'My Brother Didn't Want a Burial. He Chose to Put His Body to Good Use'

I distinctly remember the day my younger brother, Wayne, first came home from the hospital. I was 4 years old and sitting on my front steps when my mom laid that little baby in my arms, and I thought: He's mine. Wayne and I were close our whole lives. I could talk to him about anything.

I was there with Wayne when he passed away from complications of a severe spinal cord injury in September, 2021. The assisted living facility where he lived only allowed one person to be there at a time, due to the pandemic. In the middle of the night, while I sat with my brother, there was this terrible silence and I knew he had stopped breathing. When the spirit leaves the body, it is so profoundly silent. I called Wayne's husband, Larry, and we called the rest of the family.

Wayne and I had talked about what he wanted to happen to his body years previously. I'm a volunteer at the Palliative Care Institute at Western Washington University, which was how I first heard about a cutting-edge body disposition alternative to cremation or traditional burial. Katrina Spade, founder of Recompose, came to the Institute to give a presentation on her company, which composts bodies and turns them into soil.