Housing for the dead

Graveyard-NO-09[1] I am drawn to cemeteries, not because of some ghoulish, even sentimental reason, but because I want to reinforce my already steadfast and final decision that I do not want to be buried in one of those places along with people I do not know, and who if I knew, I would not likely like to be around.

After all, these places take bankers and insurance company executives and even golfers. Sometimes civil defense attorneys who represent bankers and insurance company executives, along with judges who habitually hold for them, are also buried there.

It’s also crowded. The graves are so close that but for the intervention of death one would have been able to reach out and touch one’s rotting neighbors on either side. And if, according to promise, we all magically sprang back to life one day, we would end up talking about the stock market, who was cheated by Madoff, and what one’s latest handicap at the country club was.

What a place to abandon one’s bones to rot, ever so slowly, depending upon how much you were loved (as love is defined by the mortician)! That is to say, if you were truly loved, you would be buried in one of those super, double-lined copper affairs with the anti-rust, anti-bug interiors, and you would be put to rest (and to rot) on a Super Sealy, Sweet Dreams mattress with silk sheets, and oh, they do get cold in the winter.

The point is, that if you are really loved, as one is lead to believe by the undertaker, one will be placed in a coffin that will allow you to rot slower than one decomposes in a cheap, leaking coffin, thus extending the ugly process all the longer.

Instead, I have asserted that I want to be buried in a pine box just deep enough that I won’t be excreted as a coyote turd, but shallow enough that I will become a part of the root system of the willows along the creek and emerge as a pussy willow in the spring time.

Better yet, so as to beat the devil, the fiery furnace of the crematory seems the best. After all, no one will be able to tell whether those are my ashes or the banker’s (miserable joke because I never wanted to get mixed up with bankers) or maybe they are the ashen remains of the old lady’s Chihuahua from across the street that spent its life curled up on her lap.

In any event, I just got back from visiting New Orleans and while there our guide dropped us off at St. Roch Cemetery. I discovered, to my extreme discomfort, that I needed to go number one, so to speak. No pissatories were in sight. So I wandered out in between the old family mausoleums, or whatever those stone, above-the-ground-family-graves are called, and found a place out of sight between a family named Foinheizer and one named McBaker. I looked in all directions to satisfy myself no one was in sight of me, or me of them, and immediately took to the task. Suddenly I had a sense of shame and sadness. Whatever would the families feel if they knew some old Yankee white man was pissing where, there under, Uncle Henry’s feet were or used to be?

How sad that the deceased as well as their immediate descendents, now also long dead, and theirs as well – are so long dead that no one remembers them at all. In fact they have all been dead so long, and it is not so long as long goes – less than a hundred years, that no one came to visit them on Memorial Day.

I know, because as was true for most of the graves, no one left a bouquet of those white plastic lilies or cold, white plastic carnations in a cheap vase at the base of that cold stone structure to honor them.

As I finished my task there above Uncle Henry’s feet I began to understand my shame. I had been taught as a child to honor the dead. Yet I wondered then, as I do now, why one should honor say, Uncle Henry, after his death if he was not honorable before?

Then I met a huge African-American there, a smiling, friendly man with a baseball cap brandishing the New Orleans Saints football Broken-grave-stone-St team. He was at least as large as a Saints tackle. He said he was the caretaker. He pointed out some interesting sights: One, a grave stone had fallen over and broken in two. It was, of course, subject to the same destructive forces of man and nature as the dead it remembered. He told me no one gave a damn about the broken headstone since the man’s predecessors had not paid for perpetual care and the poor stone would just have to lie there for eternity despite the fact that it cast a certain shadow of neglect on the rest of the stones.

Then our guide showed us where a hive of honeybees had occupied the upper reaches of one of the above-ground burial sites. This disturbed the management so they took a torch to the bees the flame of which left its smoke stains on the stone, and me to wonder why things alive and producing sweetness should be such a threat to the dead?

Next he showed us a burial chamber, where he said he once witnessed hordes of cockroaches crawling over the rock and into the tomb. The contents of the tomb had allegedly been dead and decomposed for nearly a century, yet something was attracting the insects who usually like things living or just past living, and all of this raised new questions.

