I know I complain about things a lot. It’s actually kind of part of who I am: someone who has an innate knack for finding absurd illogical oddities in day-to-day life. But these days, it’s not so much a “knack” as it is simply being even remotely observant.
This one has to do with death.
I’ve lost people in my life. My grandma Lillie died when I was 18. My great-grandparents passed away before her. I’ve had friends pass away and pets, of course. I miss these people. I think of them often, and I do have a small part of me wishing I had some sort of firm afterlife-oriented belief system so that I can imagine they’re partying it up somewhere else, just waiting for me to join. That’d be great. And if my skeptical side is incorrect and they actually are chilling on a cloud somewhere, I hope they have a nice cold one waiting for me. This is not a rant about illogical religious practices. I’m giving up on that one for now.
This is a blog about illogical PHYSICAL practices. Get your heads out of the gutter; I’m not talking about that. I’m referring to the obsessive compulsive fascination people have with keeping their loved ones’ ashes. I understand keeping a watch or photographs. They meant something to you. I wear the opal necklace Lillie gave me and there is a turquoise ring great-grandma Thelma left me that I particularly favor. I get it. But their charred remains? Really? I pray to whatever the hell is out there that my future children find it in them to let go instead of keeping me in a jar somewhere. Sprinkle me wherever you’d like. It all turns into plant food anyway. Make it a nice little non-religious ceremony and get rid of me. A Viking funeral would be awesome…or put me up on pilings and roast me like the Greeks. Then, party it up with lots of booze in front of a camp fire at the beach and talk shit about my quirks until you pass out laughing. It’s good for the soul.
Do. Not. Keep. My. Corpse.
Not embalmed. Not cremated. Nada.
There is actually even a website that specializes in turning cremated pets into keepsakes. I love my cat, but like my last one, when he goes, he goes. I’m not turning him into a little knick-knack. That is his purpose while he is alive. When he’s dead, he’s off duty. I get that they turn them into glass “works of art,” but you can buy the same exact thing elsewhere for less money that is made from some other prehistoric “pet”. It’s the same damn thing. That glass paperweight isn’t going to have your pet’s personality, and so help me god if you carve its name into its own remains, I’m going to freak out.
I understand that it’s a sentimental thing to do. I do. My boyfriend keeps his old dog’s tag on his keychain. But it’s not actually Taz. It’s a keychain.
The real problem I have with the whole thing is that it screws with the entire coping process. Grief is healthy. Acceptance comes after it, along with healing and strengthening. You build yourself up from grief. It’s important. Closure, especially, is important. If you’re wearing Fido around your neck, how are you ever going to move past it?
Now, that’s the pet half of this debacle. It’s less serious and, let’s face it, crazy people have been stuffing their pets for years. This is the modern-day version of that…I get it. At least now, Spot’s not staring blankly out at you through glass beads where his eyes used to be. (Sorry, I know it’s candid, but it’s necessary to acknowledge the reality of the situation.) The other, far more worrisome part of this deals with people who are now paying to turn their loved ones into jewelry. I can’t be kind about this. First of all, it’s hard enough to date a widower or widow (or so I’ve heard)…but can you imagine complimenting them on a diamond necklace only to find out that it’s actually what’s left of the dude in all the old photographs?
Secondly, I must ask simply because I cannot help myself, is it still considered stalkerish if they’re already dead to be absolutely everywhere they are without them knowing it? I mean, you’re wearing them. It’s like an after-death hostage situation. I know all diamonds are made of remains from plants, animals and probably humans, but at least I don’t personally know all of my jewelry. See how weird that sounds? I love Robby, but I don’t plan on turning him into a pair of tear-drop earrings so I can have him with me always. If I want sparkly conflict-free gems, I’ll just buy moissanites. They’re essentially shooting stars…or at least they share the same chemical makeup of them. And, they’re cheaper. Why spend almost four grand to make a quarter-carat diamond out of your loved one when you can sprinkle them around in cool places like the beach or out into the wind for free? When my mom goes, she wants to be planted in a Christmas Tree farm. She said that that way she’d be a part of Christmas forever. It’s bizarre, but at least she’s kept it to just Christmas. I’m not stowing her away in a jewelry box somewhere, matching her to outfits and high heals.
Here’s another concern. According to the spokesman for the cheerfully named “Ashes to Ashes” (the company that insists on pushing this bizarre though, I must hand it to them, apparently lucrative business), Each person has enough carbon in them to create between 50 and 100 diamonds. What happens when the crazy murderer types (it sounds far-fetched, but they are out there…what about the gold diggers that wind up killing their spouses for a fortune?) decide to off their “loved ones” for their carbon? It’s very conspiracy-theorist-esque (New term. Deal with it.), but it could happen. Plus, people have ransacked tombs for years. What’s to stop them from one day doing the same thing with freshly dug graves and ashes? Seems like a feasible possibility. There are those who have no respect for the dead. In my home town, they caught people sneaking into Rest Lawn Cemetery (which is for some reason located right smack dab in the middle of town). These crooks were actually stealing dead people’s jewelry. So there. It’s not so absurd of a concept now, is it? How do you regulate carbon that’s already been charred beyond recognition? This could be a whole new form of embezzlement.
But I digress. The most important part of this is that people are now finding a short-cut to dealing with death that, other than perhaps the pharaohs, I can’t imagine another culture even considering. Either you’re finding some way for that person to always be with you–kind of a sparkly security blanket–or you’re even more of a narcissist than I am and you yourself want to be around forever. Impermanence is beautiful. Accept it.
If for some ungodly reason you are interested in this strange practice, here are the two respective websites. Just keep in mind that, if Jonathan Demme directed a movie about this, it would be along the same lines of “Buffalo Bill” from Silence of the Lambs. Don’t kid yourself. It’s still live people wearing dead people. It just sparkles more and there’s less sewing involved.