Physicists are turning out to be one of the greatest, most sense-making allies in the new way of looking at death. When you advocate for green, natural burials, as I do (for example: here) you run up against people who tend to think of the concept as tree-hugging, hippy-dippy, anti science. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
There is a fantastic article from a blog called Sagan/Sense, which advocates for having a physicist at your funeral. I couldn’t agree more.
“You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world.”
“…the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you.”
Those gems of comforting scientific death knowledge are also probably what Neil Degrasse Tyson (another physicist) would say at a funeral. Tyson is travels the country dropping bon mots left and right about how awe inspiring and fascinating science is.
At a Q&A session, Tyson is asked how he can possibly make peace with his own death without believing in a God. The video labels the guys asking the question as a “religious troll,” which is a shame because it’s actually a pretty great question.
Tyson, of course, kills it: “I would request that my body, in death, be buried, not cremated, so the energy content contained within it gets returned to the Earth, so that the flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna throughout my life.”
The point of all the sciency-talk is that your energy shooting back into the universe can be incredibly comforting in the right light. Every part of our body belongs to a universe that giveth and taketh away. Provides a single person with atoms and energy for a time and then kindly asks for their return at our death. Lovely.
Tip of Death’s hat to Erin Winkler for the Sagan/Sense article.