Kicking Ash

When Ashes From the Departed
Become Their Ever Lasting Gifts

Rites of passage, and we mean the rite of passing from this cheerful valley of colorful souls to the other side, no info available, is a sensitive matter in our culture. Whereas much ancient civilizations spent a lot of their time planning, expecting, mourning and celebrating the departure of their loved ones, we seem to reserve only the third emotion of the list to usher away our own.
Things may be changing, though. More people are being cremated now, which means two things: we’re getting the ashes right away, and incorporating them to other things. Sending them in rockets, making rings and beads. Or pressing a vinyl album with our very own greatest hits on it. Sounds fun? It certainly beats burning bodies by the river where later we plan on diving for a swim.
Maybe we’re finally relaxing about this whole business of being done and over with it. Or perhaps we’re beginning to suspect that life, as we know it, may be a tad overrated. In any event, people still bury each other in expensive lots of land, or keep the ashes of their loved ones in urns on the mantelpiece, and there’s really nothing wrong with that.
And so it shouldn’t either if you have a case of trailblazing fever, and want a send off to the stars for you or someone you care about, a la Timothy Leary and others. It may cost you extra bucks, but funerals stopped being cheap since we all arrived from Africa, and by we, we mean modern humans. So let’s take a look at those beads, shall we?
Now, don’t act so surprise. The Internet is full of companies offering entire lines of ‘cremation’ jewelry, bracelets, chains, not just made out of ashes but also of bones and hairs from the deceased. Gosh, if you really belong to that kind of tax bracket, you may want to consider even having them compressed into some form of synthetic diamond, which then can be mounted on a ring.

We’ve chosen beads to tell you about for no other reason than because they’re kind of earthy, and indigenous and, native, if you’re into that sort of thing. But there’s nothing primitive about the high-temperature process of melting ashes until they crystallize and can be shaped as beads. It’s a mere 90-minute procedure that will set you back some $900. And you’re good to go.
In South Korea, they’re all the rage, we hear. About those diamonds, though, they’re not for the faint of pocket, so to speak. They’re made of carbon captured during the cremation, and lately, there’s also a way of using locks of hair too. Of course, in that case, the person can be still alive and make a choice on their own as to whether go ahead with the whole thing, or cause you some advanced grief, for having even consider the thought of them dead. As we said, it’s complicated.

Much more tongue-in-cheek is what And Vinyli is proposing: you choose your favorite repertoire, record it and, once you’re, say, ready, your ashes are used to manufacture a vinyl disc that can be played on a turntable. You do know what a turntable is, don’t you? Anyway, if you don’t, don’t bother. No, they’re not considering CDs or flash memory cards just yet.
But before you start compiling a list that begins with the first chords of the songs your parents used to play for you while you were still on the nursery, there’s a time limit of 24 minutes for your show. Selecting songs can be a little like choosing your best memories: you either forget about the best ones, until it’s too late, or they don’t sound too good, after all this time.
It costs almost $5,000 and up, but you, or someone you trust, will receive 30 discs, with sleeves, artwork, your name, picture, D.O.B., D.O.D., the works. For an additional fee, they can have an artist to paint a portrait of yours, made with your ashes too, of course. Don’t worry, no one will rush you into making a decision quick, to get the Early Bird special.
Or rather, if someone shows some inkling that they wish you could be done sooner, so they could go home and watch their favorite show, then you may have a problem. But assuming you’re nice chap, as they say across the pound, always greeting everyone, recycle and have spoke no evil of anyone lately, we’re sure they’ll put up with listening to your voice, at least once, after you’re gone.

All these fancy developments in the art of turning your final act into a musical experience, or a way to adorn your loved ones when you’re no longer able to caress them with the grace of your presence, don’t impress most people in India, so you know. There, that tried and true custom of burning family and friends onto a pyre by the Ganges is still the preferable way to go.
Theirs is not the only culture to do it like that, of course. But few countries even allow some 200 open air cremations a day, by the side of a body of water, that may be considered holy and all that, but it’s still vital, in a very mundane and not completely sanitary way, to hundreds of cities laying on its banks.
In fact, the potential health hazards represented by the Ganges, a huge river but that happens to wash around a few of the most populous, and under developed, cities in the world, has periodic become the source of a lot of arguments. Indian public health officials are constantly clashing with religious leaders about what could be done about it.
It’s very likely they’ll spend another thousand years arguing over it. In the meantime, many claim to have been cured from diseases and even restored their health by just observing the rites that have been a feature of Indian society since long ago. And the great majority of those rites involve one way or another their mythical river.
That includes the smoke up and down the water edge, the acrid smell of flesh being burned and, naturally, tons of ashes that either find their way down to the currents, or are carried away by the wind. But that’s just the view from those left behind. By the time one’s body is placed on that pyre, all worries have long ceased to afflict them. Isn’t that the point of being done and over with?

One thought on “Kicking Ash

  1. I wish to be cremated and have my ashes scattered one-third at Blacks Beach in San Diego, one third somewhere on the campus of Texas A&M University, and one-third on the railroad tracks at the Union Pacific rail yard in Omaha, Nebraska. Somehow I bet I just get thrown in the trash with all the other ash. lol


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