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Thursday 17 December 2009

OK, I'm going soon - and when I do...

I am sure that those, whoever they are, who run the universe have a policy that says should ever any mortal soul be tempted to blog about synchronicity, then we, said rulers of said universe, shall rise up as one and hit them with a startling example or two.

About six months ago a young friend of ours died of cancer, having previously made it known that when the time came he would like to have his ashes fired into space in a rocket. (By space I do not think he meant deep inter-stellar space, just up there.)

At the funeral directors' his parents were shown two albums, one of the various ways in which the deceased can be remembered - and one of the many methods of disposing of the ashes. And yes, being shot up into space in a rocket was one of them. (I actually heard the other day of a chap who thought he would like to become an egg-timer.) One option is to be made into a diamond. The ashes are subjected to great heat and pressure, replicating (as near as) the natural process. His parents are still waiting for it to be arranged - with air traffic control, perhaps. It has to be done at the coast, it seems, the rocket fired over the sea.

We happened to be talking about these things (as you do!) when, low and behold, in the readers' letters of Saturday's Guardian (I think in connection with Seamus Heaney's campaign to have Ted Hughes remembered in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey - it didn't seem to relate to any other article) six cartoon-type drawings with captions under the following heading:
In the event of my death I would like to be memorialised with (tick one box):

The six boxes were:

1 Small plaque
2 Heroic statue
3 Spooky tree
4 Colossal ziggurat
5 Haunted fruit machine (why haunted... anyone?)
6 Network of secret tunnels.

Some of you will know from a past post or two of my childhood obsession with secret tunnels, so I was rather tempted by that, but then I thought, well if they were really secret no one would know where I was or be able to visit me. So, no... and none of the others appeal in the slightest. So what to do? - and time is running out, no?

I have this obsession that funerals, burials and cremations, the scattering - or not - of the ashes, all that is for the mourners. It is all a part of the grieving process. I do not believe that the about-to-be-deceased should stick his - or her - nose in. But, they say, it's part of the grieving process for the family to feel that they are carrying out the deceased's wishes.

No one's pressing me, you understand. I've not been given a deadline... thing is, I've just had this one moment of inspiration: an artist to be commissioned to paint a landscape, an artist who works with a thick impasto of paint. My ashes to be mixed in with the paint. My version of scattering them across The South Downs... even better, a seascape!

Still, I'd be grateful for any other bright ideas, just in case the guy with the scythe says all of a sudden, "Hey, fella' me lad, it's make yer mind up time!"


Raj said...

you are discussing how you want your ashes to be dedicated? wow. thats brave.
but if you dont mind me asking, whats the point? afterall it isnt that they are gonna be any special, they are just ashes. :)

no offence meant though i guess my tone may have seemed that way. its just this weird mood i m in. :)

anyways, i wud like to die before thinking about what after dying. :P

Unknown said...

Hi Dave,

Being a perfectly modest chap, I could go for the heroic statue idea - and, rather like your paint thickener, one could go into the plaster of paris mix, as it were? It's amazing what they can do with resin compounds these days. Or how about going into some handmade paper, on which your words of wisdom could be recorded for posterity? The possibilities are endless. But not yet awhile eh?

Jim Murdoch said...

I really am the worst person to ask about this since I have absolutely no interest in leaving any kind of memorial after I die and Carrie feels exactly the same. My parents were cremated and I have no idea what was done with their ashes. Neither of my siblings showed any interest in possessing them nor was there any talk of planting a tree in the garden of remembrance or anything sappy like that. I am sure some people might think that perhaps a little callous but I assure you I loved both my parents and photos of them adorn the unit in the living room along with pictures of my brother and sister. I was just never brought up to feel anything for the remains of the dead. I don’t need to go to a place to remember them. I’ve been to funerals and watched with morbid fascination but I don’t get it. I’ve never understood the need to ritualise things. I'm not even that keen on ceremonies if I’m honest although I do have a bit of a weakness for traditions. If I’m going to be remembered for anything I’d like it to be for my writing and my daughter – in reverse order of importance of course.

PurestGreen said...

network of secret tunnels. Oh I love it. You must read Mick Jackson's The Underground Man. You must. wonderful post.

Linda Sue said...

Personally I don't mind what happens to this old carcass after I leave but my son wants to be thrown to the sharks - at least somebody might benefit...

jack sender said...

a few days ago I walked into the Pantheon in Roma. In a box, behind glass, on the left side are the earthly remains of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino they say. Better known as Raphael the painter. Dead at age 37 in the year 1520.

Today, nearly five hundred years later, he may not care where his remains are. Or maybe he does and doesn’t like it.

I thought I had an idea when I began this. Now it may be like those remains of Raphael – better left in a box with a label.

Raphael had a few women who remembered him. They don’t have a box with a label.

Walt Disney’s uncle Roy died the other day. Walt wanted to be kept on ice and maybe brought back to life some day. It takes all kinds, doesn’t it?

I hope this put your concerns into perspective. I also hope when the voice says follow me that I happen to think it’s a good idea and just follow.

We may all live on in these lines on the Internet. If that is true – someone please correct my spelling errors and I’ll owe you one.

Fantastic Forrest said...

This cracked me up. How about a painting of secret tunnels?

Did you ever see the film Elizabethtown? It has a fun plot line - SPOILER ALERT! - regarding the disposition of a father's ashes spread by his son at various points across the US. I sort of like that idea. I'd have a sandy bit of me thrown off the Oregon coast, a salty bit into the ocean near Charleston, SC, a deep thinking bit in the Grand Canyon, a stylish bit in Paris, a musical bit in Ireland... :-)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes, I saw those in the Guardian, Dave - made me smile. I am afraid I cannot help you as I am firmly a buried in the earth to moulder kind of person and have my local plot booked already.

Rosaria Williams said...

I have thought about this last request also and this is my solution:

Identify a public place that needs a bench, and request a bench, with a memorial plaque, your name and vitals. Your ashes can be scattered anywhere your children want to scatter them, even in your rose garden.

The bench, however, will allow your friends and neighbors to get a bit of respite before they go too.

Have you noticed there aren't too many benches when you need them?

Rachel Cotterill said...

I suggested to my husband that he could use me as fertilizer.

Jeanne Estridge said...

Old Dog and I, between us, have 6 children, and I've told them that whoever has custody of our ashes also gets custody of our estate. They have to keep us front and center, on top of the tv (aka telly) until it becomes so annoying that they pass us on to the next kid.

"That's stupid," said his youngest, with more truth than tact. "Whoever gets you first will spend all the money and just dump you."

So there's ONE kid out of the will.

Seriously, though, I'd like to be mixed into garden soil and used to grow things. Which, at least where I live, is illegal.


Conda Douglas said...

Dave, I love the idea you came up with! Mine is to be freeze dried and used as a fertilizer for a new tree (tree can have plaque on it, or not). This is much more ecological than cremation and I like the idea of "freeze dried Conda."

Ronda Laveen said...

I'm having a hard time moving beyond the "haunted fruit machine." I don't even know what a regular fruit machine is let alone a haunted one. I'm sure I'll be thinking about this one for days.

Hmm, I think mix my ashes with birdseed. Put in the feeder and let the birdies scatter me where ever.

Cloudia said...

Sounds like a perfect plan!

Aloha, Friend

Comfort Spiral

Tess Kincaid said...

Your ashes mixed in with the paint. Now that's a novel idea!

Thanks for your very generous comment on my poem, Dave. It really made my day.

Barry said...

I like the idea of ashes used as paint thickener; however, instead of a landscape, I'd suggest a portrait.

If not of you, then perhaps of that haunted fruit machine?

susan sonnen said...

I think that's a great idea! :D

McGuire said...

Sad to hear about the death, what age was this person? I'm 27. I dread being diagnosed with cancer. We all do. But we don't all think about it quite as much as I do perhaps. Strange boy.

Hunter S Thompson got fired into space. I thought it would cost quite a bit, but perhaps not? Interesting journey for the ashes.

If I die, some kind of tree could be planted or my ashes made into a wee statue or something, ideally, I'd quite like cryogenic immortality, but I don'tthink I can afford it or afford to wait that long for the science to come along. I'm prolife y'know i.e. I don't want to die. The majority of people are pro-death. Shocking.

Thoughtful post.

Carl said...

Hmmm. Generally I am with Jim Murdoch. Love your family and friends while they are here is what I say.
You are right it is more for the mourners I guess.
I'd like to have my ashes spread by my friends and family at Highland Lighthouse on Cape Cod... Just not until I am done using them if you don't mind ;-)

PS Here's hoping you have a million more posts before you have to be turned into paint.


Karen said...

Well, I've written where I want to be in my poem Ashes and Bone - sifted into the breeze to fly across the fields and hills that I love. As for you, I think you'd be a perfect seascape, but I can see you as a painting of your own network of secret tunnels - or maybe the bark of the huge tree you wrote.

Friko said...

Easy peasy, cremate me, dump my ashes in our local river, which flows into the Teme, which flows into the Severn, which flows into he Sea, which will soon enough wash ashore on the continent.
This seems to be the only way of my ever going back where I belong, in Europe.

Shadow said...

oh boy, to become part of a work of art, now that's appealing!

Dave King said...

I don't think there is a point, consequently, I don't have a settled view. I just think that sooner ot later someone is going to ask me and I'm going to say that I don't mind, nothing to do with me, it's up to you - and they're going to be upset because in their mind an aspect of the mourning process will be missing. Does that make sense?

Like the plaster of P mix idea! There's another sort of paper some might think more appropriate!

Yes, I sympathise with all of that. Indeed, I think I empathise with most of it.I certainly share your view of funerals and rituals - with the exception, maybe, of private rituals. As indicated above to Raj, my view tends to change its emphasis from day to day. I have no wish to be immortalised or anything like that. I suppose somewhere at the back of all this, unacknowledged, is the old brain insisting that something of us might survive - but the new b rain aint hav ing anything of it. I'm really trying to hammer out exactly what I do believe.

Thanks for the suggestion. Might just do that.

Linda Sue
Mmmm, don't know about sharks. Otherwise, I agree - I think. (At the moment!)

jack sender
Welcome to my blog and thanks for that. It certainly draws a few lines of perspective. What does seem quite obvious, is that, never mind 500 years, once I am dead I shall not care what happens to my b ody or my ashes, but there will be folk who do care (Or so I hope!) and who will want to think that they are putting into effect what I would have wished. Only I don't.

Fantastic Forrest
I have to say that, whilst there was a serious abckground issue to this, I did write it tongue in cheek - and have been quite surprised that more comments have not picked up on that aspect. I have not seen Elizabethtown, but like your idea of the many bits. Thanks.

The Weaver of Grass
I thought I was just such a person. Only lately have the doubts come, the thought that as there are more ways of living a life than one, so there might be more ways of deathing.

Yes, thanks for that, I had noticed the dearth of benches. It is a good idea - and one the relativ es might go for, what is more.

Raj said...

true. that would have to make sense.

ok. then i think i would rather my ashes to be mixed with lots of whisky and then sent to all my family all over the world in tiny miniature bottles. at least that way everyone interested would have a piece of me. lol.
crazy and psychotic huh? :P

Dave King said...

And he replied...?

I do understand that wish. What do the kids think of it, though?

I do know of one lady whose ashes were used to fertilize her favorite rose tree. The problem that the kids now have is can they bring themselves to sell the house?

No one else has mentioned the haunted fruit machine - so far. I'm still hoping.
I like the natural scattering idea.

I'm glad you said that - I was b egin ning to go off the idea. I'm more constant in life than in death, I have decided.

Glad you liked it!

M m, I wonder how that would work out...

Thanks for that.

Welcome to my blog. Interesting point about prolife / prodeath. Can't say I'd thought of it like that before, but maybe you're on to something there. Thanks.

Here, here. I can relate to those thoughts.

