February 22, 2009
My late friend Pat was buried recently along the rural southern shores of New Jersey. He was dead at 85 from cancer of pretty much everything.
His dying wish was to be cremated and placed atop his wife?s plot. She died 16 years ago, and he has missed her each and every day he had to spend without her. Now he will lie above her throughout eternity. Not a bad choice, as choices go.
A Roman Catholic priest officiated in his official white cassock and purple table runner shawl. He might have looked very smart except for the ugly black and white ski jacket he wore over his vestments. ?Sorry,? he said, ?I can?t take the cold?. He spoke solemnly about preserving the memory of the dead by remembering to speak of them. (A theme close to the heart of Nikos Kazantzakis of ?Zorba the Greek? fame.) He might have sounded really smart, too, had he not sped through the eulogy, again, blaming the cold. His rushed performance took a somber affair and mangled it into a Monty Python skit.
The cemetery was very pretty, a little orchard of death. I couldn?t help but think that this business of taking up space in expensive boxes in the earth is a rather pointless waste of perfectly good real estate. That Pat wanted to be cremated was fine by me. But we mourners shivered and the priest?s nose ran. And Pat was now a mere pile of ash in his urn, straddling his wife?s earthen mound.
Humans are essentially protein. And a scientist friend of mine tells me that, incredibly, any protein can be turned into a fiber. And, of course, any fiber can be knitted or woven. Ergo, Pat could be a hat. On that chilly winter morning wouldn?t it have been so much kinder to remember dearly departed Pat while wearing him, as a scarf, gloves and a hat, to keep and cherish? Amen.
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