Where there’s a will

I Lindsey Peter Redding, being of sound mind and body…


A sound mind? Well that’s debateable, and as far a sound body, well hardly. Right now my body is about as sound as a 1972 Trabant.

Today we made our wills. It wouldn’t have been my first choice of diversion for a sunny December morning but having successfully avoided this oneruos chore for two full decades, I have finally ran out of plausible excuses. Anyway Jo ambushed me immediately after breakfast when I’m still not fully compos mentis and my psychic defenses are at a low ebb.

I can report that this is indeed as little fun as you would imagine.

For a start, it really doesn’t look like a Last Will & Testiment should. There’s no thick yellow velum or aged parchiment. No flamboyant penmanship or decorative gold leaf. No vermillion ribbons, sealing wax or signatures in blood. In fact if I’m honest, It doesn’t even say “I the undersigned, being of sound mind and body.” I made that bit up.
It’s all depressingly prozaic. Three or four pages of word-processed legal guff, rendered onto cheap photocopier paper, with a few user definable options picked out in florescent yellow highlighter for my consideration. Where’s the romance? Where’s the octogenarian Dickensian legal scribe with fluffy white mutton-chops peering over his half-rimmed spectacles expectantly, quill in hand as I lay out my final bequests?

After studying the dense legal prose at length, there appears to be precious few opportunities for fun and creative self expression. The oly possible loophole I could identitify being in the section headed Funeral Instructions.

Now as you would expect from a lawyer, the available options are dismally limmiting and predictable, and frankly show a distinct lack of imagination.

A. Cremation
B. Burial

Now I’m sure we can do better than that.

Off the top of my head I can think of any number of more exciting, economically sound, and environmentally friendly ways of disposing of a body. My personal favourite (apart from being shot into space like Gene Rodenbury*) is Excarnation or Sky Burial. This funeral rite was widely practiced in late neolithic and early bronze age times, and more recently by certain American Indian tribes, and is apparently still all the rage in parts of  Tibet.  This ancient and modestly priced ritual consists of placing your recently deceased nearest-and-dearest on a raised wooden platform outside in the open for several months while the birds and other scavengers strip every last atom of flesh from the bones, after which they are bleached clean by the sun and rain.

After a respectful period, the glistening white bones are gathered up into a neat pile and stashed in a nook in the family home to be revered and worshipped by future generations. I rather like the sound of that.

Now. We have a pretty big garden here on Waiheke. Maybe half an acre. And more birds than you could shake a shiny shin-bone at. There’s plenty of good two-by-fours under the house, left over from building the extension that would make an excellent burial platform. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Obviously I will need to run it past the neighbours – it could get a bit smelly depending on the time of year, and it might be a little confusing for the dog. And there might be some potential niggles with the Environmental Health Dept., but in principle it could work. After six months or so, what’s left can be gatherd up and stacked on the shelf in the living room between my Tom Waits CD’s and my back issues of Spaceflight Monthly.

I have resolved to drop a line to Auckland City council at the first opportunity to apply for a Sky Burial Permit.


 A rather shoddily constructed american Indian sky burial. Obviously mine would be much better built.

*Star Trek creator Gene Roddenburry’s ashes were caries into orbit by Space Shuttle Columbia in 1992. In 1999 more ashes, as well as those of Timothy Leary and 22 others were launched into space aboard an unmanned Celestis spacecraft.






6 views shared on this article. Join in...

  1. charlotte gray says:

    Hi Lindsay – The Parsis still practice sky burial (or Dakhma) in India. I’ve seen the towers while in Mumbai. They fittingly call them the ‘Towers of Silence’ and are quite a sobering thing to observe, but fascinating. There’s been a huge decline in the population of vultures and other birds of prey in India – So they use huge UV lights and mirrors to essentially speed up the decomposition process now. Quite a site to behold when in the middle of a city like Mumbai.


    • Linds says:

      Yes that might turn out to be a bit of a snag. We don’t have many vultures here on Waiheke island. There are however plenty of seagulls, who will eat pretty much anything, and we have a noisy and ravenous flock or resident magpies that terroise the neighbourhood. I bet they’d be up for a free meal. I quite like the idea of lights and mirrors as well, maybe even some lasers and fireworks… The posibilities are endless.

  2. Canada has such a variety of cultures you hear of all sorts of things. As a small island where cremation is frowned upon Greece has had to get creative on the subject of one’s last resting place. Their solution involves an initial burial, after which, with the due passage of time, your relatives get to dig you back up now nicely reduced to just a few bones that are neatly stacked up and buried in a much smaller hole of your choosing. You get two funerals for the price of one. Interestingly, they also have a superstition that you head should be pointing north on the initial “dig”. The reason I know was a friend attended a greek funeral which was rather badly organised. They were about to start shovelling when the priest realised the body was pointing the “wrong” way and the remains were literally spun round in the grave.

    • Linds says:

      Hmm. Good point. I hadn’t considered direction in my plans. But since you bring it up, I think I’ll arange my sky burial platform in such a way that my head faces NASA and my raised arse pints in the general direction of the NZ Inland Revenue Servive offeces in downtown Auckland.

  3. will atkinson says:

    ofFECES? Sub-concious slip re your bum and the taxman? Or just an innocent spelling mistake?

    • Linds says:

      I’d like to claim that my repeated, howling and hilarious spelling mistakes are carefully pr-meditated Will, but sadly it just the result of borderline dyslexia and a comprehensive education. (Why they call it a Comprehensive education I don’t know, as nothing could be further from the truth.)

Leave a Reply to Linds Cancel reply