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Friday, October 11. 2013
Mitford may have been a nutjob, but I tend to believe that the way we deal with the dead (and the dying) in America is close to insane. Death is just a routine part of living, is it not? Loss is terrible, for sure, but we must adjust to it as we all grow older.The deaths of friends, family, and, finally, of ourselves.
What do you want to be done with your mortal remains, and at what expense? Do you even care?
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"During her life, Mitford had occasionally been asked what kind of funeral she wanted. She was fond of replying that she wanted “six black horses with plumes” and “one of those marvelous jobs of embalming that take twenty years off.” (Funeral magazines reprinted the joke, perhaps not quite getting it.)"
I can't say I much care what's done with my body, but funerals are important. I don't share the usual impatience with flowers: there should be lots of them, and live music. As far as my body goes, though, cremation or medical science or put me under the ground in the backyard, doesn't matter. The author's suggestion of hauling the body to the crematorium in the back of a station wagon sounds about right. Of course now we have SUVs instead of station wagons.
Med school cadaver. I'm gonna get some tattoos if I have enough warning LIke a sixpack on my stomach and assorted dotted lines here and there.
Nothing is worse that have your dad's girlfriend spend $10K on a coffin that was hand-carved b/c dad would've loved the craftsmanship. Guess what? Dad is not here to see the craftsmanship, and you just blew $10K that could've been better spent on my kids' college education.
I'm not going to be aware of what my family does with my body. I'd like to be cremated please. No ashes on the mantel, though. Scatter me to the winds wherever you'd like to do that...
I'm hoping for a particularly large pyramid, or at the very least a burning ship burial.
I would like to be composted and used to fertilize a bed of homegrown tomatoes.
If that isn't possible then I will leave it up to my survivors, which will likely be something cheap as possible to leave more money for a proper wake.
My mom just passed away in June. She had liver cancer, treatments didn't work, so she knew it was just a question of when.
She lived in Florida, I live in PA, and I traveled to see her in April. She asked for help organizing her files. After almost a week, we were both crabby, and twice actually yelled at each other. I felt terrible, but told my sister that maybe it wasn't the worst thing, maybe my Mom needed to yell because she was mad at the cancer. Now I think we both were.
In late May I went back, and this time she really perked up. After a few days she was calling old friends and family members. She wanted to do more, but started having pain. Once she started on the pain meds, she never really responded again. The night before she died I sat with her. Everyone else had gone. I played her Bible CD, held her hand, talked a little, and cried a little. I was anxious about giving her the proper dose of pain medicine. It was a long and lonely night, but for one of the few times in my life I simply knew that I was exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. I think that this last visit was a gift, for me.
Like my mom and dad, I'd like to be cremated, and buried in our family plot, which is in a beautiful cemetery. I'd like a small service; I have my favorite hymn and Bible verse. I hope a few people can be there. Mostly, I hope some can share some happy and funny memories.
I'd like to go up in a large Hindu-style funeral pyre at a funeral attended by all our local politicians. At the right moment, the other attenders would throw the politicians in the pyre as well, in a variation of suttee.
Our family has been cremated for several generations. One side of the family goes into the 150 year old family plot (ashes only, no more room for big boxes). The other side has been scattered in the Pacific, off Pacific Grove. No formal services, just get together, eat, drink, and remember.
That is very nice. I outlived two young wives. Yes, I thought being older I would die in their arms.
May we meet again- in some better place & time....
"See 'ya, Miss Helen & Miss Emily...."
♪♪ "...and I straighten
Miss Emily's picture
on the wall..." ♪♪
With my lifelong interest in taxidermy, and my admiration for the abilities of some of the better taxidermists I have met, the answer to your question is becoming clearer to me every day. Now, really the only decisions left are which pose, and free-standing or do we spend a little more for the glass case?
I hope I go while out in the woods, and the crows and buzzards get me before any people find me.
