Thursday, December 14, 2006

la vie dans la mort

I read in someone’s blog the other day about how after death she would like to be cremated and the ashes spread over the Pacific Ocean, and it got me to thinking about how my wishes have evolved.

When I was younger, I always thought that funerals, headstones and lavish coffins were a horrible waste of money, so I always said that I wanted to be buried in a recycled wood box in an unused field somewhere. That was fine with me for a while, but then even that seemed too much, so I just said that it is all stupid and the best thing for all would be for me to be cremated and my ashes flushed down the toilet, for what does it matter. I’m dead, after all.

Then Oliver died, and while I couldn’t imagine burying him in cold English soil, leaving him so far from his parents who would soon be living again in the United States, flushing him down a toilet was unfathomable. Just the thought sends shivers up my spine. So we had him cremated and put in a little tin urn where he still sits to this day on a table in our bedroom.

From time to time we discuss what to do with the permanently. We tossed around the idea of spreading the ashes over the Atlantic Ocean – the divide between his homeland and his parents, mixing the ashes with the soil in which a bonsai tree is planted, putting it in a capsule and burying it under a bench donated in his name to Green Lake, or just buying a fancier urn and keeping him forever.

It’s this attachment and concern for what to do with the ashes that reminded me that it’s not about the dead one, it’s about the living. We all have our wishes that we hope are respected, but in the end I’ve learned that my family could never flush me down a toilet. They wouldn’t be able to do that no matter how much I requested it, and I feel silly for ever dismissing the significance of mine or anyone else’s remains.

I’ve learned a lot about life and death this year, more than I have in my entire life. Losing a child will, I suppose, do that to you.

But still, does anyone really need the Cadillac of coffins? Nobody’s body is that special.

I know this post has been a little morbid, as some people can't stand to think about what happens then, but there are other people who can't stop. In which camp do you fall?