Forward-thinking folk make sure they’ve considered all the options for what happens to their bodies when they’ve kicked the bucket.
Some people opt for a traditional interment in a local cemetery, others prefer to have themselves cremated, with the ashes scattered at a favourite spot or in a garden of remembrance.
But what if you want something a little different? Something that might involve your flyblown corpse being picked clean by hungry birds of prey, perhaps.
Then what you need is a sky burial, a funeral practice in which the deceased is placed on a mountaintop to decompose while exposed to the elements and eaten by scavenging animals.
Sky burials are carried out in the Chinese provinces of Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan and parts of Mongolia by followers of Vajrayana Buddhism, who see it as something of a rebirth via “transmigration of spirits”:
There is no need to preserve the body, as it is now an empty vessel. Birds may eat it or nature may cause it to decompose. The function of the sky burial is simply to dispose of the remains in as generous a way as possible (the source of the practice’s Tibetan name).
The practice may date back as far as 9,000BC and some believe it originally developed because it was particularly tricky to dig proper graves or collect enough wood to hold a proper cremation in mountainous areas.
Fewer people see it as an attractive option these days – apparently the vultures have been known to turn their beaks up at corpses treated with medicine and disinfectants at modern hospitals.
If you need a little extra fix of gross, here’s a pic of a body being prepared for the ceremony.
That sound you can hear is a hundred vultures licking their lips.
If they had lips.