That was an experience I could do without.
I went casket shopping.
Now… I have come to learn that I am a comfort shopper. I have never liked to shop but I have learned it is an excellent distraction. Thankfully most of my consumer urges are directed towards Frenchy’s (an outstanding used clothing outlet) so it is easier on the bank account.
That said… I would not put casket shopping in the category of comfort shopping.
Did you know you can get everything from cloth covered unfinished wood (which, although it was the cheapest, to me it seemed like the nicest in the room) to steel or mahogany.
I find the idea of a casket a foreign one. I don’t want to be buried. I don’t want to take up all that space in the ground for the next couple hundred years before they bulldoze the cemetery to make way for whatever the futuristic equivalent of a shopping mall will be. I want to be burned to a crisp and stashed in a cardboard box (or maybe a Crown Royal bag like the one that house my father’s ashes for a while).
How do you decide on the box that will house some one’s remains for eternity, or at least until nature takes its inevitable course? It seems like such a final way to impose mankind’s will on the earth… like a final insult. Not only did we use and abuse the earth while we lived on it but now we fill our bodies full of embalming chemicals, make really big, elaborately decorated and needless boxes and put them inside the ground, intent on preserving our remains for as long as possible, intent on outsmarting mother nature.
My mother comes from a traditional maritime town where the ceremony around death is almost more important that around life. There’s the viewing, open casket if possible (at which my sister and I draw the line). The funeral. The reception with the requisite sandwiches and sugary squares… and then there’s the burial. The gravesite ceremony. The monument. It seems to never end. When do we get on with life?
As we toured the caskets with their various wood stains and embroidered pillows, the friend who accompanied us told of a growing tradition in the UK to be buried in willow baskets a with newly planted trees as headstones. The funeral director spoke of the growing requests for immediate burial without the toxic embalming fluids.
The casket showroom was overwhelming in so many ways, but the image that stuck with me was not the box that would house my mother’s remains, instead it was the whole concept that this tradition centres around mankind’s need to make a mark on this world even after we are dead and buried.
When they put my mother’s remains in that box… my mother will not be with them. She will be at peace and she will be free. What goes in the ground will be of little consequence. Her legacy will be in me and all those who loved her.
When it’s my time I don’t want to hold on. I want to find the quickest way for nature and for the circle of life to reclaim my remains. I don’t want to live on in a box. I want something more. I want to live in my words and my kids, in my good works and even in my mediocre ones. I want to be remembered …not mowed over or picnicked upon. Let the earth reclaim what is hers and let God take the rest.