Lately, I had been pondering my end. Back and forth in my mind — burial or cremation? Cremation, burial? Is either right? From my point of view, which is less barbaric? Which hurts the least? To burn or to rot — that is the question.
For the sake of my two daughters, I thought, “Will my children want to come to a gravesite and murmur poetic goodbyes, or would it tick them off that they must buy flowers and maintain my plot? Or would they, as many do today, rather haul me around in a Chinese urn?”
Moving on and wanting to make a well-informed decision about my remains, I researched how the disposal of bodies is handled today and even yesterday.
First, I came across a typically Southern California method. A San Diegan named Claude Rex Nowell, alias Corky Ra, encountered highly intelligent beings some years ago, and he started Summum for those with a kinship to the Egyptians. Corky developed a way to mummify remains as an ancient alternative to burial. Corky is dead, and he is mummified, but mummification is very much alive. I was told Summum is booked solid and not taking new bodies for some time to come. Since I have no kinship with the Egyptians anyway, being Irish, I turned down the offer to be put on their waitlist.
In looking into burials, there was certainly the traditional burial with a casket, my corpse embalmed and dressed in a favorite outfit, open casket so that friends and family can pay their respects to the prone version of myself. I like tradition, but I kept this one on hold until I could see what else was out there.
Americans now are beginning to reject the idea of spending astronomical amounts of money on traditional burials. We are now being encouraged to embrace an economical and ecologically friendly way to dispose of our bodies. I like that idea based on my present retirement income. Redoing the traditional burial, grave linings are done away with, as is embalming. Bodies are wrapped in a biodegradable covering, so they decompose and fertilize the soil.
I don’t mind fertilizing the soil, but I have two concerns. First, family members I have alienated along the way may be called upon to bury me. They may take shortcuts to get me out of the way. As in the old West, they might grab a shovel, pack my body into a truck, (or buckboard as used to be the case), drive out to the back forty, dig the grave, and dump my body in. Some eloquent words might be spoken over the grave but then the command, “Close ’er up, Harry.”
Secondly, since most of my kin are dead anyway, and for the sake of economy, my offspring might be placed in charge of my burial. Since neither has wielded a shovel in her life, I imagine the conversation at the gravesite to be:
Jenny: “Why didn’t she just get cremated like everybody else? My back is killing me.”
Mary: (disgusted) “Well, I just broke a nail and my new shoes are covered with dirt!”
I might be tempted to lift out of the grave and say, “Enough, girls!” and scare them to death. (Pun intended.)
Cremation, although not my preferred way to go, offers creative and attention-getting ways to be remembered:
I could be part of a fireworks display. Now that appealed to the exhibitionist in me. I sat on my patio the other night under the stars and imagined friends and relatives viewing the display of my ashes shooting skyward and remarking, “Oh, that’s just so her!”
In another way, artistically, I liked the idea that some of my ashes could be encased in a beautiful glass sculpture, which has become the rage in recent years. I pictured a beach scene with some ashes as sand and a few ashes floating above the waves in an ocean spray. I would leave word with family to have one made up for each of my favorite people.
I could have a small number of my ashes shot into space via rocket. Since I fear heights, this would be a no-fear way to orbit in space. And I do love the drama. The cost, however, might be prohibitive. While a simple orb would run me $3,000, deep space would set my estate back $12,000. But by God, my kids could track my ashes on their iPhones! When I told my children about this one, they said, “Oh my God, Mom!”
In spite of the many ways to be noticed with cremation, I have decided on the traditional burial as every time I think of cremation, I wonder if they will make sure I’m dead first.
Besides, coffins can now include a cell phone in case I feel the need to call from the other side.
— Kaye Curren
Kaye Curren writes humor, essays, opinions and reviews for various publications and on her website at www.writethatthang.com. She’s currently working on a novel called Seven Days in Spain: Surviving a Wedding in a Family-Infested Foreign Land.