Keeping flowers in full bloom?
At first, the letters came in drops.
Then, a few sort of drizzled in ... before it finally became a downpour.
“Have you thought about cremation?”
“Act now, so that your loved ones won’t carry the burden of planning your cremation.”
“Isn’t it time you considered cremation?”
Wait... are they talking about right this moment? Honestly, I understand the obligation to have my affairs in order, but — isn’t there a simple fact that these considerate letter-writers haven’t taken into account?
To wit: I’m in line to win the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.
Granted, it’s a long line, and I have no idea how close I am to the front. Still, this seems hardly the time to go full Wicker Man and make an ash of myself.
Besides, the concept of roasting at about 1800 Fahrenheit gives me the shivers. I don’t function well in the heat ... or, as you might have heard recently, the cold.
Start sending me letters when a process is developed for cremating bodies at a comfy 72 degrees, and I might not put your notices in the recycling bin.
Speaking of which, there’s now a company out of Seattle that does just that — recycles the remains of the dearly departed into soil that can then be used to help grow plants.
On its website, Recompose claims that the average recycled human creates roughly a cubic ton of soil (minus, of course, the portions used in the production of Soylent Green).
The company also estimates that, in their process, “a metric ton of CO2 will be saved each time someone chooses organic reduction over cremation or conventional burial.”
I’m all for doing my bit to help the environment, but I don’t think my post-corporeal existence would be beneficial as mulch.
For one thing, I have a brown thumb when it comes maintaining the lives of green things. And (as readers of this space can attest), I already spread around more than my share of fertilizer on a weekly basis than I would as a finite, cubic ton of dirt.
Now, what the folks at Recompose are doing shouldn’t be confused with the movement toward green burials.
The company’s “natural organic reduction” process places the body in a “vessel” (Reusable for future customers!), then covers you with wood chips as the body is aerated for 30 days while you transform into an alternative to Miracle Grow.
I think I saw a documentary about this once, wherein Donald Sutherland barely escapes (if only, SPOILER ALERT, temporarily) being turned into a plant-based doppelgänger.
Green burial, on the other hand, is a less-invasive, more celebratory process wherein you are returned to ground.
Now, we’ve all learned the science behind babies arriving under the leaves in cabbage patches, and that women can become pregnant from swallowing apple seeds, but the idea that burial returns us to from whence we sprung stretches the boundaries of poetic license.
Almost everyone emerged onto the Great Flatness by way of a mother ... and I know two things about this for fact: It wasn’t Mother Earth, and there ain’t no way outside of a thrill ride at OedipusWorld to make the return trip.
The most recent cremation notice to land in our mailbox spurred discussion to the wishes of my father-in-law — a practical, loving man who heads a practical, loving family.
He has made it known that, when the time comes, he wishes his ashes to be split into two equal parts — one to rest aside those of the mother of his children; the other (eventually) to be interred next to his wife of the past 20-plus years.
A practical, loving request that honors both the women with whom he has spent his life.
Yeah, but that’s her side of the family.
Meanwhile, over here in my murky end of the gene pool, cremation has not always been so practical.
The five siblings borne of three parental pairings under the roof of my childhood have agreed on little about our bond ... other than that we grew older in five distinct families.
When my father was cremated (after he died, but before he won the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes), my younger brother and I were informed that his cremains were placed in a plastic bag and tucked into a cardboard box.
“But,” we were quickly assured, it was “a very nice cardboard box.”
The two of sprung for a very nice marble vessel (without wood chips or aeration) for Dad to reside.
It was a lovely service.
When our mother passed, the older sibs took care of the arrangements — although scheduling conflicts prevented an immediate scheduling of a memorial, which we were assured will be held at a date convenient to the five of us.
That was in January.
January ... 2007.
The only cremating we’ve done since has been that of two previous cats. Their spirits are with us, while their ashes rest in a pair of very nice wooden boxes atop a bookcase in the master bedroom.
I’ve caught our current feline co-habitant (you might have heard of her) on a chair next to the bookcase, looking at those vessels. Who knows what she senses in those moments — whether to her those boxes are just meaningless objects to knock to the ground, or if some sort of foreboding comes upon her.
She’s getting older. She moves a bit slower, and her hearing comes and goes. Sometimes, she just stops and stares off into space. I suspect she’s never thought of what comes next, or felt the nagging push to make plans.
I should get her a mailbox.
Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin is tossing out punchlines that were never there at email@example.com