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So you want to live forever?

Matt Schudel

Here on the Obits desk, we deal with death every day, and we know all too well that no one lives forever. Still, the hope persists. The quest for eternal life is the foundation of several of the world's great religions and is one of the oldest dreams of mankind.

For almost as long as faith has given us the idea of heaven, humankind has tried to postpone or reverse death itself. In the past 25 years or so, the cryonics movement has caught on around the country with a few diehards (sorry, I couldn't resist) who don't want to shuffle off this mortal coil. Cryonics, to be brief and blunt, is the procedure by which a person's body or head is frozen in chemical preservatives with the hope that science will one day make it possible for the body to be revived.

A forthcoming article in the New York Times Magazine takes a look at the marital problems that can ensue when one partner (the husband, in this case) wants to be frozen, and the other thinks it's crazy. There's even a term for it in the cryonics world: "hostile-wife phenomenon."

The practice of cryonics and the people associated with it became notorious a few years ago ....

when the son of baseball star Ted Williams had his father's head frozen at a cryonics facility in Arizona when he died in 2002. (The son, John Henry Williams, died of leukemia in 2004 at age 35, still owing more than $100,000 to the cryonics lab. It's never been quite clear what happened after that.)

As it happens, I have a certain expertise in this matter. In 1988, when I was working in Florida, I wrote one of the first mainstream pieces about cryonics and its practitioners. Five years later, I followed it up with another story about cryonics, examining some of the moral and legal dimensions of the controversy. One of the people I interviewed, I recall, always wore a fireproof, asbestos-lined crash helmet on airline flights. In the case the plane should crash, his head wouldn't burn and could be saved for cryonic preservation.

For some reason, these articles have hung around the Internet for years, and from time to time I still hear from people who want to know about cryonics and think I have some great insights into whether it's possible to live forever. I'm not in the business of predicting eternal life, I'm afraid. But I will say those remain some of the most interesting stories I've ever written, and the people in the world of cryonics are among the most unforgettable characters I've ever met.

By Matt Schudel  |  July 10, 2010; 5:51 AM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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Next: The remarkable Mr. Horsley

Comments

So crazy people with money get to live forever and use up way more than their share of the planet's resources? That's reverse Darwinism if I've ever heard it.

Posted by: SubRosa2 | July 10, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Why, if people actually have faith in a life hereafter, (God) are people so afraid to die? (Passover) I have suffered great heartache in my 70 years, losing 3 husbands, the first almost factually brought me to the point of dying from a broken heart; the last 15 years ago was my soulmate. If you truly believe in a spiritual life hereafter, there has to be a more peaceful existance than this life, no matter what your cultural or economic level. I believe in reincarnation, and have had psychic abilities since I was very young, to be in contact spiritually with people who have passed over, and to predict certain things that were going to happen, or feel the loss a friend has just experienced without contact with them. I can also walk in to a home or building and feel the karmic spirits...and some of them are very frightening. Just study that word KARMA and start to change your life, in preparation/reparation for the next. The next life beyond the spiritual life.... reincarnated is what is scary to me, as I don't really want to come back at this point in time and history. We all have ESP, start to get in contact with your inner self and the life you have led, and what sins/actions you wish to retract, and go forward to that peace of the spirit passing from this body, which has merely been a facilitator in our passage through this stage of eternity. What has my first husband who passed over almost 50 years ago actually missed, other than a lot of pain. The second was a brilliant engineer who died at 32 years old from drinking a bottle of scotch everyday...a functioning alcoholic...and my third was like my father (who I lost at age 2 1/2), best friend and was not a sexual relationship as he had prostate cancer and was impotent but one of the closest soul to soul relationships I have ever known...and was 19 years older than me. Examine the relationships you have had, what strengths have you given of yourself to your children, friends and acquaintances...think of the quality imprint and improve on it daily...and your spirit will leave in peace.

Posted by: GVJaneRealEstateAz | July 10, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

As one of perhaps 2000 r so people who has made arreangements for a cryonic suspension in the event of my death, I really appreciated this piece by Matt Schude.

BTW I am also a member of the M Prize 300 and donate $85 each month toward a prize for the researcher who extends the health longevity of laboratory mice the longest.

I've been involved in many causes in my life but the fight against death is the one I am not only most committed to but the one I enjoy the most.

Again, thank yo Matt

Posted by: smi2le | July 10, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

After a couple of years, the first hand transplant guy wants/wanted the new hand removed because it wasn't his.

Imagine having someone else's body with your head. That person is going to go mental.

IT WON'T WORK.

Posted by: cmecyclist | July 10, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

"One of the people I interviewed, I recall, always wore a fireproof, asbestos-lined crash helmet on airline flights. In the case the plane should crash, his head wouldn't burn and could be saved for cryonic preservation." - such an interesting (and a bit bizarre) article, but this stood out. Namely since the folks at http://www.banasbestosnow.com will tell you that asbestos is a known cancer-causer. Seeking eternal life while flying a plane & putting a toxic material on your head...to allow yourself to be frozen for an indefinite period of time. *sigh*

Posted by: MesoRC | July 12, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

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