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Friday, 15 November 2013

Funeral Goody Bags

By Carl Hansen

There was a time in my life, when I would make random calls to friends asking them to invest in what I described as a sure-fire, get-rich scheme: selling “pre-owned caskets.”

Needless to say, I never had any takers. Once they thought this through, they could see that the idea had some obviously serious legal and ethical implications, not to mention some creepy aspects related to how one would would gain access to these already “used” items in the first place.

Little did I suspect that one day I would come across two things that would rival the creepiness of selling pre-owned caskets.

One of these I found in a news story of a cemetery in Chicago where graves were dug up so the interred remains could then be stacked on top of bodies in other graves. The now-vacated, pre-owned funeral plots could be resold as new grave sites.

Apparently this plan worked well enough that the folks who thought it up made over $300,000 before they were discovered.

The second thing came from reading a letter to “Miss Manners” where she was asked about an experience a woman had while attending a recent funeral.

As the service was ending, silver trays holding small silk bags were passed down the rows of mourners. Everyone was asked to take a bag and then it was announced that each bag contained some of the cremains of the deceased.

Apparently in this way he or she could then remain among friends and loved ones forever (or at least as far as the parking lot.)

We’ve all heard stories of people keeping the ashes of Uncle Henry in a coffee can on the fireplace mantle or in the pantry near the back porch. And Garrison Keilor has a wonderfully funny story from Lake Woebegon about someone who planned to scatter the ashes of a dearly departed Minnesotan from a small plane as it flew over the deceased farmer’s land.

All went well, until the pilot tried to open the container of ashes at the same time the plane window was opened. Needless to say, the end result was that the the ashes simply blew back into the interior of the plane instead of the farm below.

While having one’s earthly remains parceled out in little silk bags is a step above trying to put them into the slip-stream of a plane in flight, it does seem to put an unwarranted responsibility on those who take the bags home, especially if the departed is someone they hardly knew. But this does give me a new perspective on a request I often make to my wife.

I fully expect my cremains to be interred in the columbarium of the church we attend, except for a tablespoon or two. But I have no desire that these be put in silk bags for anyone who comes to my memorial service.

These I have asked to be scattered late one night in the sand trap on the tenth green of my favorite country club golf course. It seems a fitting place for a part of me to spend eternity where I spent so much time in this life.

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Love this! I joke about having my ashes left in ash trays in various casinos. I don't smoke & always moving nasty ash trays away from my favorite slots machines. We go to casinos often though.

PS: my remains will go to a teaching hospital.

My ashtray request was just the opposite. Back when I was a heavy smoker, I wanted my remains placed in a large ashtray so I could "continue to grow."

I think it would be nice if my ashes could go to some big house of worship and placed on a variety of people's foreheads on Good Friday to help pass my happiness along to all.

Johna, What a great idea! And how wonderful to think there would be many more with your wonderful upbeat spirit.
I just found out the anatomical gift program I signed up for years ago won't take me because of having had C-Diff last year, so am making other arrangements--not nearly as satisfactory, or as economical. I want to be scattered in and around my beautiful Hudson River.

I love your phrase about putting the remains in the "slip-stream of a plane in flight." This one is just another of your interesting takes on our current customs!

Someone I knew in the USA carried his wife's remains to all the golf courses where she'd ever made a hole in one to scatter a bit of her ashes, including St. Andrews, Scotland. It kept him busy and traveling through much of his mourning period.

Wonderful story. By the way, if I heard and remember the guide in New Orleans correctly, folks were interred in the above-ground mausoleums initially. Then, if their relatives failed to keep up the rent or site, the bones would be placed in a bag and stuck into the wall around the cemetery. Hence the expression, bag of bones.

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