When I retired as a humanist celebrant I thought I'd stop writing this blog, but my fascination with all things death-related prompted more posts. They're just written from a slightly different perspective, that's all. Oh, and I still do the odd one, by special request.

Friday, January 02, 2015

10 eco-friendly funeral ideas

From the Guardian, some ideas to reduce the environmental impact of your death. Some are just common sense. The link to Bios Urn doesn't work, but Google does:
The Bios Urn is a fully biodegradable urn designed to convert you into a tree after life. Mainly composed by two parts, the urn contains a seed which will grow to remember your loved one. Bios Urn turns death into a transformation and a return to life through nature.
Only problem is that seeds don't always germinate and trees sometimes fail - wonder if there's a warning on the packaging?

Leela Alcorn's killer - what about him?

You might imagine that, of course, losing someone to suicide will deeply affect the people closest to the person who died. I've conducted funerals for people who've taken an overdose or slit their wrists, both deeply shocking for the friend or relative who found them. But sometimes the people most deeply affected are those who killed the suicides, through no fault of their own.

Over the last week or so the story of Leelah Alcorn has been told on social media. A transgender teenager, she committed suicide by stepping into traffic and being hit by a tractor and trailer.
On Sunday, just before 2:30 a.m., Alcorn walked 4 miles from her middle-class Kings Mills neighborhood with its views of Kings Island to Interstate 71. There, she was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer. The highway was closed for more than a hour.
While I have every sympathy with Leela's mother, and with all her friends and relatives, and I share the feeling that it was a tragedy that she chose to die because of her circumstances, I also feel that one other person's trauma has been largely ignored; the driver whose vehicle crushed Leela's body. He will never be able to forget what happened.

Leela is described in a statement from her school as "a sweet, talented, tender-hearted 17-year-old." She wrote in her blog, "My death needs to mean something". She was referring to the prejudice and bullying experienced by people like herself. But this sweet, tender-hearted teen didn't take pills or drown herself; she got someone else to kill her. She didn't think about the effect that might have on him.

Letters to The Age in 2012 reflect the trauma suffered by railway workers whose trains have struck suicides. A front-seat passenger described one fatality,
I will never forget the scream of the driver and the feeling of the train running over the woman's body...
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine the nightmares? The anxiety every time you see someone stepping towards the road out of the corner of your eye? In the UK, train drivers who used to be able to claim compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund have lost that right, despite being off work for months or leaving the job altogether, and suffering long-term depression. Nik Douglas, whose train hit a man, described how his life changed in 2012:
For the next six months he was off work with post-traumatic stress. “When I was on my own I’d burst into tears for no reason, I found sleep hard and I’d have flashbacks during the night and day,” he says. “I could be in a room full of people with a really good party atmosphere but feel alone, isolated. That’s one of the biggest things I remember, feeling alone.”
The Samaritans and Network Rail have formed a partnership to try and address the problem, for the benefit of all concerned. Here's their video.

So OK, sympathise with Leela, and others like her, but think of the damage that they've done to other people too. It may have been unintentional, but maybe if more people are aware of the problem it might, just might, prevent copy-cat suicides.

As I wrote in a previous post, suicides are notoriously oblivious to the effect that their actions have on other people.
Update - BBC Look East news report, 28/1/2015: