Smoke in your eyes

and thoughts in my head…

For a number of years now I have been involved in the memorial business. This involvement meant immersion in memorial products, how they work and the stories of the people who came to buy them. What I didn’t realize was how little about what happens to our bodies after we die that I understood. The book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty did more than make my eyes water, it opened my mind to how I want – and maybe as importantly, do not want – my body to be handled after I no longer need it.

One of the most compelling stories in the book was about a 9 year old girl and the advent of the “direct cremation”. The narrator, a young lady who has the responsibility of running the cremation furnaces, describes how this deceased little girl was picked up from the hospital, reduced to ashes in a furnace (a retort in industry lingo) and then directly mailed to the parents in a plastic urn via USPS across town. As a parent of two small children this churned my emotions viciously.

How could they distance themselves so far from the passing of their little one? How could they possibly handle the loss of something so precious? The more I considered it, the more I convinced myself that this removal of responsibility and involvement in the caring and honoring of the body was not healthy. Ultimately, I have come to view that this care is part of the process for those that are living. The body has become symbolic of something that was, and if we are going to say goodbye and honor that memory we need to own that process.

Caitlin’s book helped me understand that I wanted to get cremated as quickly as possible with a friend or family member there to push that final button and send my body on, but what then? Luckily this Green Meadow Memorials article made me feel comfortable in making my own plans and having the majority of my ashes scattered in a couple of places my family owns, that I feel strongly about and can be visited in the future. Talking it over with my wife, I think all we might need ultimately is a couple of these keepsake sized cremation urns for keeping a bit of me close.

I’ve got some new opinions on embalming too, but I am going to come back to that in a future post.

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