car. But typically whoever inherits the vehicle can simply continue making payments, and the lender is unlikely to take action.

Credit cards

Once the estate runs out of assets, credit card companies are out of luck, because this debt is not secured by assets the way mortgages and car loans are. Any joint account holder would be responsible for the bill, but people who are simply authorized users of a card would not.

In community property states, listed below, spouses are responsible for any debts incurred during the marriage, including credit card debt.

Student loans

Lenders have no recourse if the estate does not have assets to repay other unsecured obligations, such as student loans.

If your relatives are not responsible for your debts, collection agencies may still legally call to discuss debts and to try to find someone authorized to pay them, according to the Federal Trade Commission. But collectors cannot mislead family members into thinking they’re responsible for the debts.


There are circumstances in which spouses or other people would be personally responsible for your debts. These include if they:

  • Co-signed for a loan.
  • Are joint account holders.
  • Are spouses in community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Spouses are not responsible for debts that predate the marriage, although half of any community property from a marriage could be put toward such obligations.

About 30 states have “filial responsibility” laws that could make adult children responsible for debts related to caring for parents or parents responsible for debts related to care of their children. These laws once were rarely enforced, but there have been recent cases in which creditors have used the statutes to pursue family members.

What’s protected?

Creditors typically cannot go after your retirement accounts or life insurance proceeds. Those will go to the named beneficiaries and are not part of the probate process. But if the life insurance beneficiaries you named are no longer living, your death benefit may go into your estate and can be subject to creditors. That’s one reason why it’s important to make sure your policy names the proper beneficiaries.

Life insurance can help with debt payments

To decide whether you need life insurance to cover debts after your death, consider these questions:

  • Do you have family members who would be responsible for your debts?
  • Do you have debts that would eat up assets you want to pass on to family members?
  • Do you want to pass on money that couldn’t be diverted to pay your debts, even if you owe those debts?

Life insurance can help in any of these scenarios. Term life insurance policies, which provide a death benefit for a set number of years, are suitable for most people’s life insurance needs. NerdWallet’s life insurance tool is a good place to compare prices. If you want to consider a permanent policy, such as whole life insurance, consult a financial advisor.

Complete Article HERE!

My view: Salt Lake City’s homeless deserve hospice care

By Kim Correa

homeless and hospice care
Death is a natural process, and since the dawn of humanity, people have been dying at home. But where do homeless people go to die? The shelters are not equipped to deal with the end of life.

Is Salt Lake City a city of compassion or a city of abandonment? About 50 homeless people die here annually. Death is a natural process; since the dawn of humanity, people have been dying at home. But where do homeless people go to die? The shelters are not equipped to deal with the end of life, hospitals can’t keep these patients for weeks or months on end, and most lack insurance to pay for a skilled nursing facility. Without a stable place to live, they end up in and out of the emergency room, straining our city’s fire, police and hospital resources, and eventually dying on the streets or in parks.

The INN Between provides a real solution to this small but critical segment of our city’s homelessness crisis. We opened in August in the old Catholic Convent on Goshen Street, providing a safe and comfortable place where about 13 of Utah’s terminally ill homeless men and women can experience the end of life with dignity. Our residents are grateful to have a place they can call home for their final time on this earth. Since opening, we have provided death with dignity to three people and provided over 420 housing nights to a total of 22 people. We have beautified the grounds and our presence has reduced loitering and potential criminal activity around a previously vacant building. The INN Between is almost full — a major concern as winter sets in.

The INN Between had been approved to operate in our other building, the former Guadalupe School, in May, under the zoning use of Eleemosynary Facility — “a facility operated by a nonprofit charitable organization or government entity to provide temporary housing and assistance to individuals who suffer from and are being treated for trauma, injury or disease and/or their family members.” The school building can house an additional 10 to 20 residents.

On June 19, the Salt Lake City Council blocked our use of the school by excluding “end of life and respite care” from the Eleemosynary definition. Now it is proposing an additional restriction to exclude “facilities not licensed by the Utah State Health Department.” The public hearing takes place Tuesday.

The proposed changes were intended to address a gap in zoning law and ensure people’s health and safety. We agree that there is a gap, but we disagree on its nature. The gap is the lack of housing for terminally ill homeless people. And there is nothing healthy or safe about dying on the street.

