Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mercatores Erepta Morti

Fog had descended with dawn. It was thick and let little light through. The town awoke somewhere between night and day. The woman, coat pulled high as if hiding her face despite the thick gray mist that obscured her identity, hurried up the steps of the old house. It had dominated this corner of town for ages.

A man opened the door to let her enter and after a murmured greeting both went through the front rooms, the ones visitors never ventured past alive, into the larger laboratory in the rear.

The woman hung her coat and her companion brought in the man. She came over. The man lay there, his eyes stared up at her. She smiled a little and reached to a nearby table. She took two small discs with one smooth and one not smooth side and placed one over each eye and pinned his lids shut. "You don't need to see this," she whispered. Then she took a long needle and sewed his mouth shut.

Meanwhile her partner pushed by her the remains of yesterday's subject, this time a woman. He shoved the body into a giant oven and struck the head with a mallet, to crumble the skull in the heat. Soon this person would disappeared into the dust of ash and all recognition would be gone.

Thus another workday began at the local funeral home.

Another day, another dollar for sewing you shut and emptying you out. Dollar? You know how many dollars? Here's what it was ten years ago:

Professional service charges: $1,213
Embalming: $420
Other preparations (cosmetology, hair, etc.): $150
Visitation/viewing: $275
Funeral at funeral home: $350
Transfer of remains to funeral home: $154
Hearse (local): $185
Service car/van: $85
Acknowledgement cards: $18
Casket: $2,330
Vault: $950
Total: $6,130

That's ten years ago, that's running you over $7,500 today and there are still other costs like the plot and opening the plot up and filling the plot back in and tipping the Preacher. The FTC says the average funeral is well over $10,000.

Course you might take that ashes-to-ashes quote pretty seriously and plan on being tapped on the head with the hammer and cremated. That can also whack your wallet (somebody's wallet anyway) for $2,500 and there may be some of those other costs involved still, like tipping the preacher.

Maybe you are a true believer in the Church of Global Warming. No preacher tipping, perhaps, because you are going to have a eco-friendly Green Funeral. You certainly aren't going to be cremated and let any of your  greenhouse gases escape from the retort to clog up the atmosphere. You're going to keep a nice small carbon footprint and let some tree roots suck up your rotting remains.

I kinda had my eye on this Green Funeral thing a while back, but I see that is going to run you $1,500 to $2,300 these days. Why the heck should it cost much to throw you in a sack and drop you in a hole in the ground? Yeah, well, they don't recommend a sack anymore, maybe not even the cardboard coffin. Oughta be a nice biodegradable wood box. Then you still gotta buy the plot. In fact, some Green Funerals can get more expensive than a good old-fashioned burial with all the trimmings. You might want to pay an extra $1,000 to get a tree. Maybe an extra $2,000 to get a tree and a boulder. I read one Green Funeral costed $68,000 dollars. What do you get for that, two trees, three boulders and a pasture full of grazing sheep?

I've thought over the years about how to get around all this end of life control by third parties. If I had my druthers I'd be like the old elephant knowing the end is here and trudges off to the secret boneyard. It'd be nice to take  that final hike into the deep woods and die in the overgrowth so far from the pathways I'd be nothing but bones if they ever found me; maybe not even that if the carnivores carried even the bones away.

But we seldom know exactly when we will die and if we did probably wouldn't have the strength left to make the hike. Would not like to arrive in the underbrush too soon and lay about swatting flies for hours. So what to do, what to do?  I've always said I didn't want some tombstone or marker, except maybe a bench where a weary walker could sit and rest. I'm not even crazy about the grave. I already have the plots, for me and the Little Woman, a strange gift from my parents about thirty years ago when they purchased their own resting place. Aren't any of us in them yet. (Photo on right is the author standing on the future grave of his friend, Ron.)

I don't really want a funeral either. Why spend anything for a lot of silly folderol? I doubt anyone would come to my funeral anyway, except the Little Woman and the kids. And I don't want to see the kids get stuck with the bill. No, I'd rather skip all this nonsense.

I'm really getting to think about donating the old carcass to science. Let the medical schools have this shell to carve on and maybe learn something about anatomy. Seems like a good trade to me. What's the body to me? I'd be done with it. Sure, I'm a Christian and believe in the resurrection of the body, but I know God has the power to pull a bunch of dissected body parts together. He made us out of dirt, he can resurrected a body out of scattered ashes or the digestive track of a shark or the worm food moldering in the ground.

It's  a good deal, don't you think? You kick off, your survivor makes a phone call and they come pick you up. No fuss, no cost whatsoever and you get to make some future doctor's skills better or find a cure or give someone a new whatever to keep their life going. Per mortem dandam scientiam.  Then when they are all done with you, whatever is left over, they cremate and return to sender.

Somebody could scatter the leftovers on that prepaid plot and place a bench there next to my parents. Meanwhile, I could disappear from this world in anonymity.

Unless this happened. Oh no, eternally displayed and gawked at, famous in a grisly way. I wouldn't want that.

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