Why I’m so hot on cremation

DSCN8376From a column I wrote in 2012 for the Redding, Calif., Record Searchlight newspaper:

” … then to the elements/ Be free, and fare thou well!” – The Tempest, Act V, Scene 1 
 
The three reasons I want to be cremated: I’m cheap, have no desire to leave a footprint behind and want to get back to the elements ASAP (see above).

A couple of hours at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a spin in a bone-grinding blender known as a cremulator should reduce me to about five pounds of coarse grayish material (think fine gravel).

I’m going to leave enough money earmarked so my loved ones can do something with my remains more interesting and dignified than parking them long term in a closet or storage unit.

Half of my ashes I want spread atop Lassen Peak, the other half scattered in the Pacific surf off windward Oahu. Then, on me, my loved ones will repair to the open-air dining room at Buzz’s Restaurant across from Lanikai Beach for ahi salads and a couple of killer mai-tais.

DAD’S JOURNEY

My father, rest his soul, had an even more interesting and nostalgic journey after death, whether he really wanted it or not.

He used to half-joke, “I want my ashes scattered at ‘Jones Corner.'” That was supposedly what World War II Army Air Corps pilots and navigators (my dad was among the later) called the point of no return halfway between California and Hawaii.

He said it often enough we figured he was probably serious. After he died, in early 1998, he got a $500 cremation at Allen & Dahl in west Redding (he would’ve liked the price) and my mother started working on the logistics. She and my sister ended up taking his ashes on a cruise ship making the passage from southern California to Hawaii.

The first evening aboard they asked the captain when the ship would be halfway to the Islands and at the appointed hour gathered on the stern and dumped dad’s ashes into the Pacific.

Later, he got a simple brass plaque at the Redding Cemetery, in the family plot next to my pioneer Lowdon and Scamman forebears – something I’ve requested too.

IT STARTED IN INDIA

It was during my several treks through India, in the 1970s and ’80s, that I became a fan of cremation, fascinated by the funeral pyres burning on the riverbanks in Agra and the holy city of Varanasi.

It seemed at the time such a sensible way to dispose of our mortal remains. And it does so still. Which, I guess, partly explains why cremation is more popular than ever. More than a third of us in the U.S. get cremated these days, compared to just 6 percent in 1975. It’s closer to 50 percent in California.

To my mind, the only thing more hassle-free and appealing would be burial at sea.

Again from The Tempest, Ariel’s song: “Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade But doth suffer a seachange Into something rich and strange. Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.”

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