The INN Between is an ideal solution that offers safe housing — better than any housing our residents have had in years. In fact, the Utah State Department of Health has determined that our program complies with health and safety standards, exempting the INN Between from licensing. The Department of Health understands that all these people need is a home in which to die naturally.

The council’s proposed changes effectively mandate that the homeless die in state-licensed facilities, like nursing homes. But who will pay the $4,500 to $6,000 cost per month? The city, i.e., the taxpayers? If this were a viable solution, we’d already be doing it.

In order for the INN Between to meet community need, we must be allowed to operate under the pre-June 19 definition of Eleemosynary Facility. If adopted, the proposed zoning changes will demonstrate Salt Lake City’s lack of compassion for people who are dying and discriminate against Utah’s most vulnerable homeless people by severely limiting their access to housing and hospice care. Learn more on

Complete Article HERE!

Green burial movement advocates alternative to conventional interment


Mary Lauren Fraser
Mary Lauren Fraser, of Montague, with a casket she makes out of Willow branches.

As green living continues to take a more prominent place in the United States, there is now a growing movement that is focusing on green dying.

“Imagine living your whole life as an environmentally conscious person and at the end of your life, they pump you full of embalming fluid,” said Judith Lorei of Green Burial Massachusetts, and a member of the cemetery commission in Montague who spoke earlier this month at the Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst.

Green Burial Massachusetts is a grassroots organization that educates the public about the value and benefits of green burial. Founded in 2008, the group is a committee of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts and has formed a collaboration with the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust in Athol to find a suitable site for the state’s first green cemetery.

“We are an all-volunteer group,” Lorei said. “Green burial may not be for everyone, but it is important that people know that they have choices.”

In the U.S., with the exception of certain religious traditions, a conventional burial involves the embalming of the deceased and placing the body into a metal or hardwood casket which is buried in a cement vault that lines the grave.

This practice of preserving the dead became popular during the Civil War when families of the Union war dead wanted the bodies of their loved ones brought home from the battlefield, and embalming was the only way to preserve the remains for the long, often hot trip back north.

Today, many environmental advocates say conventional burial is an unsustainable endeavor that uses too many chemicals, land and resources, including an estimated 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid nationally each year, according to the Green Springs Natural Cemetery Preserve at It also estimates that 90,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, and 30-plus million board feet of hardwoods, much of it tropical, are used to make caskets every year in the U.S., with another 14,000 tons of steel and 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete going into burial vaults.

The green burial movement advocates interment that is easier on the earth. This involves natural burials that are chemical-free with no embalming, use of biodegradable caskets or simple shrouds, and grave sites that do not contain cement vaults.

Unlike conventional burials designed to stave off decomposition, green burials are frequently at a depth of three to four feet to permit access by aerobic bacteria and enhance decomposition.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, in 2014 the national median cost of a conventional adult funeral with viewing, burial and vault was $8,508.

Jay Czelusniak, owner of Czelusniak Funeral Home in Northampton, said the average conventional funeral in western Massachusetts costs less than the national median, at between roughly $5,000 and $7,000.

A green burial may cost thousands of dollars less, depending on how and where it is done. “A lot of it depends on the products, but most do come out to be less expensive,” Czelusniak said.

Czelusniak added that his funeral home is happy to offer formaldehyde-free embalming fluids that he said can adequately preserve the body for up to several weeks, as well as eco-friendly caskets and urns which vary in price and can lower costs to about $3,000.

Cemeteries set rules

Currently, there is no green burial cemetery or preserve that is open to everyone in Massachusetts, though some municipal and private cemeteries do allow for green burials.

The closest all-green cemetery to Massachusetts is Cedar Brook Burial Ground in Limington, Maine.

“We do get a lot of calls from people asking about green burial,” Czelusniak said. “Funeral directors don’t have any problem with green burial, it is just that many cemeteries will not allow it.”

Czelusniak noted that individual cemeteries set the rules and regulations for burial, with most requiring cement vaults.

“The public needs to contact their mayor, DPW and the individual cemeteries to let them know they want to make green burial available,” Czelusniak said. “If they hear from enough people, it will happen.”

But many people are not aware that this is a choice that may be available to them.

“We talk to people all the time that think embalming is a state law and it is not,” Lorei said.

And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has never prescribed embalming as a public health measure.

Conservation burial

While a green burial in an existing conventional cemetery is a more eco-friendly final departure, Lorei said that a “conservation burial is really the gold standard for green burial.”
Conservation burial involves being buried on land that has been established as a nature preserve or is designated as permanently protected conservation land.

