*Here’s another conversation, written with permission. Despite his requests to the contrary, I have decided that it is best for everyone to keep my friend’s identity a secret. This is the same friend I posted about on 11-5-11. Do NOT feed him sweets! If you do try to stalk him…err…friend him, I refuse to be responsible for the excess kitchen appliances and casserole dishes he might try to gift you with! I got 3 casserole dishes, a set of glasses, a coffee maker, and a blender…but results may vary.
I was having a conversation with my friend and coworker about the deaths we’ve had in our family. There seems to have been a lot of them over the past couple of years. I lost my mother back in 2002. My friend has lost both of his parents around the same time. Despite the less than cheery topic, we both have a knack for finding humor in tragedy. I suppose you could call it a coping mechanism. We also enjoy stomping through cemeteries and taking photos of old headstones and statues, especially ones from the 1800s. We’re weird that way. 😉
The topic came up concerning cremation verses a traditional burial. Lately, cremation has been the “popular” option in our family, due to the costs associated with a traditional funeral, but even that’s getting more expensive. When my grandmother passed away in September, the family thought it would be best to have her cremated. My stepmother had some severe health issues at the time. We were able to get together as a family in October for my grandmother’s memorial service.
My friend asked, “So, are they going to bury her ashes, or is a family member keeping them?”
“I’m not sure,” I answered. “My great-uncle has most of the family at his place.” I didn’t bother telling him that they’re kept in his closet. We’ve had that conversation many times before. “I’m not sure if my aunt is keeping the ashes, or if she’s going to split them up, or what’s going to happen to them. I only know that I don’t want them.”
Even though I’m a practical person, I find the whole concept of holding onto a dead loved one’s ashes a tad creepy, but that’s just me. I’ve told my hubby numerous times that if I go first, he’s not to stick me on the mantle or in the closet. I don’t care what he does with them. I just don’t want my ashes hanging around. Of course, he likes to remind me that he does plan on fishing out the titanium plates from the rest of my ashes, before dumping me someplace. I have two titanium plates in my arm plus the screws holding them in place. He likes to tell me that if I die first, he’s going to stick them in a can or a jar, and make castanets out of them. He thinks they’d sound tingly when rattled. Strangely, I do NOT find this creepy. I’m very OK with this compromise. As long as he doesn’t hold onto my ashes, he can keep the plates and the screws. 😉
My friend continued on, “I remember when my father died. My sister and I decided to have our dad cremated. I remember when it was time to pick up his ashes,” he said solemnly. “They handed me a small cardboard box, and inside was a bag with the ashes of my father. And all I could think of is one thing…”
I nodded my head, thinking of my own experiences with death.
“We just paid $7,000 and all we get is a Ziploc bag?”
I tried my best not to giggle.
“Juli! They gave us Dad in a bag! Dad in a bag! We paid $7,000 and that’s all that we got. Dad in a bag. We didn’t even get a pretty container. We got Dad in a bag!”
OK, this is the part where I struggled to maintain a shred of decorum. It didn’t work.
“And do you know what the worst part was? Do you know?”
I shook my head. I had NO clue, but I was about to have a fit of giggles.
“He wasn’t even in a REAL Ziploc bag, you know, the good kind. He was in one of those fake Ziplocs. Can you believe it? You pay HOW much money and you don’t even get the REAL brand bags.”
At this point, death or not, tragedy or no tragedy…I lost it. Death had never been so funny.
Then he added, “And because they didn’t use the REAL Ziploc bags, I was afraid we’d lose him in the car on the ride home. He wasn’t even ground up that good. There were chunks of Dad still in there. What if one of them had broke through the cheep bag. Wouldn’t that have been horrible? We’d have to vacuum him up!”
I nodded, laughing so hard, I thought I might pee.
“And I remember thinking that things could have gone so differently. I had the GOOD kind at home, the ones with the tab that you slide. Things could have gone SO much better.”
I was coughing and laughing at this point. I could hardly breathe. Meanwhile, my buddy continues our conversation as if everything’s perfectly normal.
“There’s a lesson to be learned here, Juli. Next time you have a death in the family, and you decide that they should be cremated, make sure you bring bags from home with you.”
And on that note…have a great weekend!
PS When I mentioned posting this story on my blog, he reminded me again that he’s here to teach! He told me he thought about being a teacher, then he remembered that he hates kids, so this is probably better. 🙂