How Alex Klevkotka’s Death Has Changed the Meaning of Death

Alex Klevkotka, born in 1970, died on February 10th, 2018. For many people, the idea of death is merely a story to be told or something that remains intangible and bordering on fantasy. For Mr. Klevkotka, death was something he dealt with every day—he had been interred in a coffin for nearly 30 years while his body decomposed and his brain deteriorated.

In the 1960s, it was commonplace for funeral directors to practice a process known as “casketing,” in which families would rent their loved ones’ caskets from funeral homes, as opposed to purchasing them outright. Typically, casketing systems worked out well for both parties; the funeral homes would make additional money on the sale of their products, and families would have a choice between a variety of models- something hard to come by in any retail environment.
But Alex Klevkotka had different ideas.
Klevkotka, born in 1970, was a Czechoslovakian immigrant who moved to the United States as an infant. In his early years, Klevkotka did not stand out from the masses- he was bright-eyed and talented and his family even went so far as to enroll him in private school for violin lessons. But that all changed in November of 1969, when he discovered music’s one true calling: playing drums. It was at the age of 11 that Alex became an instrumentalist in his local church, and by 14 he was not only playing for his congregation, but also performing during intermissions.

alex klekotka obituary grand rapids mi
alex klekotka obituary grand rapids mi

But one thing that didn’t change was his fierce desire to be recalled by future generations as someone who mattered—someone whose life was brave and significant enough to be remembered long after he passed away. After all those years with no response from society other than the lack of social media updates, Alex started thinking about the funerals that would happen without him someday. He concluded that if we continue to bury our loved ones into literal graves without giving them any meaning

It was a brave and creative idea, but it was also unorthodox; Alex has always been an outlier in funeral community. The first funeral home he attended upon his death was the Pontiac Funeral Home, which expressed confusion and disapproval at this odd request (likely because every other human they were seeing just wanted to be buried). But he persisted, and two days later, his brain was placed into a robot. Then he was whisked away to the Cryonics Institute in Michigan, a facility that has promised to freeze him until such time as science can revive him one million years from now.
Alex’s death was of course not instantaneous, nor did he leave the world immediately. He spent most of his life in and out of the hospital for various health issues, and it didn’t take long for him to pass away in his sleep. Though he was only 30 years old, his life and legacy are already being studied by a team of researchers at the University of Michigan. But for now, Alex has taken a place in that special place where our loved ones wait for the day when science could bring them back to life.
Alex’s parents say that they want him to be remembered as someone who was brave and kind. His father, John Klekotka, says that the first time he heard of Alex’s death was from the doctor at the hospital. He says that in 19 years of medicine, he has never seen anything like it—all because of Alex’s last wish.

alex klekotka obituary grand rapids mi
alex klekotka obituary grand rapids mi

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