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Writer's Block: On Your Tombstone

What do you want written on your gravestone and why?

Robert A. Sloan, writer.

Then put the bit from the Havamal on it in runes, in the Old Norse -- the verse that translates to "Men die, cattle die, even the gods may die, but a good name will remain forever."

It's a traditional Norse death verse, and hopefully my books would long survive me. If I said any great last words those might go on it. But odds are there won't be one, not with the way funereal practices have been going. A memorial perhaps. I'll probably donate the body to science but some part of me would still like a good Viking style ship-funeral in effigy and then perhaps some sort of time-capsule site with burial goods, even if the corpse isn't part of the assemblage.
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( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 30th, 2008 12:52 pm (UTC)
I applaud this one
Jul. 30th, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC)
Jul. 30th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
That sounds awesome.

I also want to donate my body to science. I figure I'll be done with it...
Jul. 31st, 2008 12:38 am (UTC)
I don't like the idea of normal embalming and don't like the way funerals are done conventionally, or want anything like the normal customs for graveyards -- it's not permanence, they go digging it up and getting rid of the remains a century later, it's not archaeology because there's no grave goods left in the grave, it's expensive but brutally minimal as funerals go (looking at history), so I'd rather donate to science or actually get it buried at sea (fish rather than bugs) without embalming so that it returns to the cycle of nature.

Actually there are some companies doing biodegradable coffins now for exactly that type of burial, which make good sense to me and might be the key to getting away with the "no embalming" -- granted their fish food's getting delivered in a box but at least it's going back to the ocean. Still, science is cool too because they have this distorted skeleton to examine and all the medical weirdness to poke at when I'm not around to feel it and be discomfited.
Jul. 31st, 2008 01:51 am (UTC)
For me, the main motivating factor is practicality. I don't like letting anything go to waste, and that applies to my body as well. If my organs are usable, I'd be happy to donate them. If there's something to be learned, I'd like someone to have the chance to learn it. I also imagine my medical issues would make an interesting specimen. Probably not for as long, though.

Additionally, I've had a longstanding fascination with forensics and the science of decay. I chose not to pursue it as a career, but leaving my body to science seems like one way to indulge it, irrationally enough.

I'm also right there with you on the weirdness of conventional funerals. Before I knew I could donate it to science, I'd thought of burial at sea or cremation. I'm still undecided about whether I want to donate to medschool or the Body Farm, though. I guess I'll leave that up to my survivors--if they have some attachment to my bones, they can have them...
Jul. 31st, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)
Forgot to add:

I do want some kind of nice stone marker somewhere, though, in somewhere nice--preferably not a graveyard, as most of those either get dug up or get pretty lonely in a generation or two. No idea what I'd want it to say. But it would probably be a nice thing for whoever cared, as long as they're still around.
Jul. 31st, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
I think I'd have to add a quirk to it though, if I go for medschool -- it can go on public exhibit even with my name and all, but, they have to add a card that says "Rob, really naked, not having a good time here."
Jul. 31st, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
I've still got hopes of being famous, probably will till I'm dead, probably will include "infamous" if only for my assorted medical conditions. So yeah, some sort of stone marker would be grand and I'd really go for an effigy with grave goods -- on the general idea that maybe they weren't so screwed up in all the thousands of years before people got shoved in the ground with poison in their veins, clothes slit up the back and nothing in their pockets. But a lot of those grand ancient burials had effigies and that'd make for a good archaeology site too. Depends how rich I am at the time I go too, because the whole time capsule-monument thing isn't likely to happen unless I buy the stuff and put it together. Of course Ari Cat would need an effigy too. Nice thing about effigies is that they can be more flattering than the original, at least in my case, Ari being as handsome a specimen of felinity as anyone could ask for.

Some form of stone gazebo with benches where people can hang out and write or sketch, in a really nice looking area, now that'd be cool. But graveyards are right out of it because they're all Christian or Jewish and have weird laws around them, and no one goes there much for fun except illegally. Memorials can be really interesting architecture in themselves and the point is to be remembered.

