Ashes & Dirt

Think Life Is Getting Hard?
Just Wait Till You Cross Over

Death is a booming business, as my great-grandpa said before joining the rank-and-file for good. Or so whoever came up with the expression liked to proclaim. Unfortunately, such person too met an untimely end and we’re left to fend for ourselves.
That’s because we are running out of room to drop dead. New York has already sounded the alert and started enforcing an old provision of the law: no person may be buried in pet cemeteries. Yes, folks, that’s how low we’ve got.
It turned out that some pet owners had already made arrangements to rest for eternity next to their most beloved companions, some of them still fetching balls in apartments and parks throughout this great state of ours.
No longer, said Albany. Behind its decision, there’s the not so playful reality that both people and pet populations are growing faster than available space to accommodate their life needs and death requirements.
That really drives people over the edge. Take Frederic Baur, for example. You may have never heard of him but know all too well what’s he’s known for: the invention of the Pringles can.
Considered a masterpiece of design, it’s really a symbol of the junk food subculture and as instantly recognized around the world as a Coke can or a Toblerone pyramid chocolate bar.
Baur thought it so too. In fact, he was so proud of his creation that one day, at a dinner table, he announced to his family his desire to be buried in a specially- built can. When he died, three years ago this past May, he got his wish.
What no one says is that maybe, just maybe, what he may have been the most concerned about was with the scarcity of land for one to be buried these days, even a brilliant inventor such as himself.
So, asking as a death wish to be buried in a ridiculous, over-sized can of Pringles was but a distraction. Just in case you’re not sold in our out-there rationale, though, there’s the no small fact that he was very rich by the time he died, so he could have been buried anywhere he damn well pleased.
Which brings to mind how actually hard it is to dig a seven foot deep hole to bury someone you didn’t know from Adam. At Mount Pleasant Cemetery in South Portland, for example, they have what’s called buried by hand. Can you imagine? no machines, just shovels and elbow grease.
Maybe that’s why they came up with a nice gimmicky: they dig holes only four feet deep. Now, we never had to bury anyone by hand, so we shouldn’t say anything, but we’ll say it anyway: wasn’t the expression “cheatin’ death” created for just such occasions?
No one knows. Probably because those who would are already gone. Maine has been digging graves by hand like that since 1873. Which brings about another pressing matter related to burials of the handcraft type: gravediggers.
So it happens that Mount Pleasant has two of the last true gravediggers in the state, Eugene Rand and Bill True, who do it only by hand. Not an easy task to accomplish, or job to have. This is a rocky lot, it can take up to two days to dig each grave.
So if you have any demise plans, call up ahead and make sure you leave them a tip. We’re kidding, of course. This is one of those rare business that planning ahead may not get you anywhere anytime soon. Quite the opposite of what’s happening in Bangkok, just to have an excuse to switch continents.
Welcome to Thailand, a Buddhist country and culture, and its 67 million believers in resurrection and second chances. Only in this kind of culture, monks at the Wat Prommanee temple would’ve come up with such a strange ritual.
For a small fee, your may lay down inside a coffin for a few moments, to “experience rebirth,” and come out reinvigorated and cleansed. There are daily “resurrection services” and lines of people ready to experience it, not all of them first timers.
It may sound incomprehensible to a Westernized mind, but if you worry that you should be getting acquainted with that moment we’re all facing sometime, this is a good start (and one of the few things you can actually do about it, besides, of course, living fully your own life while it lasts).
Not to sound too creepy, and the business of dying being in an expansionary mode and all that, there’re other ways to instruct your loved ones on how to dispose your body. That is, without going to any criminal extremes such as hiding it from the police.
Cremation is an awfully practical choice, on the increase for both people and pets. Besides dispensing with the onerous and not always practical task of having to find a suitable room for an usually big package, cremation also offers the option for being dispersed in the setting of the deceased’s choice.
Just, please, we beg you, don’t do what relatives of a very nice Michigan lady of a certain age, identity unknown, did: they left the urn with her ashes at a Goodwill store near Flint, right before Easter.
So far, no one has showed up to reclaim the non-descript cream-colored, 10-inch tall, 10-pound little vase. Such a heartless bunch didn’t even make the effort to write anything more than “grandma’s urn” on the label.
No disrespect, old lady, but what a waste. Maybe we should get a taste of that Thai coffin thing after all. And then make arrangements for someone close to us to skip all this tiresome business and just get rid of our own package. When the time comes, we say, only when the time comes.

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