I don’t know about you, but I have thought a lot about whether I’d rather be buried or cremated. Don’t ask me why. It’s not like I’m obsessed with death or anything. Far from it. And it’s not as if we have a “family plot.” In fact, I’m not even sure where anybody in my family has been buried except my grandfather on my mom’s side, and I didn’t even know him. So really, it doesn’t matter which choice I ultimately make.
I’ve been to several funerals in my life. It felt so weird and creepy to sit in a church and look at the body lying in the casket up front, almost as if the person lying there was simply taking a nap and we were all watching to see if he would wake up. And then afterwards, at the graveyard, everyone standing around the big rectangular hole in the earth, ready to swallow him up. I thought about the body and the wooden coffin rotting in the ground, decomposing into the dirt and water table. Gross. I never was crazy about the idea of burial.
And then there’s cremation. My grandfather was cremated, and my dad carried the urn that contained his ashes around in the back of his car – actually, my grandfather’s car – for days. If I went somewhere with him, I could hear the thing rolling around back there. I thought, That’s my grandfather. That was more than a little strange. My mom finally told him to get the thing out of the car, and I have no idea what he did with it after that. Who wants to have their ashes sitting in an urn and nobody knows where it is – or what’s in it? No thank you.
My husband’s father was cremated, and afterwards, he and his mother and his siblings scattered his ashes in Lake Geneva. It was what his father had wanted, since he loved the lake and used to stroll along it all the time. I think that is beautiful. Sometimes when we are in Switzerland visiting my husband’s mother, we walk along the lake and remember him.
That makes me think that maybe I’d like to be cremated after all, and scattered in the Rub al Khali desert, because I grew up in Saudi Arabia and I have such great memories of it.
But no, that would be probably be hard for my family to do. They would have to travel halfway around the world and Saudi Arabia doesn’t mean anything to them. They’ve never been there, they’ve never seen the grand sweeping expanse of dunes that shimmer and shift in the desert heat. They haven’t gazed up at the night sky, luminous with a million stars so bright and so close you felt like you could reach up and touch them.
They never swam in warm Gulf water that gently lifted your body up with its salty buoyancy, and lit up around you at night in sparkling streaks of phosphorescence. And it’s not like they could go there whenever they felt like it, and remember me. No, I guess that would be asking too much.
And then yesterday I read this article about a man in Switzerland who creates tiny diamonds out of the ashes of the dead. He does this in a beautiful and respectful way, honoring the family as well as the departed in every step of the process. I really love the whole idea of it. I think that is what I’d like to have done after I die. And then whoever feels like they’d like to have the little keepsake can have it. They can even pass it around amongst themselves every year if they want to. And they would know I would always be with them. I wouldn’t be decomposing in a hole in the ground, in a place that means nothing to me, or occupying an unsightly urn on a bookshelf or mantle (or God forbid, in the back of a car).
And, maybe someday, someone might even be inspired to take a trip to Saudi Arabia, and toss me out among the dunes or in the crystal blue water of the Gulf. That would be nice, too.
You can read about the man in Switzerland who is making the diamonds here.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this subject, so please feel free to comment. Or just take part in my poll:
PS A blogger I follow wrote a great post about the week’s events and the importance of passing the Death With Dignity Act nationwide. Check out her post here.
I always think of that scene in the movie Meet The Parents with Ben Stiller…where he plays the boyfriend who was eating dinner with his girlfriend and her parents..at their family home. He somehow had something fly off his plate, which toppled an urn that was sitting on the mantel behind the dining room table. The urn shattered and out tumbled ashes of the dead grandparent. Hilarious scene and it came to mind as I was reading your post here! Will you post results of your survey? It would be interesting to see what folks feel is the right thing for them.
That was funny! Somehow, urns with ashes just seem to invite catastrophe…even when the ashes are scattered somewhere, you always hear how they blow back into people’s faces. I’ll definitely post results – I am also curious to find out what the majority of people go for (although I think I know!).