I always thought I’d want to be cremated when I die.
It was sort of a romantic notion, really, the idea of a part of me lying in the sand at Carmel listening to beach music permanently, or floating around the Chesapeake Bay and reliving my childhood when I worked on crab boats on the crests of waves around Thomas Point Lighthouse.
Plus, I get claustrophobic when I walk down a jetway to an airplane, the walls dizzyingly closing in on me, so the idea of laying in a closed box for eternity, covered by 6 feet of dirt, was not exactly appealing.
But then I watched a YouTube video recently on how cremation works – and, uh, yeah, well, that option’s not speaking to me either.
Sure, in a sort of abstract way I understood that cremation means you are turned into ash.
But to watch this video and see somebody get popped into a toaster like a piece of Wonder Bread, it’s a bit sobering, I have to admit.
And then, 10 minutes later, after you are crisped at 5,000 degrees and there is only a skeleton remaining, some dude comes in with a shovel and tamps down your bones like he is working in a garden, including a couple of good swats to your skull, then closes the oven door again to make sure you are well done.
OK, fine, I can handle a few shovels to the face. But here is the part that is most troubling: It becomes pretty clear that a crematory is a body factory, and that body after body goes into the oven. Sure, they scoop out your ashes and place them in a box, but there is no way they get all your ashes. And there is no way they got all the ashes of the poor soul before you. Or the one after you. And it is disturbingly obvious that there are a whole lot of different ashes mixed together in these boxes.
I know it’s totally random who dies on what day and ends up at the same crematorium and with Bob as your shovel tamper rather than John, the guy working the oven next to him. But what if you get crisped and boxed with some other person that you absolutely can’t stand, and then your ashes are forever tied with this person?
Odds are I end up with Wendy Keck (my childhood nemesis) rather than Christie Brinkley (my childhood fantasy), and because we are potentially talking about, you know, millions of years, I’m not sure I’m willing to take those odds. (And, to be honest, as smokingly attractive as Christie Brinkley was when she pulled up next to Clark Griswold in that Ferrari, she’d probably get a little weathered after a few thousand years, too. You follow me?)
Then there’s the story of my poor aunt. She and my uncle loved to sail, and they kept their sailboat in a little town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She died of cancer a few years ago, and she requested that her box of ashes be dumped over the side of the sailboat and sunk to the bottom of the Chester River.
Except that her box of ashes did not have enough weight to it, and so instead of sinking, it started to float away like Wilson, the volleyball that goes overboard in the movie “Cast Away.”
So my uncle had to chase it down, open it up, put some rocks in it and throw it overboard again. Talk about double jeopardy. I’m not sure I could take the ignominy.
So now I’m not really sure what to do. I couldn’t take the claustrophobia and I’d rather die a thousand deaths than see Wendy Keck again, but I’m not really sure what other options there are for a final resting place. You’d think somebody would come up with a few more, wouldn’t you?
I once heard about a guy who knew he was going to die, so he wandered out into the middle of the Sierra Nevada and disappeared, never to be found again.
I’m not sure if it’s even legal, but maybe that’s the answer. Go find a remote cave and have your family dump your body in there, to decompose peacefully and by yourself.
And hope you don’t get eaten by a bear.