The Hotel for the Departed, a City of
Mausoleums & a Coffin-Making Class
In the age of transcontinental traveling, it’s not easy to be buried in your hometown. Unless you choose to live where you plan to die. But for your grieving loved ones, nothing like a hotel to send you off in style. Better yet, why not build your own coffin?
Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun. Like our ancestors, we angst about what to do with the deceased and imagine those we’ll leave behind will surely grieve over us. By then, though, the great absentee of this party – us – won’t care one way or another.
We build crypts, enact rituals and come up with ways to memorialize the lives that were, so to transcend, or rather forget, the natural fact that once we’re born, we’re ever closer to the end. But even as we’re off and running towards oblivion, there’s still a lot of candles to light up.
Granted, there are those who truly couldn’t care less. Others never saw a life they didn’t want to murder. And yet, another class of hopefuls spend their waking hours, and loads of cash, trying to outlast the unrevealed count of the days already allotted to their name.
For when that moment comes, regardless of who you’ve been so far, monk or gambler, pious or psychopath, well, it will come. Regardless. The only thing that it’s up to you is whether you’ll ease into that night, or resist. Word of caution, though: it won’t make a damn difference.
CITY OF THE DEAD
Creeped out yet? Let’s climb an ancient mountaintop, where each family has its own mausoleum. From the distance, the remote village of Dargavs looks like a collection of medieval white houses, popping up at the tip of one of the five ridges of North Ossetia, Russia.
It’s only once you get closer, after a trying three-hour trek through steep hills, that you realize that the structures are actually stone crypts where locals have been burying their loved ones for centuries.
The ‘city’ is an ancient Ossetian cemetery and each family knows (more)
* Grace Ushers
* A Life, Abridged
* Spooky Rites
exactly where they’ll be spending the next several centuries. Short of the morbid aspect, though, the arrangement of living quarters plus resting place is a rather quite practical, shall we say, existing solution.
It’s a convenience, really, an airy spot nearby for spending the eternity, lest not tax your loved ones with the thankless task of dragging your body down the mountain or, worse, upwards. A place steeped in history, and the stunning views are not for the faint of heart either.
HOTEL FOR THE DEPARTED
None of that Spartan stuff for the Lastel in Yokohama, though. In fact, the idea is to provide a luxurious setting for you to wait on your scheduled cremation. Again, convenience, albeit of the modern kind, is also a theme here, a fresh take on sending you off on a timely manner.
As it goes, demand for that oh so brief time in the furnace of Japan’s crematoriums is increasingly high. Waiting time to dispatch your body may take a few days. So why not lay in wait in a tasteful setting?
As no living soul is allowed to share your last moments on earth, your ever so dedicated significant ones will surely find more pressing matters to attend than wasting another downtime with you. And inside your refrigerated coffin, you’ll be blissfully unaware of it all, anyway.
You be lying not awake, and they will be out there, minding their own so important business, until called to collect you. And that should do it.
There will be friends or relatives of yours, though, who may want to do something more personal, to mark your falling into the Big Sleep. In lieu of sending flowers, or writing cliche-ridden eulogies, for instance, they may want to take classes on how to build you a coffin.
The reasons driving anyone to learn this er, dying craft vary wildly, not always dictated by convenience. Some enroll to build their own final box. But since Minnesota woodworker Randy Schnobrich came up with such a therapeutic approach to one’s own death, business is booming.
Of course, if you live in a New York studio, you may need to have a serious reason to travel to the midwest on such an extravagant enterprise. It’s not that you would do it just to save your brand new coffin for a rainy day. Or to lock it at the Manhattan Mini Storage.
But a terminal disease diagnostic, of course, changes everything. And have you checked their prices lately? It’s as if they want your loved ones to hate you for handing them such a final but hefty bill. Still, if you’re of the half-full kind, you could put together a coffin to gift it.
Then again, it could be awfully misunderstood, and you could wind up instead laying on it rather prematurely. So, you’d better study the situation very carefully, lest not lose another friend by making them think you can’t wait to see them try on your gift before their time.
Coming to think of it, we wouldn’t recommend including in your holiday gifts list, at least not at this time. People are kind of funny when they assume you’re thinking that they will go before you. On that note, let’s give the whole matter a deserved rest. In peace.
(*) Originally published on Dec. 21, 2011.