The service is over, the last eulogy read, the last organ notes fading away. All the cucumber horseradish sandwiches have been eaten or dumped into a potted plant, and the last tearful guest has been hugged and sent off.
You’re left standing there holding a surprisingly heavy receptacle, all that’s left of dear old Grandad or Susie or your husband of 37 years. Now what do you do? What’s next?
Grandad, Susie or hubby had chosen to be cremated upon their passing. All well and good, the problem being now what to do with the cremains, as we respectfully refer to the container filled with the ashes. Where to put it? Where does it belong? It’s not exactly the sort of thing everyone has sitting around the living room or the family room.
You’re holding a beautifully decorated urn or vase or cloisonne box covered with silver and gilt, a real treasure chest. It probably cost as much as an ebony casket with handles of gold. Suddenly it looks to you like just one more thing that will need a whole lot of dusting. The more ornate, the more dusting. You hate dusting.
Maybe a centerpiece for the dining room table? No, no one could possibly enjoy a meal with Grandad, Susie or hubby looking on. If you had a fireplace, the mantle would be perfect; unfortunately, your fireplace is a modernistic cone from the 1970s with nowhere to set a thing.
A friend of mine kept the cremains of her first husband, her second husband, her second husband’s first wife and her beloved Labradoodle, SNOOKUMS, all on the top shelf of the closet in her guest bedroom, having no idea where else to put them. Fine, as long as her guests didn’t get too nosy about all those jars full of sand stuck up there. At least the jars never needed much dusting, hidden as they were.
Me, I wouldn’t want to spend eternity on a shelf in a dark closet. Put me out on the coffee table where I can keep an eye on any of my replacements who might be trying to move in. I’d like to be in a lovely alabaster jar, tightly sealed, of course. I don’t want any celery sticks or potato chips dipping in, stirring me up. I’m afraid the taste would be a bit gritty. Another drawback, I’d need to be dusted several times a week or so. Or on the other hand, that might be a good job for the would-be replacements, the hussies.
Funeral urns and vases come in a large variety of imaginative shapes and materials nowadays. Some even cater to hobbies or interests the deceased has enjoyed. My brother and sister-in-law actually saw one shaped like a duck decoy. Gives new meaning to the expression “dead duck.”
Think of the possibilities; an elaborately enameled largemouth bass with silver scales for the fisherman. An oversized golf ball, flat on the bottom, of course, otherwise the grandchildren would be rolling it up and down the hallway, keeping Grandad even more rattled than he had been in his final years. Maybe an old fashioned Bakelite telephone. That could be quite a conversation piece if it was rigged to ring once in awhile. “Oh, that’s just my mom, reminding me to dust her oftener.”
A new custom seems to be developing in our culture, sharing the ashes among those of the bereaved who were especially close. A beautiful, loving thought indeed; however, I can think of several drawbacks, splitting prsonalities being one of them.
How could you divide Aunt Susie among all the doting nephews and nieces? A dab here and a dab there, but what if you ran out? You’d never get by with substituting Bisquick. And who would get the gold teeth?
I understand there are now pieces of jewelry such as necklaces and bangles with tasteful little containers that hold a tiny bit of the dear one’s ashes. Imagine walking around with a constant reminder of your nagging spouse hanging around your neck? It would certainly cut into any desire to ever have a good time again.
Or what if you put a teaspoonful of Uncle George’s ashes in an envelope and mailed it off across the country? The envelope splits and the next thing you know the F.B.I. has surrounded your house with drawn guns.
I’m afraid this is all much too complicated for me. I’ll go for a plain pine box in miniature for dear old whatsisname. I’ll set it right next to the refrigerator as a reminder that he ended up in the box because of his morbid obesity, a condition not to be taken lightly. If I remember, I’ll dust it off once in awhile as I’m reaching into the freezer for seconds on the “Chocolate Chunky Monkey.”
May he rest in peace, dusted or not.