Bodies are unobtrusively buried in the natural landscapes and, depending on the individual preserve, graves may be marked by native plantings, a rock, a small flat wooden plaque, or have no marker at all. Some graves may contain GPS markers so that people can find their loved one’s final resting place.

Money raised from burial fees go back into the preserve or land trust.

Many see this as a win-win situation.

“To be able to be buried in a beautiful natural place, in a very natural way and to know that you are also contributing to the future preservation of the land, that’s a wonderful thing,” said Alicia Pike Bergman of Minneapolis, who was at the event in Amherst during which Lorei spoke this month. “It makes your last act on this earth a very meaningful one.”

Matthias Nevins, a land conservation specialist for Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, agrees, saying that conservation burial on is an innovative way to leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

Roughly two years ago, Green Burial Massachusetts formed its partnership with Mount Grace.

“We are pretty excited to be working with Green Burial Massachusetts,” Nevins said. “We are currently looking for a property that has significant conservation value for wildlife habitat and recreation. The cemetery would resemble a natural landscape with partially open fields and meadows.”

Nevins said a property has been identified for the project but the sale of the land is still in negotiation.

If things go as planned, this would be the first conservation cemetery in Massachusetts. Mount Grace Land Trust would own the land and Green Burial Massachusetts would run the cemetery operations.

“We are very optimistic about this,” Lorei said. “We see this as a beginning step. Our goal is to eventually have lots of green cemeteries around Massachusetts.”

Willow coffins

Massachusetts may also have the first producer of natural willow coffins in the country.
Mary Lauren Fraser, 21, is a basket weaver who apprenticed with Karen Collins, a traditional weaver and basket coffin maker in Forres, Scotland.

“The UK is about 30 years ahead of us on this,” said Fraser, who lives in Montague where she is establishing her coffin-making business.

“I have been talking to other people in the green burial business and as far as I know, I am the only one in the country who makes these,” Fraser said.

While there is a selection of wicker caskets and coffins available through Mourning Dove Studio in Arlington, they are imported from overseas.

Fraser said it takes about 3½ days to complete a coffin, which uses roughly 20 to 25 pounds of willow that is locally sourced.

She said she is eager to take her work to different fairs and markets to let people know that there is a local green alternative to standard caskets. “I want people to be able to check it out, climb in and get excited about it,” she said.

Film showing

On Nov. 1, Lorei led a discussion following a showing of the film “A Will For the Woods” at Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, which was attended by some 30 people. The film chronicles the journey of Ohio psychiatrist Clark Wang who sought a green funeral and burial after being diagnosed with lymphoma.
In attendance was Janet Bergeron, a cemetery trustee in Sunderland.

“There has been a lot of interest in green burial lately, so I wanted to get as much information about it as I can,” Bergeron said. “It had never come up before, but within the last year it really has.”

Lorei said that people choose green burial for many different reasons ranging from simplicity to ecological and spiritual motives.

She also noted that people can work with funeral directors to request that their loved ones not be embalmed or to perhaps arrange for a wake at home.

“There are people who do want to take care of the body of their loved ones at home and be more involved in the ritual and care of that person,” Lorei said. “The point is, people don’t have to take the whole burial package from a funeral home, they can do it sort of a la carte.”

Joan Pillsbury of Gill, is a member of Green Burial Massachusetts and on the board of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.

When Pillsbury’s husband Dennis died, she had a wake at home and her family then drove his body to Cedar Brook Burial Ground in Maine.

“We don’t like to think about death, but more and more people want to have that public conversation,” Lorei said. “We encourage everyone to ask questions and if you are in need of support, we at green burial can work with you.”

Complete Article HERE!

For Jewish Students, Field Trip Is Window on Death and Dying


Rochel Berman
Rochel Berman explained traditional Jewish burial shrouds to students from Yeshiva High School during a visit to the Gutterman Warheit Memorial Chapel in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday.


Two yellow buses pulled away from Yeshiva High School here with a couple of class periods still left and the 77 seniors aboard giddy with the words “field trip.” They texted. They posed for selfies. They sent up clouds of chatter about weekend plans.

Then, less than a half-hour later, they walked into a cool, tiled room at the Gutterman Warheit Memorial Chapel and stared at the pine coffins and the inclined metal table used for cleaning a corpse.