“But what seems a more than casual observation is that the dead here remain in expensive structures, the cost of which far exceeds the value of the shacks that house many of our living poor.”

But what seems a more than casual observation is that the dead here remain in expensive structures, the cost of which far exceeds the value of the shacks that house many of our living poor. And many of the poor, including helpless, hungry children, live in cold, deserted doorways and on the grates in the big cities, some even in the sewers.

I ponder a simple question: Might we better honor our dead by turning dead money spent to honor the dead, honorable or not, into something life-giving by contributing the funds, say, to decent housing for the living?

At last my companion caretaker told me that if the heirs did not keep up their monthly payments that the occupant would be evicted. When I asked, to what place the said occupant would be relocated, he said he didn’t know. Presumably there is a pauper’s field nearby.

So what? Remember, the rapture. Some insist that all the coffins will be thrown open on judgment day and the good, rattling occupants will be drug up to heaven whether they want to go or not. Which leads me to object. Who really wants to spend eternity with a bunch of angels? If you met one you might take a fancy to, the wings would get in the way, and after about ten thousand years, wouldn’t one get tired of listening to some dreamy-eyed sweetheart playing the harp?

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42 responses to “Housing for the dead

  1. To borrow from John Prine:
    Please don’t bury me
    down in the cold cold ground,
    No, I’d rather have em cut me up, and pass me all around,
    Throw my brain in a hurricane, and the blind can have my eyes,
    And the deaf can have my ears, if they don’t mind the size.

  2. Mr. Spence,

    I have always been fascinated by your wisdom (I have read all of your books). What you wrote makes so much sense, so for me, it will be cremation and organ donation.

  3. Gerry, Once again you make me think about this life and the next one. You make me laugh (no pissatories), I’ll use that term where appropiate of course. I thank you again my friend for giving all of us points to ponder, tears of laughter, and hours of thinking. What a great gift you give, to talk about your travels and what you think about and put into words for all of us to enjoy. I’ll speak for all of us, and take any wrath because of it, but keep these coming. We read them all and are always looking forward to the next one. If anyone disagrees, email me…we’ll talk. Thank you Mr. Spence.

  4. WOW! What an incredible and powerful article…

  5. Gerry,

    For the longest time I have seen religion as one of the biggest scams in the history of the world. I certainly can point to the many discrepancies in the bible that have been sold to us since birth. Recently though I have been giving alot of thought about spirits and reincarnation and the likes. My own aunt had a near death experience in the 70s and was pronounced dead on the operating table and told me about the typical story of a loving white light and how it just wasn’t her time yet etc. This trust in family has led me to believe most of the NDE experiences I have read and as a result I am very spiritual today as a result of it.

    I can honestly say old man that you should certainly not be worried about being buried with bankers or insurance executives. If this whole soul business holds up, your kind and gentle heart will be just fine.

    But you do make an excellent point in how we have priorities here on earth completely backward. After your post I have decided that if I am even so lucky as to die a graceful death it would be better to be buried in a cheap cookie cutter box, than to have some child somewhere go without food that day.

  6. Not just a beautiful article, but a timely one for me. When my mother died 12 years ago, my father was immediately seized upon by a psychotic, money-grubbing harpy, who he married despite our entreaties not to. (Really, why would anyone have to be told not to marry someone who expressed herself by grabbing one’s youngest child by the neck?)

    My mother and father rescued wildlife and gave half their income to charity. My mother was cremated, and her ashes buried in her favorite wildlife sanctuary. My father was going to have the same.

    Enter the harpy, who never gave a penny to anyone that didn’t benefit her directly, and spent most of her time calculating how to get more money, talking positively about people who have money, and going on cruises. She insisted that he be buried in a double plot with her. (Yes, she apparently did have his testes in her purse.)

    He died two weeks ago and was buried as she wanted, not as we wanted or he wanted. Someday, I will hear that she died, too. Perhaps by then I will have released my anger at her for alienating my father from us for the last 11 years of his life. If not, I will visit the grave. And whether there are “pissatories” available or not, I imagine myself urinating on her side of it.

