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Body Disposition: Part 1

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

By Julia Hartsell

In death planning talk, body disposition refers to what people choose to do with their bodies after death. In recent years, I've had the fortune of talking to a lot of people about their disposition wishes. Sometimes (like 50% of the time) conversations lead to someone sharing, either implicitly or explicitly, that the soul is gone so the body doesn't matter.

Each time I hear that, my heart sinks. The tendency towards disposability in our culture has not-so-subtly crept into the most sacred transformational rite of our lives, our deaths, and to these temples that are our bodies.

When I hear people say it doesn't matter what happens to the body because it's just the body, I see / hear / feel all the ways that living bodies are also disregarded on our planet, especially in this culture. From animals to trees, to rivers, to mountain tops, to humans--especially groups of oppressed or less exalted in the bullshit supremacy structures designated for humans--bodies don't matter.

The word dispose, in the disposable sense, has evolved from “available” (think disposable income) to “designed to be discarded after one use” (think diapers, and subsequently everything else in the West.)