Thursday, December 27, 2007

Disposing of Ourselves

As mystery readers and writers, we spend some time thinking about how to dispose of bodies, those convenient plot devices that really have very little to do with actual death and very much to do with puzzles.

We've had a death in the family, and we've spent some time verifying the desires of my mother-in-law in regard to her burial. She requested cremation, and it was decided that her ashes would be placed near her parents' graves.

However, as we made these arrangements we all got to talking, naturally, about what we ourselves will want when that time comes--when we move forward into the ultimate mystery. We discussed how we wanted to dispose of ourselves.

My husband has a sort of glorious vision of being launched into outer space. Who knows--maybe there's a company somewhere that will actually do that for people. Or he might change his mind as time goes on.

His sister heard of a place that will put one's ashes inside a sphere and drop it into the ocean where new coral reefs are being formed. She would like that.

My father says he would like his ashes sprinkled in the Michigan woods. I lean toward that myself. I am not particularly fond of airplane travel or of sea travel, and I think my ashes should be just as earthbound as my mortal frame has been.

Talking about this is almost a necessity when someone has died; it allows us to ally ourselves with that person, to admit that we will all share the same fate. But it also admits a slightly more positive view of death--a way to imagine something spectacular or beautiful to offset what is unfamiliar or frightening.

This Christmas had its special joys, just like Christmases past, but they were somehow more beautiful because of their fragility, and because of the recent reminder of that great unknown beyond momentary life.

The picture above was created when I snapped a shot of my parents' Christmas tree. Somehow it's all out of focus and you can't see the actual ornaments I was trying to capture--but it's almost more beautiful this way. The particular magic of life is the potential of another life beyond it, one that is now out of focus but which may one day become clear.

And in thinking about that moment when we might cross the bar, we are trying to bring that potential beauty into focus.


Anonymous said...

What a sensible family! Cremation is the way to go. Or, at least, the way to go after you go. Burial seems so wasteful. Whatever there is, if anything, after we die, it is no longer tied to our material bodies.

Julia Buckley said...

Yes--and getting beyond the material is so difficult in a material age. Perhaps we should start a trend of meditation. :)

I'm always recommending that we start a trend. It is the New Year . . .