“I thought I was cool about death,” one girl whispered to a classmate. “But this ——”

“This” meant more than the contents of the room, which is used at the Jewish funeral home for the body-washing ritual called tahara. It connoted the entire mini-course that she, along with the rest of Yeshiva High School’s graduating class, is taking about the Judaic practices and traditions surrounding death, dying and grief.

Few subjects run more powerfully counter to an American teenager’s innate sense of immortality than a confrontation with the reality of life’s end. The study of death became more common at the college level with the publication of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s influential book, “On Death and Dying,” in 1969. But it is rare that the subject is discussed at the high school level, particularly with an approach that includes fairly explicit instruction in caring for a cadaver.

Yeshiva High School
Yeshiva High School sent 77 senior students to the funeral home as part of a course teaching Judaic practices and traditions surrounding death, dying and grief.


“As a senior, you’re thinking about going to college, and as a teenager you have this feeling of invincibility,” Daniel Feldan, 17, said the morning after the visit to the funeral home on Tuesday. “I’ve never had that other feeling — of mortality, that life might end soon.”

Bailey Frohlich, also 17, nodded at hearing her classmate’s words. “It’s given us a reality check,” she said. “For us, it’s usually about college and friends and extracurriculars. You don’t focus on the grittier things. But even if you don’t have a personal connection to death, thank God, it affects the whole community.”

The 10-hour, eight-session course, titled “The Final Journey: How JudaismDignifies the Final Passage,” aims for sensitivity even as it provokes a certain degree of shock. Besides going to the funeral home, where they received detailed explanations of washing and dressing a corpse, the students have classroom lessons on topics including the history of the Jewish burial societies known as chevra kadisha, the Talmudic foundations of end-of-life practices, and issues involving autopsy and organ donation.

“When we started the program, there was a lot of hesitation and curiosity at the same time,” said Rabbi Jonathan Kroll, 45, the yeshiva’s head of school. “Jewish tradition for dealing with burial and the process of tahara is not that well known. Even for a lot of well-educated Jews, the chevra kadisha is like a secret society. But once you start talking about the values involved or the practical aspects, there’s a fascination.”

The program at Yeshiva High School began with Rochel U. Berman, a 79-year-old author and a former nursing home worker who moved near the school 13 years ago. Her well-regarded book on Jewish burial rituals, “Dignity Beyond Death,” was published in 2005. Over the years she lived in South Florida and the New York metropolitan area, and she served as a chevra kadisha volunteer in both places, preparing the bodies of about 1,000 women and girls, from centenarians who simply wore out to an 18-month-old baby felled by cancer.

In broad ways, Jewish rituals around death and dying trace back to antiquity, and they have been central to Jewish continuity in the diaspora. The system of chevra kadisha emerged in Central Europe in the 16th century. Initially almost a social institution composed of the elite, chevra kadisha groups transformed over the centuries into an example of communal or congregational voluntarism.

An unlikely adopter of religious tradition, Ms. Berman grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as the child of secular socialists. Her Jewish language, rather than the Hebrew of worship and Zionism, was the Yiddish of the Old World shtetl and the New World slum.

By the time Ms. Berman’s father died in 1985, she had grown observant. Even so, between the final kiss she planted on his forehead in his deathbed and the lowering of the coffin into the ground the next day, she had no idea what had been done with her father’s body.

Jewish funeral process
From left: Sarina Solomon, Ariella Mamann and Jolie Davies, students at Yeshiva High School, practiced the Jewish funeral process that would be used to cleanse a body before burial.


“I didn’t know what I was missing, but I knew there was a hole there,” she recalled. “And the not-knowing made me even sadder.”

While living in New York, she and her husband, George Berman, both started volunteering in their Orthodox synagogue’s chevra kadisha, which has separate units for each gender. The processes of washing and purifying the body, of dressing it in a white linen shroud, of moving it into a plain wooden coffin filled her with a sense of communal purpose.

Not content with her own years as a volunteer or with her book, Ms. Berman resolved to reach young people as a way of imbuing the next generation with those Judaic values. “It’s a gift to give them, a part of the Jewish life cycle they didn’t know about,” she said. “And once they know it, they’ll be the ambassadors in sharing it.”