But thinking of it like that, remembered for something that's actually some use or pleasure to those bothering to remember it is why the nice benches, good view and general good spot for doing creative stuff. People show up for things if they're going to enjoy them. The idea of people bringing wine to my memorial to make out or draw or write or dance, really sounds good to me. Maybe words in it like "You're alive and I'm not, so enjoy yourself and do something creative."

Jul. 31st, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I haven't decided on that either. Though medschool is an amusing possibility all things considered, it does mean embalming and taking it out of the biosphere, while the Body Farm emphatically doesn't. The flip side is that med school may ultimately through curiousness of the bones result in museum exhibit, which would be highly amusing. I always liked museums.
Jul. 31st, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
Actually, the Body Farm is more likely to keep the bones that most schools. Most of the schools eventually give them back to the survivors. I don't know about embalming; the schools I know of just refrigerate and use it for autopsy practice. I'm still looking up specifics on both, though.
Jul. 31st, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
Or even better (read these three in reverse)

"Rob, really naked, still can't dance."
Jul. 31st, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC)
Ha, crossposting.

I think that's also a great idea. Dunno what I'd use for mine, though.

"Does this armature make me look fat?"
"Really hoping y'all pay attention to this lecture."
Jul. 31st, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
ROFLMAO "Does this armature make me look fat?"

Generations of med students are gonna love us. We might even get taken out for parties with captions like that.
Jul. 31st, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
Getting taken out for parties should totally be the goal. And being used for pranks.

Your idea of the gazebo is a really good one. I could go for that. Or just a nice bench. Preferably somewhere I would've liked while I was alive. Maybe in the middle of nowhere, desolation wilderness... that would be pretty entertaining, although Forestry probably wouldn't approve.

Heh--you never know, by the time you die, there might be pagan graveyards. I know of a few secular graveyards, but they're mostly affiliated with towns where you need to have lived for quite a few years, or something like that.

Dunno what I'd want done for a ritual. Preferably some kind of party, preferably not depressing, but that's another one I'd leave up to my survivors. It's for them, anyways, I figure.
Jul. 31st, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
That's a cool thing about a Norse sendoff, it would involve mead and partying after the serious bit.

I like the idea of putting it out in the middle of gorgeous wilderness. If I wind up with money, I could always buy land for it, get it zoned so I can do it, then put said memorial gazebo in the middle of a park with trails to it, knowing I left a foundation or something to keep it wilderness.

I can hope there'll be pagan graveyards sometime. The trouble with a decentralized religion is that everything involving things like that goes through churches with a lot of people. And it seems to be the custom for people not in churches to either not care because they didn't believe, or to get cremation-scattering -- which I don't like at all because then you're forgotten as if you've never lived. That is one of my biggest objections to that one.
Jul. 31st, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC)
*nods* I come from an Irish background. Wakes are supposed to be parties, too.

I've always wanted to own land in the middle of absolute nowhere, and if I ever get that chance, I probably would do that. I'd also want to keep it wilderness.

True for now, but I predict there will be more organized movements in paganism as time goes on. It's no longer unusual to find open pagans, now, and that's the first step towards accomplishing common goals.

Most of the people I know who want cremation want it because of an aversion to knowing their bodies will decompose. A lot of the people who get it keep their ashes in an urn, or scatter them and get a marker somewhere.

Heh--I wonder if heathen-style effigy burnings are legal. I think some states have a law against burning effigies... the legacy of the KKK, if I recall right.
Aug. 1st, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
True, the point in favor of cremation is an urn your family and heirs can keep. But the scattering thing always sort of bothered me. If there is a law against burning effigies then it probably is related to harassment, not to someone's funeral when it was in their will that they wanted it. I may have to do some research and my friends may have to go somewhere it's legal to do the Norse ship funeral -- but I was thinking a miniature anyway, a small artwork to be set sail on a lake. It wouldn't really be like the KKK effigies or other hate messages, pretty hard to mistake it for that. But there may also be ordinances just about doing fires not in the official grills in parks.