  7. So, just what does a high end tomb stone cost
    in the big easy cemetary, compared to a 5th ward house, prey tell can you lay it out
    Bro Gerry.
    Any famous interned in the grounds, that
    history reflects ?
    Time is ticking, it just don’t wait for anybody.
    So, did the waters of Katrina not wash
    into the scared grounds ?
    Such city planning.

  8. Interesting take on the grave, heaven and eternal life. Makes me wonder. Is there such a thing as being a servant to God himself? I had a preacher friend who thought he would be the governor of Montana in the millenium. Is there such a thing as more meaning and life in the Kingdom of God, & of eternity, than what we live/d and experience/d in this life? I think so. There will be more meaning and responsibility for the redeemed. But it takes a seriously positive imagination and faith to see and expect that God would want and expect us to do much and expect much in life eternal. We must be honest and open up to the unlimited possibilities of meaning, purpose, love and holiness that He has planned for us who love Him. Love Him because He first loved us. He has indicated that being in His family is the best place to be. The grave is only temporary.

  9. Much Ado About Nothing

    Mr. Spence, I agree with most of what you wrote….and laughed heartily. Why spend big bucks to keep this body from it’s natural course….rotting! I do have the joyous expectation of being forever with the Almighty. Make it a most lovely day!!

  10. Mr. Spence:
    Magnificent article as always. Thank you.
    But sometimes I get to thinking (at times, a bad idea, as will soon become
    evident) about eternity.
    For untold eons, I did not
    exist, bothering nobody,
    nobody bothering me. But I don’t get to spend the rest of eternity that way. After I leave here, I
    will spend all eternity in
    an everlasting Halloween
    land called “The Dead”.
    How’s that for a future, eh? My funeral? Oh, I’ll
    think of something….

  11. Isn’t it neat when one reads Gerry’s blog, and realizes that those almost exact same thoughts have been our thoughts too? Only of course we probably didn’t mention much less discuss them with others! What fools these mortals be! I have one question I wish someone could answer, although I am afraid I already know the answer to. Why are lobbyists allowed to enter the Senate chambers in the first place? (LOL) Thank you Gerry for this blog, Your bright light illuminates so many feelings; humor, sadness, but mostly the real human condition! Sincerely Annette Spear

  12. On a side note, I just read that Wal-Mart is selling caskets on-line………probably painted with lead based paint from China!

    Talk about pissing on the dead.

    BTW- Who are The Dead and why are they following me?

    I am looking at opting out of death as soon as I get the paperwork from the government ; )

  13. Gerry, I hear that angels are scintillating conversationalists. I think you would enjoy their company.

  14. Gerry, Quit pstttnn on my leg and try to tell me that it’s raining! A lot of cats hang out in cemetaries and that doesn’t discourage mice. The cemetaries are full of history and remnants of those who once gallavanted the streets of New Orleans, my home town. It’s also expensive real estate. The churches make a killing(??) with the cemetaries and fees for housing old bones and some not so old. The dead sleep but their bones rest and memories live in those stoney cold cramped villages. Even Jim Morrison of the Doors
    has elite companionship in France. Elvis has definitely left the building and his bones likely left Graceland long ago. Why even the unknown soldier gets his floral tribute year after year. And what about JFk and his flame? Catholics have kept relics for centuries of old bones of “saints”(not players). It’s about rememberance,and respect for lives which once upon a time were sacred to someone. My daughter left this world in Jan.2009. I was thinking of how we celebrate President’s and historical figure’s and it dawned on me that my daughter was historical and a towering figure in MY life and for that reason I lay flowers at her tomb… to remember the girl who once was here but now has gone far away. Stop psttnnn on America’s cemetaries…they serve a purpose. There’s still plenty of land in this country if anyone wanted to house homeless or whoever. It just don’t work that way in this world. We need to respect and remember our history and cemetaries,especially the New Orleans ones are living(??) history. Ask any geneaologist. I hope you otherwise enjoyed New Orleans.