Rabbi Kroll assumed the leadership of Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton, Fla., three years ago. Coincidentally, it turned out that he, somewhat later than Ms. Berman, had belonged to the same synagogue and volunteered in the same chevra kadisha in New York’s Westchester County.

With $21,000 in grants from foundations and religious organizations, Ms. Berman devised a curriculum. Rabbi Kroll tested it last year with half of the seniors in the class of 2015.

“We had pushback,” he recalled, “but it wasn’t serious pushback. Several parents questioned the priority: ‘Why not use the time on something more pertinent, more relevant?’ My impression is that the pushback was about their own discomfort with mortality.”

As for the first batch of students, half of them reported on evaluation forms that, as a result of the course, they would consider being in a chevra kadisha. That response was more than sufficient for Rabbi Kroll to expand the program to this year’s entire senior class. Among the 78 students, he said, only three have had an immediate family member die. (One of those three was excused from the funeral home trip.)

Even those like Maya Borzak, 18, whose grandfather served in a chevra kadisha, found there was plenty to learn. In fact, the funeral home visit occurred just five days before the unveiling of that grandfather’s headstone, which in Jewish tradition takes place after a year of mourning.

“I always knew that, in general, it’s important to have a Jewish identity, that you’re born a Jew and you need to die a Jew,” Maya said. “You have a circumcision if you’re a boy, you have baby-naming if you’re a girl, and then, at the end, everyone is buried in the same way.”

“Now I know more than the sources for the processes and rituals,” she said. “I know the dignity that is supposed to be provided for everyone who dies. It’s the great equalizer. We’re all in this together.”

Complete Article HERE!

Why Humans Care for the Bodies of the Dead

By Julie Beck

Why Humans Care for the Bodies of the Dead

In tracing the history and culture of corpses, a new book shows the importance of remembrance to our species.

The ancient Greek Cynic philosopher Diogenes was extreme in a lot of ways. He deliberately lived on the street, and, in accordance with his teachings that people should not be embarrassed to do private things in public, was said to defecate and masturbate openly in front of others. Plato called him “a Socrates gone mad.” Shocking right to the end, he told his friends that when he died, he didn’t want to be buried. He wanted them to throw his body over the city wall, where it could be devoured by animals.“What harm then can the mangling of wild beasts do me if I am without consciousness?” he asked.What is a dead body but an empty shell?, he’s asking. What does it matter what happens to it? These are also the questions that the University of California, Berkeley, history professor Thomas Laqueur asks in his new book The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains.“Diogenes was right,” he writes, “but also existentially wrong.”

This is the tension surrounding how humans treat dead bodies. What makes a person a person is gone from their bodies upon death, and there’s really no logical reason why we should care for the empty container—why we should embalm it, dress it up, and put it on display, or why we should collect its burnt remnants in an urn and place it on the mantle.

Humanity’s answer to Diogenes, Laqueur writes, has largely been “Yes, but…” People have cared for the bodies of their dead since at least 10,000 B.C., Laqueur writes, and so the reason for continuing to do so is a tautology: “We live with the dead because we, as a species, live with the dead.” And the fact that we do so, he argues, is one of the things that brings us as a species from nature into culture. (The taboo against incest is another example.)Despite the rationality of Diogenes’s logic, it’s unthinkable that we would just throw the corpses of our loved ones over a wall and leave them to the elements. Dead bodies matter because humans have decided that they matter, and they’ve continued to matter over time even as the ways people care for bodies have changed.

Laqueur’s book makes this argument with a dense, detailed sketch of a relatively small slice of time and space: Western Europe from the 18th to 20th centuries. The story begins with churchyards, which “held a near monopoly on burial throughout Christendom … for more than a thousand years, from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century and beyond in some places.” People would be buried (and generally had a legal right to be buried) in the yard of the church of the parish where they lived (or in the church itself if they were wealthy or clergy). This was a messy business. The yards were constantly being churned up as new bodies were buried, and they got lumpy. There weren’t many grave markers, and if there were, they were likely to read “here lies the body,” not a particularly personal epitaph.

“The churchyard was and looked to be a place for remembering a bounded community of the dead who belonged there,” Laquer writes, “rather than a place for individual commemoration and mourning.”Though bodies were jumbled together in churchyards in a way that it made it almost impossible to find any one individual, there was some method to their arrangement: They were buried very deliberately along an east-west axis to line up with Jerusalem to the east, the direction from which the resurrection was expected to come. John Calvin, the Protestant theologian, thought the very act of burial showed faith in a corporeal resurrection.

