Monday, November 29, 2010

In the name of art...and possibly science.

Something I read on a long lonely evening while in France last week turned my thoughts toward my mortal search for a maggot-free death experience. As you may know, I abhor the thought of the little critters having a ball at my expense.

This is intended as a tongue in cheek post, but I feel it may swing towards the macabre if I'm not careful.

The headline was entitled 'Life and afterlife of a woman who will live forever'.

The article was about Henrietta Lacks who died of cancer a year before I was born. Her cells have been used to a remarkable degree world-wide (without her permission) and, although millions have been made  and cell biology revolutionised because of her, her family remain impoverished and she is buried in an unmarked grave. It's a story of both triumph and tragedy.

Well worth considering, I thought. Divide and conquer I say! Better as a gift to science in various bottles, vaults, tubes and slices with foreknowledge, than as a stationary defenceless target for tomb raiders from within.  Would I be considered a valuable gift, I mused? I was never a great catch in life, so what will change after it?

My thoughts then drifted back to 1994 to a worthy second option.  As a gallery owner at the time (more picture framing than gallery), I had tickets every year for the NEC Spring Fair in Birmingham. It was the year that I bumped into the eccentric artist Robert Lenkiewicz.

The painter collected such thing being a tramp that he had had embalmed (with his permission) after his death.

Diogenes, as he was aptly named, was hidden in the artists studio and was discovered in a drawer after the artist died in 2002.

So, two more choices. Do I die in the name of art or science?

I don't really think my kids would appreciate my stuffed, lifeless carcass standing in some corner or in a cupboard to be brought out and dusted down at family gatherings.

I am tempted by the science option though. There will be no charge and I'm not looking for royalties. It'll be a one-off, time-sensitive special offer (this week only) while the ground is too hard and snow-clad to dig a grave. Any takers?

Henrietta Lacks

Note: Although my 'best before' date has long since expired, I am in perfect health and have no expectation of expiration in the near future.

Read more about Robert Lenkiewicz...


  1. My daughter is A mum, And my Dad, who is a true friends, came from Rome, and he loved my mother dearly, and protected her, and he got posted elsewhere, and at twelve o'clock, him and my mother, on two different sides, parted ways. He cried so much for himself, and her. He was a soldier with courage, and died in battle protecting his associates.

    You know, the romans taught like A hedgehog, and porkupines with big long spears! And buckingham palace was built years later, to distract Henry from persecuting.

    I knew a m an once, who danced so much, that he devised all dances to date, but was piecemale in his endeavours.

    Sorry to be cryptic, but I am very philosophical.

    Thank you. Take wonderful and gentle care. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

  2. Being useful after death has a certain appeal but I'm not sure I fancy being messed about with. I'm thinking that cremation is probably my best way out.

  3. It was Dale Carnegie perhaps who said "Art in the final analysis - is autobiographical in nature" - for a fine soul like Ken who shares & cares so effortlessly "mortal search for a maggot-free death experience" should ease soon! Many thanks

  4. There's always the Viking funeral.

  5. Andrew, you really are cryptic. I bet you sail through the Times crossword. Thanks and take care yourself.

    Hi Valerie
    'My best way out'...I like that. I would even consider it, so long as they are absolutely certain I am dead.

    Raj, I certainly hope so. I like the quote.

    Tess...your name just rolls off the tongue. Yes, I'd consider that too, so long as I can keep my slippers on :) Did you burn anything else with seemed an awfully big fire for a size six.

  6. As lovely as it would certainly be to always have you around, I find the idea of your lifeless carcass standing in the corner watching us a bit ... creepy. There is really no other word. Personally, I'd say science. You'll have to get your biological kids opinions, though.

  7. I shouldn't worry...there's no way I will be following the counsel of my children or anyone else to "get stuffed!"

  8. I love Tess' comment about the Viking funeral. Ken you're too cool to be "stuffed."

  9. There's something to be said about the Vikings, Kelly. No,I'm not cool...ask my kids.