Death is a delicate subject. We all know we have to face it someday, but no one is particularly fond of the fact that our body, which we nurture and look after so assiduously, will one day be stuffed into a wooden coffin and be left in a hole in the ground to rot. Not a thought to brighten up your day at all.
Are there any alternatives? Sure, cremation, that is incinerating your body and placing the ashes in an urn to be kept by your loved ones or scattered in a favourite place, is a popular choice in other countries. It is regarded as a cleaner alternative to the more traditional one of burying a person in a cemetery, not to mention the fact that it totally circumvents the problem of the extensive land needed for this purpose.
Cremation is also less expensive, since as most people know, one not only spends months (or years) waiting to buy a plot of land for a grave, especially locally, but this land also costs quite a lot. Coffins themselves are not cheap either. If you have had the misfortune of having to face all these expenses personally, you especially know that in such difficult times, when one is facing the loss of a loved one, worrying about expenses is a major hurdle which one surely does not need.
Unfortunately, options are limited in Malta, since cremation is not yet legal, that is unless one arranges for the body to be transported overseas for cremation. Burial at sea is another option, however, it is not a very popular one.
In 2012, a spokesman for the Health Ministry told the Independent on Sunday that cremation was not a closed subject. The demand for graves, not to mention the need for more extensive cemeteries to be built, is a local issue and a crematorium could be a solution to tackle the growing lack of burial space. One should point out that the Church does not, in fact, oppose cremation, as many seem to think, it merely recommends that the ashes themselves be buried and not kept in urns or scattered.
Two Italian designers, Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel came up with another, more holistic choice when it comes to one’s physical end. They created the Capsula Mundi project.
Just imagine this – at your death, instead of being put in a dark wooden box, you could be encapsulated in a biodegradable casket or ‘pod’, resembling a big seed. These biodegradable burial pods, made out of renewable materials such as starch plastic or plants like potatoes and corn, would then cradle your remains until they eventually became nutrients for a beautiful tree growing directly above it. One source of life sparks another. Each person would be able to choose his or her favourite tree so that instead of visiting depressing tombstones, relatives and friends would instead visit a ‘Memory Forest’, where they would be able to think about and remember their loved ones.
A tree takes up to forty years to grow and is then cut down in a few minutes for the wood to be used as a coffin. In this way, not only wouldn’t we be cutting down trees for this purpose, but we would instead be planting and aiding new trees to grow. Trees provide protective habitats for wildlife, where different animals and plants can grow, so instead of being lost, our bodies would be contributing to the greater good of the planet.
As of yet, burial pods are still only a concept, as the project has to date not been officially sanctioned. However, it does offer an altruistic choice and quite a romantic one too.
If it had to become legal in Malta, would you consider opting for a burial in a Memory Forest?