Tuesday, September 21, 2004

remains of the day

My friend and I were talking the other day with my buddy Kirk. It was a brief thing, he came in, found us having coffee, said hi, talked for a few minutes, and left. When he left, he said, "Be good."

Which I thought was parental and weird, but it's Kirk, so anything goes.

It immediately triggered the collection of neurons that store the little ditty, "When she was good she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was better." So, I said it out loud, because I have a limited buffer between brain and mouth (already mentioned in this space) and immediately decided that it would make a great epitaph.

Which, of course, led to the discussion about the disposal of human remains in general: our thoughts about burials, and cremations, epitaphs and final resting places, etc. What we both discovered was that in our medium length lives (hopefully at minimum, mid-life) neither of us had developed an attachment to any single place we'd want to be buried in or have our ashes scattered over.

The pressure was suddenly overwhelming.

I mean, I have a limited amount of time here and I don't travel that much. How likely is it that I'm just going to stumble on the perfect place to scatter my ashes? And, then to come up with the ultimate epitaph that someone would want to make a rubbing of and frame? Or to come up with a disposal method that makes your family and friends think, "That is SO her..."?

I have a serious dramatic side, which is a little odd given that I'm mostly an introvert. I want my death to be just as dramatic as anything else I do. I mean, NOT the manner in which I die. I'm aiming for minimal drama there: no falling space debris, no accidental falling down elevator shafts, no drowning, no suffocating, no burning, no crashing, no knifing, no shooting, etc. Nice quiet stroke in my sleep sounds ideal. But, I want my memorial to be "SO me".

So, I'm going to brainstorm here a little about the disposal of my mortal remains. There are three elements to this process I need to consider. Method of disposal, location of final resting place, and the clever epitaph.
I'll take them one at a time:

Method: Ah, the age old question: worms or fire? Tough one. I suppose there are other methods aside from burial and cremation. I can always request to be "buried at sea", but that seems irrational, since I haven't spent an enjoyable moment in the ocean since Jaws. I could also send my remains into space, which makes a little sense because I'm part astronomer. I know there's a company that does this because they're in Houston, and I sent them a resume once. (The company is called Celestis, and their website is currently "under construction", but searching for brought me to this interesting
Ash Scattering site and its parent Death Care site, both of which are evidence that there's a web page for everything...) Cryogenics is out because I suspect that if the technology ever existed to thaw people out and, like, y'know, make them *alive* again, I'd probably spend weeks shivering uncomfortably, drinking lots of coffee, and standing hopelessly by the fire. There's the Fargo wood-chipper method, of course, but that's a hair gruesome. The ice floe things sounds both chilly and a little too native for me, but I do like the idea of being set afloat in a burning boat. Very dramatic. Very Viking.
Situation: Unresolved.

Resolution: Dependent on Location.

Location: I have lived by the shore in New Jersey, in upstate New York, in Seattle, WA, and in Houston, TX. Ithaca and Seattle were lovely, but they were only where I went to school(s). I've been running away from New Jersey all my life; it's unlikely I'd want to end up there. Houston... well... It's not that Houston sucks (which... it does...) but I've already decided I don't want to grow old here, so being either underground or scattered about here after I'm dead is definitely not in my plans.
Situation: Unsolved.
Resolution: Travel more. Much much more. Also, move someplace less... I don't know... restless.

Epitaph: This is one of those times that it sucks being a writer. Not that I care what anyone else thinks, I just feel pressured to come up with something quotable, you know? Fresh, new, clever... And, of course, SO me.

Situation: Unresolved.
Resolution: Write an epitaph a week. Heck. I'll blog it...

In any case, hopefully I still have some time on this. I'm not quite done being good.

Or bad.



Karen said...

My current plan, which I really like except for the part where it sort of freaks out my vaguely superstitious relatives, is to get cremated and divide the ashes among my friends, who then be dispatched all over the world to dispose of me on every continent. And then, because my friends are all clever and funny and warped, they can all write essays about their trips, and about how they decided just where to put me.

I really hope somebody decides to try feeding me to a llama -- although really, I think I'd be happy being fed to just about anything, as long as it's funny.

Which continent do you want? :)

blurker gone bad said...

I recall the ditty as being a little different:

"There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very very good, but when she was bad she was horrid."

My mother used to recite this to me over and over when I was little. And you wonder why I'm like this?

At any rate, I couldn't care less what they do with my body when I'm dead. Take out all the useful bits and give them to people who need them. The rest can go back into the "circle of life," i.e. worm food.

Karen said...

Yes, blurker, I believe that's the original rhyme. I've seen the "but when I'm bad I'm better" variation attributed to Mae West.

Just, y'know, FWIW.

Leisa said...

Fireworks! Put my ashes in some fireworks and enjoy the show! Just as long as it's not accompanied by "Proud to be an American."

xiki said...

To Karen:
I'd like to think I was adventurous enough to take Antarctica, but I think with my limited travel and my need to find my own place to terminate, I'll take Europe. Unless of course that's taken, in which case I'll take Africa. Lots of cool things there...

To Blurker:
I never wondered why you were the way you were. It always just seemed, I don't know, natural. And I do believe that it is a Mae West quote.

To Leisa:
Dig the fireworks idea.

To the rest:
Isn't "Cremains" one of those great words created by a real need?

Oh, damn. I'm due for my weekly epitaph. Crap.