Death Wish

Live life. Enjoy the ride. Skid into death sideways. Go out in flames…

I called my Dad and asked, “ What are you doing today?” I should’ve known better.

“Building funeral boxes.” He said.

“Like coffins?”

“No, like a box for cremated ashes. Your mother and I don’t want you kids to worry when our time comes.”

I don’t want my parents going anywhere. They’re a hoot, for parents. When they did go, would I have to put them on a mantel? Could I ask Dad to paint the boxes to match my decor?

Why would a person want to be boxed and sit on a mantel? I didn’t have a mantel. Would one rest then on a dresser in the bedroom? That was creepy. Could I put the boxes on top of the refrigerator with the leftover bowls or would that be disrespectful? Why cremation?

It costs a lot to die. The average funeral ran seven to ten thousand dollars. Cremation half the price. A pine box cost five-hundred dollars. Apparently though, you can’t put someone in a pine box and bury them in the backyard. There were laws.

I remembered my aunt, Rose, telling my cousins, “When I go, take my body to the dump and drop me over the hill.”

The dump, located below our house, took natural materials, leaves, rocks, and excavated soil. Although a body could be considered organic and biodegradable, there were laws about dropping off dead aunts at the dump.

A friend commented that he wanted his kids to shove a ham bone… well the plan involved wildlife carrying him off and doing what came natural to coyotes, wolves, and bears. His concern was the kids’ arguments over who was in charge of the ham bone.

Another friend said that she didn’t want cremated because if her ashes were knocked over, her family would be forced into vacuuming her. Not wanting to touch the ashes, they’d turn the vacuum into a shrine. Can you imagine a Hoover decorated with a wreath and flowers because no one wanted to dump the poor lady, along with Fido’s fur, back into her urn?

Being the oldest, I was put in charge of stuff. I had to stop by my parents house to sign papers. Dad was anxious to show me his handiwork.

Lined up along the only clear space in the garage/workshop were seven boxes. Was cremation similar to ancient Egyptian burial with different body parts put into separate containers? I looked at Mom, “What the…”

“Relax, word got out. Everyone wanted your Dad to build them a box.” Only my dad would take requests for mini coffins.

Dad pointed out the fine points of the boxes. Wormy black walnut wood, if the wood had holes how were the ashes going to stay inside the box? Handles to carry it. Was I supposed to take the box on vacation? Special hinges that allowed the top to be completely removed. You mean the ashes were chunky? The bottom was lined with cork so you couldn’t see where the boards were pieced together. Why would I ever want to remove the lid and look inside?

What I noticed was that I could use the box as a bench. I wouldn’t want to sit on my parents remains, though.

“I want a book tucked into my box.” Mom said.

“Which five hardcover novels would you like?”

“I told your dad to upholster the box so it can be used as an ottoman.”

Dad clarified, a smaller box with the ashes fit inside, the handles were meant for carrying the box into church services, the hinges were free, and the cork for the perfectionist in him. They also bought cemetery plots for burial.

Phew, black walnut wouldn’t match pine trim. It would be spooky to have dead people in your home, no matter the form.

I hadn’t thought about a death wish beyond questioning so called social and economical norms. But when my time comes, I want to exit like a Viking. Put my body in our canoe with a bunch of sticks and shoot a flaming arrow dead center as I float out to sea, but, again, there are laws.

Published in Funny Times– February-2016

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