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 wake
All my bone and sinew take
Put them in the compost pile
To decompose a little while
Sun, rain and worms will have their way
Reducing me to common clay
All that I am will feed the trees
And little fishes in the seas
When corn and radishes you munch
You may be having me for lunch
Then excrete me with a grin
Chortling, There goes Lee again'
Twill be my happiest destiny
To die and live eternally
—Lee Hays, 1981

Amen to that! Besides, the compost heap, there are many other forms of eco-burial such as eco-coffins and cremation.

With thanks to Brian Rosa for forwarding me this poem!