Monday, July 13, 2009
Historic cemetery in Davidson County, North Carolina
Somehow, in the Great Junk Mail Computer, which is so obviously a PC and not a Mac, I have become switched with my father. It happened when I moved to Prescott. I began receiving targeted junk mail about social security, AARP, Medicare Plans A,B,C,D and huh?, life insurance offers with the cute Snoopy on the front, invitations to refinance so I could live out my golden years in luxury, and notifications of the senior citizens' early bird buffets (which, in Prescott, are bountiful). I finally figured out what had happened when I received something from AARP preprinted with my name and birthday -- Laraine A. Herring. 01/20/41.
Nope. That was my dad's birthday. And, incidentally Great Junk Mail Computer, he's been dead 22 years. I know. Windows Vista sucks, doesn't it?
Today I received an envelope with a big blue banner on the front: Win a Pre-Paid Cremation! I had to open it. It's not every day a 40 year old woman gets a chance for something that spectacular. And it's only Monday. What could my Pre-Paid Cremation prize entail? Fireworks? Tony Orlando singing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree"? Ice sculptures or a personal eulogy from Clinton Kelly telling the world how fabulously I put outfits together? Alas. None of this could be mine.
The personalized letter contained seven punctuation and spelling errors. I would not entrust my mortal remains to a company that misuses an apostrophe and believes that there is such a thing as closure in the grieving process (facilitated, of course, by pre-buying a cremation plan.) A girl has to take a stand. Furthermore, is this the kind of mail I can look forward to as I age? Makes those viagra junk mails look better. If I complete the reply slip, I can even be entered in a monthly drawing! Oh my. I had no idea life was going to get this good.
I believe in the right to die. I don't want to hang on for months or years on life support. I believe in the right to die on one's own terms, and I believe each person has both the right and responsibility to ensure there are provisions for the disposal of his or her body in a way that feels comfortable. I also understand that this company has a right to sell its product. It's the Ed McMahon You Might Already Be A Winner! tone of the letter that got to me. That, and, for me, the idea of cremation in the first place.
I love the earth, and I want to go back to it. I don't want to be cremated. I don't want to be scattered. I don't want to be inhaled by someone else. I want to be under a tree -- a big one like the ones I can't find here in Arizona. One with roots that go clear to hell and branches that go straight to heaven. Preferably with moss and birds that are red and yellow and orange and green. And maybe a rabbit. Definitely a squirrel. And lightning bugs. Hopefully a cat or two.
Cremation, like beer, is for other people. Not me. Even if it's free. Even if they pay me. I go back to mushy, muddy, Southern earth. How else am I going to hang out in the branches and haunt everybody?
a handful of earth
i used to be hair or
i used to be bones
and just at the moment
when you are all confused
leaps forth a voice
hold me close
i'm love and
i'm always yours
- Jalaluddin Rumi, translated by Nader Khalili
Cat guarding Chopin's grave in Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris