Okay, remember how I said I wasn’t morbid but definitely was a fun person? Well, this might seem like a morbid topic, but I’m obviously confused and need guidance. After all, I’m not getting any younger, am I? Don’t answer that!
See, I happened upon this ad for a new burial service (I guess that’s what you’d call it): EcoEternity. Yep, eco-friendly, green burials. Seems there are at least six forested parks on the East Coast from NY to right here in the good old Piedmont that offer you the opportunity to pick out a specific tree in the forest, the base of which will be the location for what’s left of you after you’ve been reduced to ashes when you die. Yes, they’re part of the “Natural End” provider network. Now, lest you think this is as easy as walking into your neighborhood forest and bidding a fond farewell to Uncle Harry as you scatter his beloved remains to the wind, let me remind you, nothing in this life is easy --- or free! But you do, of course, have choices.
Apparently, there are several different tree picking plans in these forests. You can choose the Family Reunion Tree where up to 15 family members (including Fido if you so wish) can be buried for up to 99 years. I guess if Aunt Grace dies one day after the 99 years lease is up, she’s going to have to find a tree of her own, or hope she has enough family members that want to join her in another 99-year lease of that same tree. Of course, if Aunty Grace and Uncle Waldo didn’t have any kids and were only children themselves, do not despair! There is always the option of the Community Tree. Yes, they can share their spot with up to 13 other lonely, barren, unloved people who also didn’t have families to join them in a Family Reunion Tree.
Ah, but then again, if you hate your family but love your Facebook friends (or perhaps the New Caledonian Friendship Society or any other group with which you wish to spend eternity), you can lease the Friendship Tree. That’s where you and 14 of your closest buddies can be found, or not found, depending on how much it rains after the interment.
Now, not to complicate things too much, there is also the combination Family and Friendship Tree. I suppose that’s for people who hate their family but don’t want to say that to their faces, so they will go along with being under the same tree as long as they can take a few beer buddies with them.
But, hey, it’s not as easy as just scattering those charred remains hither and yon. No, silly! Your ashes are buried at the base of a mature tree in biodegradable urns where, “Over time, the roots will absorb the nutrients and create a living memorial for friends and family to visit for generations,” or at least up to 99 years, not that you there anymore, having been sucked up by tree roots! Family and friends gather around for a memorial service in a wooded glen overlooking a lake, sporting their cowboy hats (if you don’t believe me, check out the photos on the website) and then wander around playing with the tree frogs. Hey, if you add a New Orleans band leading you out at the end, I’m in! Love that Zydeco! But this is not a memorial service for the faint of heart, or the arthritic. I mean, it’s a good long walk in that forest, so if most of your family members are elderly when you die, I hope you chose a tree on the edge of the forest and not one in the middle. Then there’s the picture of the couple hiking up a hillside to visit their loved one’s tree, through waist-high weeds, and all I can think of is, Gee, I wonder how many ticks they’re going to take home with them. If they die of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme disease, do the ticks get buried with them?
Now, I’m not downing this whole idea, although you may think I sound a bit snarky about it. No, really, I’m not! Actually, I much prefer it to the whole pay a fortune for a top-of-the-line mahogany (oops, there go the rain forests) casket with bronze handles and silk interior (with the deluxe pillow of course) which you all admire for about an hour or so and then bury it. Talk about a waste of money! I could have spent that on a vacation to Marrakesh!
I’m sorry. I hope my radical view of funerals and burials do not offend anyone, but personally, I don’t want to be remembered lying there in a coffin, and that’s not how I want to remember anyone else, either. I mean, growing up in an Italian Catholic neighborhood where there was always a three-day “viewing” at the funeral home before the big event took place, I heard enough passersby saying, “Oh, doesn’t it look just like him,” which really meant, Man, Guido looks awfully pasty in that coffin, and does he have lipstick on? I remember my Uncle saying at his wife’s funeral, Yeah, they did a good job; it looks just like her, except her mouth is shut. Nah, I’d rather be a bunch of white crunchy ashes in a biodegradable urn, if those are the only choices.
I did look up local laws to see why we needed to actually pay for such services and couldn’t just sprinkle away to our hearts content anywhere we liked, you know, like Jessica Lange in the film Bonneville (great flick, by the way, you’ve got to see it!) but, at least here in NC, they use the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for scattering ashes. Seems that no one wants to weigh in on whether it’s legal or not, regulated and not, or anything else or not. I guess electoral candidates don’t want to touch that one for fear of losing votes to those with strong views one way or another, especially when they’re in such an emotional state, so they just kind of ignore it and hope it dies down. (Get it, “dies down”? Okay, it’s after midnight and you know what happens to my brain after midnight. It’s like the hungry little Mogwai that got fed after midnight and turned into a Gremlin. Totally out of control!)
As for me, I’m just mad I didn’t think of it first! I could be raking in the dough right now! No more worrying about retirement; spending my last few years making people happy as I plop them under tree after tree in my forest, along with their friends, family and cherish pet rat Ben, and running off to the bank with my new found loot. There are so many “inventions” that come out and I’ll so often say, Man, why didn’t I think of doing that and actually selling it. With the right ad campaign, you can sell just about anything! And the more complicated you make it, the more options you offer for different price categories --- well, who can pass up a bargain? Certainly not me! How do you think I became the proud owner of five iPods?
Of course, there’s always that problem of having to choose. Anyone who has ever gone to a restaurant with me will know that I’m always the last to order, I mean, way last! My daughter used to order my meals for me after I spent about half an hour perusing the menu and still not having made a choice. She would say it was so I’d try something different and not order the same old thing all the time, but I think it was more a matter of self-preservation, not to mention the waiter whose tip money would be severely depleted by the fact that the nuts at Table 8 took 3 hours to order. No wonder they never offered me a wine list!
So for me the bottom line is this: I can’t decide where I want to live, so how can I decide where I want my remains. Scatter me somewhere windy, please, perhaps Kitty Hawk. You think those Wright brothers picked that spot just for the view? No, if nothing else, I think they hoped their plane would fly just from the wind factor there. Then the wind can carry me to all the places I’ve always wanted to visit and never did. But please don’t do it during the day. Someone might see you and “ask,” and then you’d have to “tell,” and that could open up a whole other can of worms! But at least I won’t be worm food; I’ll be feeding trees!