Every person deserves to be buried. For the purposes of this piece I opt to use the term “burial” quite loosely, referring to a decent and respectful handling of bodies after death. We may be cremated and cast into the wind, or perhaps we may be buried in a casket and set into the earth. In the moment of death, the living strive to find some way to understand our existence. For many of us, our loved ones will host some kind of ceremony, in which our lifeless bodies are dynamically transformed in preparation for our cessation of existence. As a result of the many processes related to death and our understanding of it, our bodies fall apart, and the living must find some way to handle it.
For many, the memorializing process that happens after we are gone highlights the moments in our lives which somehow impacted or shaped the lives of others. The old saying, “Do not speak ill of the dead,” sets a particular expectation for our mourning process. It’s as if we ought to amputate those more troubling moments from the life of those we have lost. Our memorial narratives should be linear and constructed in a way that lets us make sense, in the most optimistic of terms, of a life lived to the fullest.
There are, however, people who veer away from accepted behavior, those individuals who contribute to horrific things in the world. They are the dead of whom ill is spoken, whose memorial narratives are overwritten by their grievous wrongdoings. They die while participating in of some kind of horrible action, or they die through punishment for their actions. For these people, we struggle to find a way to make some sense of their death within the context of their nefarious activities. Their bodies must still be handled, and consequently, managed.