Quora: If stem cells live on after you die for up to 17 days (when not cremated), shouldn't we

Our ancestors were more acutely and sensually aware of what death does to a body than most of us. They knew, that weather permitting, you have about three days. It's not surprising that Jesus rose at the three day mark - at three days, he's "not only merely dead, he's really most sincerely dead."

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? Three.

The 17-day-old undead cells from the study you are talking about were kept refrigerated at 39 degrees F. If your loved one is lying in state in the parlor, stem-cell-Elvis has left the stadium way before that. Fortunately for organ recipients, sacraments for the dead are not about tissue, they're about mystery and loss.

There's a good chance that death takes care of its own.

"I’m the god of funerals. I know every death custom in the world—how to die properly, how to prepare the body and soul for the afterlife. I live for death.” “You must be fun at parties,” I said." — Rick Riordan

We are completely embedded in death. Take a minute to consider all the death happening right now. In the next sixty seconds, somewhere on earth 105 people will die; 200,000 animals will have been slaughtered by humans. Then we can add animals that die by non-human means, put insect and plant death into the mix and realize that if there is one thing life is good at, it's dying. I find it reassuring to realize that even if I get the rituals all wrong for the people I love, they are are likely to make it through death without incident, simply by natural momentum. It's comforting to realize that my loved ones have as good a shot of whatever ineffable thing happens next as the folks whose traditionally buried bodies have been:

  • eaten by birds

  • eaten by loved ones

  • dug up and sprayed with wine every year

  • washed with bull urine

  • smashed with clubs and packed into a small box on a stick

Waking to Loss: Whatever gets you through the night.

“Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry. So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.” ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

To ask if stem cells should make us reconsider the way we acknowledge the death of our loved ones is a bit "How many is orange?" Science can do little to comfort us when we lose someone we love. There is a quote somewhere about how loss is a three line poem with three lines scratched out. Grief happens in the body. When we are really bereaved, words are mostly meaningless. Sometimes in these moments procedural certainty - first we do this, then we do this, then this - can be a guide rope on a high thin ledge. This is culture at its best. Scrounging around for the necessary vial of bull urine or building the scaffold and summoning the birds can keep us plodding ahead as emotions come and then, just as distressingly, temporarily disappear. The more I feel like I am doing extended service to my lost loved one, the less I suffer when my process surprises me with flashes of relief. I come from a family of atheists without built-in rituals for death. When my mother was in hospice at my home, I read everything I could about her upcoming transition. Because of the Bardo Thodol and other texts, I was determined to let her "transition" for three days before we released her body to the funeral home. The practice of letting a dead love one linger at home before they are removed was once common in the west. In the first decade of the 21st century, it is unusual but not completely without support (search the internet for "home death care"). Looking back, I realize that whatever happens at the end of my life, I have already had a good death and for that I will be forever grateful.

#death #suffering #grief

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