Don’t just die; live on as a tree

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”

It sounds like something Barbara Walters would ask on “20/20” 40 years ago or something you might hear in a job interview if the person interviewing you is an idiot who doesn’t care whether or not you can do the job.

But now it has some relevance thanks to the Capsula Mundi. That’s not some new spaceship Elon Musk has designed, nor is it some wonderful new miracle drug that your health insurance company will never cover.

The Capsula Mundi is a burial pod. That’s right. After you take your final breath, you can now get stuffed into this egg-shaped burial pod — or have your ashes put in it — and get planted into the ground with a tree over you. This tree will feed on your nutrients as you decompose.

The idea is to make dying a little more green. Instead of cemeteries full of wasted space, there would be burial forests. I’ve always thought that if I’m not really here anymore, there’s no sense wasting space on this Earth. Of course, some folks would argue that my being here now might be a waste of space.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this lately and not just because I’ve come down with pneumonia in the past week and am pretty much walking, coughing death. I’ve long told my wife about my final wishes.

Before I knew about these tree pods, I wanted to be cremated and have my ashes spread somewhere that means something to me like the Georgia coast or into the Flint River. Now that Trump is rolling back more clean water rules, I think she can dump me in the river now without repercussions. That might be better than being at the coast where she’s likely to misjudge the wind and have my ashes blow back in her face, grossing her out.

But these pods are a game changer. I’ve decided that instead of being toasted, I’d rather be planted with a tree — a tree that would rise tall and strong on my nutrients, though it might smell a little like cheeseburgers and have a strange, untreelike affinity for Jimmy Buffett music.

What kind of tree, though? That’s a tricky one. I love a big, beautiful magnolia and those twisted old live oak trees on Georgia’s Golden Isles. It’d have to be a big tree that lives a long time. I don’t want to feed some little pine tree that becomes pulp wood in 20 years. In fact, I don’t want my dead body tree getting cut down at all. I want it to fall apart slowly and naturally like I’m currently doing.

The Capsula Mundi website — see the link; I ain’t making this up — has a slideshow at the top with pictures of people hugging and touching trees with the words — and I’m not making this up, either — “Hi, Dad,” “John, how you’ve grown” and “I love you, Grandma.” I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m not much of a touchy-feely guy now, so I’m not sure how I’m going to feel in 75 years about people touching my bark or squirrels pooping on my arms.

The website also promotes the idea of cemeteries becoming forests instead of swaths of silent, cold, gray stones. I like the idea of my final resting place being full of green hues, singing birds and natural beauty, but I think I’d rather my tree stand alone than in a forest. I don’t visit a lot of people now. The thought of spending eternity next to some annoying longleaf pine whining about his old red maple mother-in-law is rather disconcerting.

Hopefully I’ll kick this pneumonia thing and have a little more time to think about what kind of tree I’m going to be someday. Meanwhile, if you’re strolling through the woods 75 years from now and see a remarkably stunning live oak tree, that’s probably me. Feel free to take a photo, but please don’t hug me, climb me or carve your initials in me. I have a feeling that might tickle.

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