"but I tend to believe that the way we deal with the dead (and the dying) in America"
This might come as a surprise to you (and it would've to Ms. Mitford, had she actually studied the subject), but there is no "American" way - there are as many "ways" as there are subcultures across America.
Trust me, I've been a part of funeral arrangements that I never imagined...
I would have liked to be useful at the end by donating an organ or two, but alas, not possible since I acquired the malady that bumped off Charles Darwin.
I prefer now to go the cremation route, but rather than have the grit tossed in the ocean, I want a bit to be tossed during the ride at the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, and the remainder to be put into a weather balloon, inflated with helium, and let go on a nice windy day.
Blue Ridge Mountains park in VA has a program and suggested places for cremains. It was beautiful this fall when we sent my mother off into the wind. I'd like that too.
I have read of programs that mix the ash of cremation into a cement mix and use to set up underwater dive sites. I wish I had known about that for my dad.
I grew up viewing the embalmed, artificially preserved bodies of elderly relatives ("he looks like he's just asleep", or "doesn't she look good"...) and a funeral service with everyone dressed in black conducted by a well-meaning minister who often hardly knew them.
My dad died in 2011 at age 85 and made it very clear he did not want much money spent on his burial. He was cremated immediately, and we held a memorial service the following weekend. Children, their spouses, grandchildren, and my mom told stories about him and what he meant to us. Others spoke, and his pastor (who went on a bit long for the family's taste) presented the gospel. Family members played music and sang together. I think Dad approved.
Afterward we gathered at Mom's house for food, drinks, laughter and tears. We scattered some of his ashes at Seabrook Island that summer (a family gathering place for many years). Mom took some to the north Georgia mountains, a place he loved, and the remains are buried in the family plot in a small town in west Georgia where both my parents are from. We held a graveside interment with family and close friends.
It all seemed very right and comforting for us. I would like something similar. I do believe, having been there, that it is cathartic for a family to have some sort of send-off and time of celebrating a life and telling stories.
There was a child that I helped raise who died in an accident at age twenty. Her body was left in such a state that a viewing wasn't possible so her mother had her cremated. There was a beautiful service on the beach that she loved. In the far distance, we saw lightning on the ocean and it made me smile through my tears; leave to Beloved Child to upstage her own funeral! Several days later in the mail, I received a small cylinder with Beloved's cremains in it and her name engraved on the outside. Her mother suggested that we take it to a place that reminded us of Beloved and scatter her ashes. I still have that vial because I haven't made up my mind. I am leaning towards having her ashes mixed with mine; half will be scattered on the ocean that we both loved and the other half will be scattered in the mountains she never got to see. In the meantime, sometimes I still hold that cylinder tight and tell Beloved Child that I still love her and miss her. It is hard to let go.
Father's family has four generations buried in a lovely old small town cemetery, casually tended by the church-related cemetery association.
Mother's father was a profane, anticlerical old cuss, his devout wife didn't feel right burying his remains in any local church cemeteries given all the bridges he burned, so she bought plots in a local commercial cemetery for the two of them, and other plots for their children, including my mother.
It's a blank field in a commercial strip midway between the two largest towns in the area, near the shopping mall, no less. No headstones, they only allow flat markers so they don't slow down the quick mowing teams, and they always try to sell families some extra cost junk services. Grandmother joined him there when she passed, as my mother's brother. The family hates to visit this featureless, commercialized "memorial park".
Sadly, when Father passed, Mother felt compelled to make use of the spaces there for his ashes, and eventually for her own at the end of her life. They both specified cremation, the older generations did the traditional embalming and burial.
Even Mother never visits Father's gravesite, and my sisters have never been back since the funeral, though we all put flowers on the old gravesites in the small town cemetery.
I suppose it doesn't really matter, but these circumstances broke the chain of family connections the surviving generations continue to feel at the old, traditional cemetery. It couldn't possibly matter to the deceased, but those they left behind have less to pull them together, more to scatter apart.