There was an interesting article in last Sunday’s NY Times Magazine about cryonics; or more to the point, cryonocists and the people who love them. The article is fascinating for the fact that it delves not so much into the science informing cryonic preservation (as our last cryonics post did) but rather, about how differing beliefs about the practice in the context of marriage can be problematic. It’s he said/she said taken to a whole new level. Ba-da-bing!
Peggy and Robin, the couple primarily featured in the piece is especially interesting because wife Peggy (the unenamored one) is herself a hospice care worker, well-versed in end-of-life issues but vehemently opposed to husband Robin’s plans for the final disposition of his head after death. Peggy finds the quest “an act of cosmic selfishness.” Robin, an economics professor, is “a deep thinker, most at home in thought experiments” but sensitive enough to understand the potential abandonment issues. Apparently, this type of discord has a name—and could be confused for the punch line of an Andy Capp cartoon. According to the article:
Peggy’s reaction might be referred to as an instance of the “hostile-wife phenomenon,” as discussed in a 2008 paper by Aschwin de Wolf, Chana de Wolf and Mike Federowicz.“From its inception in 1964,” they write, “cryonics has been known to frequently produce intense hostility from spouses who are not cryonicists.”
Even though the article is intended as a serious look at the marital strife that can be caused by deeply held beliefs about death, life and what comes after, I couldn’t help but think about Woody Allen movies and imagined New Yorker cartoons—and my own marriage. While my husband has no plans for cryonic preservation, his vague plan involving the reanimation of his skeleton, a large glass vitrine and the gerryrigged ability to emit recorded voice clips with the push of a button, has generated much discussion and debate in our marriage. My husband is a bit of a joker, but in this he is dead serious (pun intended). All I can say is, I love you honey, but I hope I die first.
2 replies on “Head of the Household”
I have been a student of the funeral industry for ten years and worked in the biz since 2003.
I have never heard of plan involving the “reanimation of his skeleton, a large glass vitrine and the gerryrigged ability to emit recorded voice clips with the push of a button”
I am at a loss, I do not know whether to give congrats to your husband for creativity or feel sorry for you Kim.
I do thank you for the post, because I thought the story was important but did not have the time to post on it.
Yes, it’s probably one of the more unique final requests out there! Erik is an artist–primarily a sculptor–and to him the human form is a beautiful thing. The idea of reanimating his skeleton and putting it on display as an art piece makes perfect sense. In fact, a piece he’s working on right now is a geodesic dome made of human femurs (plastic medical supply type, not human). It’s just that when it comes down to it, if I die before him, I will be responsible for making his wishes a reality–a task I worry I may not adequately be able to fulfill. He doesn’t want it to be a burden but he’s pretty set on the idea. I would like to make it happen if that’s what he wants. So I just keep saying “put it in writing, honey!” 🙂