Stark and Certain Terms
Despite what the pious claim,
Death comes to us all just the same;
In stark and certain terms,
What’s left are wriggling worms,
Regardless of wealth, power or fame.
Who really knows what cosmic, karmic, spiritual or metaphysical shit happens to us after death. Most probably nothing. But what happens physically is a well-documented, if macabre, process of systematic disintegration. Nematode worms are relatively late arrivals to the smorgasbord that is a decomposing body. Before them, the thanatomicrobiome — composed of hundreds or even thousands of species of bacteria inside the body itself — does much of the work of breaking down and consuming internal organs and soft tissues. Maggots and other insects descend on the corpse to gorge themselves well in advance of detritivorous soil-dwellers, such as earthworms and fungi. After death, we’re simply organic matter, composed of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, that returns to the environment from whence it came. On the face of it, it’s a gruesome inevitability we’d simply rather not dwell on, but it’s also a beautiful cycle of transformation and redistribution, that is life in its myriad forms.