Composting Your Corpse (Again): Lee Hays' Hillarious Living Will

The Weavers folk group photo
Migrated Image

"When corn and radishes you munch
You may be having me for lunch"

When I wrote about Ethical Man's plans to compost his own corpse comments ranged from those who thought it was a good idea, to those who thought 'sky burial', or even making pencils from human remains, would be a better option. Others have looked at flash-freezing, smashing then composting corpses, or even feeding them to coral reefs. But composting dead bodies is not a new concept—a friend just sent me a poem written by folk legend Lee Hays to Pete Seeger's wife in 1981. If might be the best (and funniest!) argument for compost burial that I've ever read. For those not in the know (and I wasn't), Lee Hays was one part of the legendary Weavers, and The Almanac Singers, and a co-hort of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Huddie Leadbetter (Leadbelly) and others who paved the way for the sixties folk movement. A life long activist, Hays clearly believed that the end of his life should be as abundant, sharing and joyful as the rest of it:

In Dead Earnest
If I should die before I wakeAll my bone and sinew takePut them in the compost pileTo decompose a little whileSun, rain and worms will have their wayReducing me to common clayAll that I am will feed the treesAnd little fishes in the seasWhen corn and radishes you munchYou may be having me for lunchThen excrete me with a grinChortling, There goes Lee again'Twill be my happiest destinyTo die and live eternally
Lee Hays, 1981

Amen to that! For those wanting to explore their own forms of eco-burial, check out our guide on How to Green Your Funeral.

With thanks to Brian Rosa for forwarding me this poem!