Dust to dust

The phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” from The Book of Common Prayer refers to our bodies after death. But it doesn’t specify how we get that way.

For the fire phobic, there is now alkaline hydrolysis, which returns the body to its ashy state via a mixture of water, heat, pressure and potassium hydroxide, a compound often used to make liquid soaps. The process — now being marketed here and overseas under names like “bio-cremation,” “resomation” and “water resolution” – is already used by medical and veterinary schools.

It works like this: The corpse is placed in a stainless steel pressurized tube that is then filled with the key ingredients and heated to 330 degrees. After a few hours, all that remains is the skeleton – so soft that it can be ground into ash by hand – and a greenish-brown liquid composed of amino acids, sugars and salts.

Read it all in Obit.


The South is the least cremation-friendly region of the country because it’s the most bound to tradition and, just as important, home to the largest percentage of Baptists, about a third of whom object to cremation primarily because it “destroys the body,” according to the Wirthlin survey. (Other Protestant denominations are notably more copacetic with cremation. One Buffalo-based company building columbaria told USA Today that 85 percent of its sales were to Episcopal churches, followed by Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran congregations.)

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