Ah the trouble of all sorts of regulations...
Aug. 1st, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC)
I understand the sentiment behind scattering--it's a feeling of not wanting dead parts of you hanging around, or at least it was for me when I considered it.

I don't think the idea of effigy funerals would've occurred to the people who write the laws. I'd imagine a miniature ship would be OK, though--that would be pretty hard to mistake. I know candlefloats and the like are common enough in plenty of areas, although you do need to have someone to catch it and make sure it doesn't drift ashore and burn down the woods. At least, that goes for West Virginia.
Aug. 1st, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC)
Right, that does make sense.

I guess that is something I can see from someone else's point of view. But I was always fascinated by fossils and not horrified by them, would want some dead parts of me around and preserved as a curiosity or a fossil. As a kid fossilization was my first choice! Get buried without embalming somewhere in thick sediment so that it'd be fossilized.

I don't like the idea of being forgotten as if I never lived.
Aug. 1st, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
Fossilization would be really cool--I was one of those kids who loved fossils (and still does) too. If that was an option, I'd be thinking about it.

I don't want to do anything too wacky, though, like having a diamond made out of my remains or freezing it in hopes of being revived. When I'm dead, I'm dead.

I understand not wanting to be forgotten. I don't really link that with my body, though, since I know that'll eventually be gone. I think of memorials more as a comfort to the people who keep living--although it would be nice if they'd think of me, of course. I'd rather have some kind of impact, however small, than be remembered... and almost everyone has that, I think. Of course, I'd like to have more than most. But I think it's what I do that matters, more than if people remember me or not.
Aug. 1st, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)
I thought the diamond idea was pretty cool, if they could get it to look decent then people have some reason to remember and not to get rid of it! I wanted cryogenic for a very long time, but I'm going off that idea as I think about the way they do it now. Most they'd get out of it would be to clone me and I would not wish that on my son, which is what he'd be, my posthumous offspring.

I think of memorials as some grand spit in the face of time declaration, it's part of my general level of ambition in life. I want the archaeologists to know who I was and think of me as an important person (best way to do that is to put together a dream site for grave goods in the memorial) and plenty of written material in durable form with keys to this and that. I want my books to be remembered. I was always ambitious that way.

I never wanted to be an ordinary guy, just like everyone else. I wanted to stand out and do something wonderful, something memorable and good. Just being remembered per se wouldn't be enough, if that was the only thing that mattered I would go kill some people creatively and get on that list. What I want is to create books that are so good they stand the test of time, read well even out of their original context.

What I do in day to day living matters a lot to me and to my karma, which is pretty good. What I hope will last are my works, especially my writing.
Aug. 1st, 2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
I'd be afraid the diamond would get stolen or accidentally sold or something, as there's no way to tell it from a natural diamond. Besides, something so small is easy to lose.

I also have always wanted to be more than ordinary, but I'm happy to do so quietly; I've never really desired fame. I would be very happy to have my works remembered, and stay unknown. I don't mind attention; I just don't have much of a drive to seek it. I'm very future-oriented, and tend to believe in some kind of afterlife/reincarnation, so I think my attitudes are a reflection of that. By nature, I'm also fairly modest--I don't dwell on accomplishments unless doing that will help me accomplish more.

(Your ethos, if I may be so bold, strikes me as very heathen.)
Aug. 2nd, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Hmm, you've got a point, unless it got mounted in something that was valuable and had the name on it.

I do have a very heathen ethos. I'm not humble. I've done a lot in my life, and I've been through a lot. I always wanted recognition -- the uglier sides of fame in some contexts never appealed to me, makes me very glad not to be an actor or rock musician -- but wanted to leave a mark in history with my works, write something worth remembering.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )


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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance

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