Susan’s Ashes

6 years ago

Have I been spending too much time while I’m alive worrying about what will become of my body after I die? I would like my daughters to chime in on this, but they avoid the topic of my ashes as though it were pink slime.posies

The idea of spending eternity in a meadow appeals to me:

“Mockingbird Hill,” a bluebirds’ trill. A child’s drawing of grass with white cloud puffs, a smiling Mr. Sun, medleys of rainbow-colored posies. A rainbow.

I used to think I wanted my body preserved above ground. My brain tells me it doesn’t matter what happens to my body after I die. But the below ground and other alternatives give me the willies.

My father chose airtight coffins for his parents and for himself. Is keeping the worms out any better than keeping the air out?

My parents are buried in my grandparents’ family cemetery plot in an unattractive industrial neighborhood of Philadelphia. I gave up my spot, thinking I’d rather end up somewhere near my daughters. Now, though, regrets about being homeless in the afterlife seep into my thoughts. After all, my daughters may have families of their own to be with on “the other side,” so maybe I should have taken a sure thing with my family of origin.

Will my daughters want to visit me after I die? It’s unlikely that all three will live in the same city. So cremation, as unpleasant as that Sybil's Urnsounds, seems like a good plan for sharing my remains. They could divide the ashes and each have part of me in a locket.

Each of my girls could also keep some of me in a gorgeous mosaic urn, personalized with photos under glass beads, like the ones my friend Sybil Sage makes for ashes of your cat or your mother.

I doubt they will want to eat my remains the way, as you may recall, a former Mr. Wrong swallows a pinch of his late father whenever he feels blue.

Though I consider myself a secular Jew, I consulted askmoses.com about Jewish law regarding cremation. Moses takes a hard line:

Jewish law requires no mourning for the cremated. Shivah is not observed and Kaddish is not recited for them. Those who are cremated are considered by tradition to have abandoned, unalterably, all of Jewish law and, therefore, to have surrendered their rights to posthumous honor.

The footnote, however, offers hope for flexibility:

1. This is the prevailing custom. Please consult with your Rabbi to see if this is also your custom and/or if there is reason to make an exception.

This is one of the things I like about being Jewish: You can always find an interpretation of Jewish law to suit your needs.

What ideas do you have for where to go and how to be near loved ones after you die? Do you care?

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