Or - the thought's just come - some modelling mixture involving my ashes could be used to create a model of my tunnel complex. (I'd have to leave blueprints, of course.) The model could then be used as an installation. Yes... I'm warm ing to this idea.

Like it, like it lots.
From having no ideas, I'm in danger of having too many!

Especially when some guy comes along and asks: But is it Art? No, you say, it's Dave!

Dave King said...

Hey, now that is a great idea!

Raj said...

if you do it, send me a bottle too. it will be dead centred inspiration. :)

stu said...

Because otherwise it's just a fruit machine. Also, you can presumably make it pay up at irritating times.

Conda Douglas said...

Dave, I spread my mom's ashes under her favorite rose bush...the rose bush died. Now what does that say about my mom? Or me?!

A Cuban In London said...

All I'll say is that as long as one of your mourners is not Keith Richards, you're safe.

Joking aside, I read the same letter and was equally attracted to the idea of the tunnels. Now, being the pervasive Scorpio I am, nobody comes out alive of my tunnel. Hey, guaranteed company in the Beyond! :-)

Greetings from London.

Becca McCallum said...

I've heard of the ashes in the paint thing before - didn't it make the news? Crematoriums leave me cold - although funnily enough I think that stems from watching James Bond being trapped inside the coffin - and it's not particularly eco-friendly either. I do like the thought of being burnt in some sort of ceremonial pit, which is then covered over - on top of a cliff perhaps, but near the sea anyway.
More realistically though, I'd like to be buried in a traditional graveyard. Everyone should be wearing black, and it should be raining.

Enchanted Oak said...

It would have to be a large painting. There's a few pounds of ashes involved here. I like the idea of a bench under a tree and my ashes fertilizing the tree. We'll need all the trees we have someday.

The Turning Point said...

Intrigued by your blog as we are the same age, 76. Been thinking how I would like to be remembered. Just yesterday at the Racquet Club one of our members who died a couple of weeks ago wrote his own epathet and had it published in book form. The title, A Funny Thing Happened to Me On The Way to The National(Military)Cemetary.All his life he was known as a warm generous man and ready with a new joke.
My son died (45) in 2005 and left specific instructions to be cremated and that his friends were to sail out to a reef in Tampa Bay. There they would hold a party, sharing all the good, happy times they had had together. When they ran out of stories they were to drop his ashes onto the reef remembering him laughing and enjoying life. He had been shot at the age of 26 and lived as a paraplegic for the balance of his life.

Being a veteran I could have a military three-gun salute and all but after my life experiences with guns (Military and son)I'm not too keen on guns.

Enjoyed your post and the comments.


Dick said...

I'm going straight for the egg-timer option. Perfect: permanently present, a constant reminder of material form, and loaded with symbolism.

But a memorial too, I think. Either Yeats' 'Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by', or Clement Freud's 'Best before' (this placed in front of the date of death.)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave King said...

Sure will!

Agreed. Motives proliferate.

I could try to be light-hearted, but I think that's tragic. It doesn't say anything about you or your mum - just mortality.

A Cuban
I'm safe, then!
I, too, am warming to the tunnels idea. They speak to something deep in me, I think - perhaps in us all.

I do thoroughly approve of your last sentence - at least, part of me does. I like the idea of it.

I don't think I'd heard of the paint thing before - though who knows, I may have don e. I'm disappointed, though: I had thought it original me!

Agreed. Worse, though, I've been told that the ashes include those from the coffin. Someone has even suggested that they don't keep the ashes from the individual cremations separate... anyone know if that's true?

The Turning Point
Hi, and welcome to my blog. I v ery much like your son's idea and would have gone for that without hesitation, had I had such a connection with boats and the sea. Without that, though, it seems a bit empty - or might do to those who would have to carry it out. I do like the idea of being swallowed up by the sea, though. Seems elemental in a suitably symbolic way. Thanks for your feedback.

I had expected someone to mention the egg timer long b efore this!
Best before sounds good to me.

Anonymous said...

Have someone you know and trust, admire and respect, put your ashes in ink, but not for a painting, but, rather, to write a poem with.