In the early 19th century, the dominance of churchyards began to wane, for a number of reasons. They were crowded, for one. Rotting bodies piled up in churchyards and church vaults also produced the kind of odor you might expect, and activists began to argue that they were unsanitary. But Laqueur points out that churchyards had always been crowded and smelly, and “for centuries the smell … was tolerable.” The rise of cemeteries as an alternative to churchyards, Laqueur writes, was really part of a massive cultural shift, one that owed a lot to the industrial revolution and the Protestant reformation.

During and after industrial revolution, unpleasant things of all kinds were being removed from people’s sight. Butchers and slaughterhouses delivered meat while keeping the blood behind the curtain; London constructed a massive sewer system, getting people’s waste off the streets and out of the River Thames. With this as the backdrop, it stands to reason that people might want the dead bodies out of their cities as well—while they didn’t pose a real public-health threat, people successfully argued that they did, and that was enough.

The first great cemetery of the West was Père-Lachaise in Paris, built by Napoleon, and it inspired the building of others in Copenhagen, Glasgow, and Boston, among other cities. Unlike churchyards, these cemeteries were stand-alone places for the dead, open to the public and largely separated from the crowded areas of cities.They were also disassociated from religion. “To some degree this is about the rise of negative liberty: the right to a grave in a neutral civic space irrespective of one’s beliefs or lack of beliefs, and the right to a choice in rituals of burial,” Laqueur writes. The waning dominance of the Catholic Church had a lot to do with that. Burying bodies right by the church would remind people on their way in to pray for the dead as a way of helping those souls stuck in purgatory. But many Protestant reformers rejected the idea of purgatory, and argued that the dead did not need the prayers of the living.

The focus of cemeteries was not, as it had been in churchyards, on a community of faithful dead, but on remembering the individual. It allowed for families to be buried together, which hadn’t really been possible in the tangle of the churchyard.


“It was a place of sentiment loosely connected, at best, with Christian piety and intimately bound up with the emotional economics of family,” Laqueur writes. “In it, a newly configured idolatry of the dead served the interests less of the old God of religion than of the new gods of memory and history: secular gods.” Cemeteries allowed for gravestones, monuments, epitaphs, the carving of names in stone. This provides a little insurance against the fear of death—that one’s name, at least, will outlast them. Carving in stone is a powerful metaphor for permanence, even if it’s just wishful thinking.

The advent of cremation as a popular practice took some of this enchantment away from the dead body. But while in some ways people who opted for cremation were finally recognizing the body as a shell, just like Diogenes said, deference towards bodies was often just replaced by deference to its ashes. Ashes are scattered, interred, and revered in many ways, just as bodies are. And cremation has obviously not completely replaced burial by any stretch.If care for the dead is one of the quintessential things about being human, fear of death is another. Being the only animal with constant awareness of its own mortality has significant effects on how humans behave. Often, according to terror-management theory, the thought of death will lead people to seek out and to value more highly things that they think will bring them immortality, in the metaphoric sense. Living on in the memories of others would do the trick, even though we must on some level know is only a reprieve against eventually being forgotten.On this matter, Laqueur turns to the 17th-century poet John Weever:

Every man, Weever writes, “desires a perpetuity after his death.” Without this idea “man could never have awakened in him the desire to live in the remembrance of his fellows.” And without it, human life in the shadow of death would be unbearable and unrecognizable: “the social affections could not have unfolded themselves un-countenanced by the faith that Man is an immortal being.” Our love for one another differs from the love animals might feel for one another in that an animal perishes in the field without “anticipating the sorrow with which is associates will bemoan his death,” whereas we “wish to be remembered by our friends.” Naming the dead, like care for their bodies, is seen as a way to keep them among the living. And maybe it is a way around Diogenes.

So yes, Diogenes, the body is technically nothing once void of its soul, or consciousness, or however one conceives of the essence of a person. We get it. But it’s a physical emblem of that person, and in caring for it, we offer the person’s memory a chance to linger, as we hope our own will.

Even if physical death is quick and final, social death takes time. And through communal effort, people offer each other the chance for their names to last a little longer on Earth than their bodies do. “There is also another way to construe the dead,” Laqueur writes: “As social beings, as creatures who need to be eased out of this world and settled safely into the next and into memory.”

Complete Article HERE!