So Many Choices, So Little Time
Today, over one-third of Americans opt for cremation, up from a mere 6% in 1975.
We enjoy unprecedented choices now: in addition to traditional scattering by air or sea, there is placement in coral reefs or specially grown “green” gardens.
Ever consider becoming part of artwork or jewelry or fireworks? For $695, a “symbolic portion” of your remains can be shot into space.
The late Timothy Leary and Star-Trek creator Gene Roddenberry are the riding the cosmic waves. For Leary, it isn’t very different from what he was riding when alive.
The cremation process, however, remains the same. "Ain't they gems?” the old-timer smiled. “State of the art. Can't wait to fire 'em up."
It had been 40 years since Charming Hills (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) had new “retorts.” The word is euphemistic industry jargon with an equally euphemistic definition: “a closed laboratory vessel used for distillation, sublimation or decomposition by heat.”
When I worked for a cemetery, cremation was beginning to cut into my bottom line. "We'll visit you in our hearts. We don't need to drive across country to stare at a cold tombstone," a baby boomer told his parents, killing my $9,000 “advance-need” sale.
Charming Hills offers a "witness cremation" option. An additional $75, entitles one to enter the chamber room for a final look at your loved one. You may also push the "Start" button. For some, it represents closure. For others, a guarantee the body is actually there.
In the old retorts, witnessing could be literal, if requested — a small glass window through which you viewed the commencement of the rite. Few chose that particular option. It took an unfortunate incident to end the practice.
On rare occasions, a body will abruptly lurch and twist as heat is applied. An important society matron was watching her important husband when he involuntarily sprung up, bursting through the thin casket cover, his arms flailing in the air as if begging for reconsideration.
She screamed and fainted in a heap. Although the lady had signed the standard non-liability waiver, Charming Hills assured her cooperation for $50,000. The cremation costs were refunded.
The man's name was Murphy. The old-timer who told me the story said it was another example of "Murphy's Law."