Bookends Through Eternity, or Sprinkled in Several Time Zones?

Posted By Mike Padgett

July 18, 2010

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – It’s probably time to give some thought to my funeral. Don’t worry; I plan to be around for a while, maybe forever.

Our financial planner’s schedule takes us as far out as age 102. I told him that’s not long enough. I don’t want to run out of cash before it’s time to cash in.

Anyway, grim as it may sound, I should plan for how I want to be treated after I’m gone. Better to do it yourself than letting someone else do it after you’re history, says my Best Friend.

She’s great at starting conversations. She brought up the topic the other night during a TV commercial. We were eating pizza.

So, she says between slices, have you given any thought to being cremated?

I didn’t dribble any pizza, but she had my attention. This conversation could be more interesting than the rerun spy drama on TV.

I imagined myself as six pounds of ashes packed inside an urn the size of a tiny ice bucket.

Better yet, if I were divided between two urns carved as bookends, I could embrace books through eternity.

Crystal or prehistoric pots?

My ashes could be stored in Waterford crystal or a prehistoric Native American pot. Just be sure it’s sealed and there is an “Occupied” sign on it so that no one tries to stick a candle in it.

Urns can be carved from teak or rosewood or stone – even decorated with mother of pearl and walnut finials – in just about any shape imaginable. I’m thinking footballs, bowling pins or milk jugs with wire handles.

I did some quick research. Cremations comprised about 35 percent of the funeral market in the United States in 2007. That number was predicted to reach 40 percent this year.

Cremation urns can be carved from wood, metal, stone or even salt, and in a wide variety of designs and sizes.

Urns are available on the Internet, even on eBay, where ­– if you don’t want to be outbid – you can “Buy It Now” for about $30. And if you want to keep a tiny amount of your loved one’s ashes with you at all times, you could buy a metal container small enough to keep on a key ring, or to use as a pendant, like one of those tiny pill containers.

I found a reference to wind chime urns, in alto or soprano. There are tube-like steel cremation urns that can be bolted to motorcycles or other vehicles so the footloose departed souls can continue traveling with their loved ones. Wouldn’t work for me, though. I get carsick when I can’t see where we’re going.

I could be in a decorative ceramic or marble urn. Or maybe obsidian. Like that chunk of black and red obsidian I found along the Columbia River when I was in first grade. After death, I could be stored in stone like the obsidian I found in my youth. That would be cool.

Snowbird traveling by urn

Or, I could be scattered in the mountains or at the beach. But I don’t like cold, dreary weather, so mountains are out. Unless someone would carry my urn back and forth between the mountains in the summer and warmer weather in the winter.

And I’m not sure about the beach. I love seashores, the aroma of salt air and the relaxing music of the waves, but I’d rather not get picked at by hermit crabs or washed out to sea.

There are companies that, for a fee, will spread ashes from the air over the departed’s favorite places. But I’ve never worked up the courage for skydiving, so the idea of being scattered from 2,000 feet is probably out.

Some families, sidestepping cemetery approval, surreptiously spread ashes over their plots in cemeteries. But then I’d have to watch out for lawnmowers and earthworms. And cemetery workers would wonder who fertilized that patch of ground where the grass is greener.

My only experience with cremation was my father’s. We were planning his memorial when the mortuary called to say his ashes were ready for pickup. Or, the caller said, Dad could be mailed to us. I drove to the mortuary immediately to bring Dad’s ashes home. I sat him on the front seat next to me. He wouldn’t appreciate arriving home like junk mail.

Sprinkled around the world

My Best Friend and I set up our wills years ago, but we never finished the part about our funerals. In our newest cremation discussion, she reminded me about the story* we read recently about a National Geographic photographer’s friends spreading his ashes around the world.

I remember that story. I like that idea. If I were sprinkled in 24 time zones, I could enjoy sunrises and sunsets every hour, every day.

But that would require the expense and coordination of someone carrying me around the world. And how do you get cremated ashes past security workers in airports in 24 time zones? They’d probably demand to sift my ashes. I’d end up scattered over airport security conveyer belts, X-ray machines and other peoples’ shoes and diaper bags.

I’ll have to give cremation more thought. I could be cremated with a few of my favorite books.

But I have several favorite books. I’ll need a larger urn.

Is there more pizza?

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* (For more information about National Geographic photographer Ralph B. White’s family and friends scattering his ashes around the world, click here.)


Jul 18th, 2010

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