    • Your leg isn’t wet, Jerrye. I loved New Orleans. In a second life I would like to live there, but not be interred in one of those things.

      Gerry

      • Gerry,
        It’s like this..when ya gotta go, ya gotta go.. Makes you think “organic”.BUT… the life form that lights up the igloo don’t ever go out. Better than aurora borealis I think. We are just dirty little people on the outside and as the Fifth Dimension sang: “Ashes to Ashes” Ah, but the “spirit”.. that’s the thing we know is made of something indestructible. It visits us sometimes in silent,unseen ways sans
        corps(now add an “e” en anglaise)
        Death is part of the cycle-circle..what goes around comes around..(again?) Except ashes..don’t think they reunite. Bones, on the other hand.. who knows where dna will someday take them.
        as a kid,I used to play in the Catholic cemetary down the street when my cousin and I were supposed to be in church we would look at all the pictures on the graves and read the old french writings. Always made me wonder what lives these lying under the dirt must have had. Babies and soldiers, wives, daughters, grammas and grampas,even a priest or two buried in special places under the altar. Lots of knights buried in European churches. How about those Pharohs? LOL.
        The Bible and Buddah: They say the angel rolled back the stone of the cave grave,but Buddah…
        Think of it this way: If you had a favorite rose bush,wouldn’t you want to look at it each new year and enjoy it’s beauty? So it goes with memories of those sacred to someone. We like putting ourselves back to the earth like big seeds we’re gonna grow again. Now ashes?? I dunno. Fire changes things.
        A lot of people got washed away in water too during the hurricanes of New Orleans. So maybe it’s ok to be a little indiscreet when no one is looking except a graveyard cat who chases mice and “rats” from digging into the tombs. Cats are spooky like that,ya know. I think we should leave the dead alone and help the living, one on one. We cannot save the world,it’s too wobbly and out of balance. We can only house one human being at a time..maybe two occasionally. It begins with YOU. ME. HIM. HER. So the grave sellers have now become like used car dealers, and are robbing the bereaved at every turn. This I learned shortly before I was about to go ballistic when the grave seller at the Catholic Church pulled some tactics that would put a hard core used car salesman to shame. How about selling the same grave twice after they “lost” the title and papers from 75 years ago? And WHO gets title when all the descendents are gone. Do you realize that graves come with titles? I love that part! So why not wait a few hours before a burial and try to get the grieving mother to buy it again since they lost the title and old granny is lying six feet under and ain’t talking either. I kinda thought grandma and grandpa’s bones been resting there for 60 years might “entitle” them to the title being handed down to posterity. The grave yard man who also charged $725 to open and close a small opening where the coffin slides in was salivating thinking of making all that money in just a few hours with a bag of cement and a little mortar. Lucrative business cemetaries. I could say more, but the word “Catholic” church gives me indigestion when I think of “Catholic” cemetaries of Louisiana.
        Thank you for not peeing on my ancestor’s grave. Glad you were in the other cemetary. I forgive you, and won’t tell Mc..whoever.
        P.S. we don’t come back in time,but the romance of New Orleans is real,and woulda been a good time, place to live back when. Take care.

        Pere Lachaise Cemetary Paris

      • Gerry,
        I want to thank you for pushing my button. You opened the door and I am walking on in.
        It has come to my attention many years ago after my mother’s death and the slick shenanigens a sleazy southern lawyer pulled whilst stealing our property that the cemetary business is a nice niche where the sticky fingered may thrive,prosper and fly under radar.
        After having been taken to the wood shed blindfolded like a wooly little lamb being led,fed, lies and deception by the gnarly toothed wolf in sheep’s clothing calling himself “lawyer”,I was led to research exactly what this most respectful,church pillar,pompous Mr.Clean had done in my mother’s succession which included some juggling with the Catholic Cemetary and the sale and purchase of some masoleum spots. To my utter amazement,I found some puzzling transactions which involved the sexton and probably the priest and the person who was head of the cemetaries for the entire diocese of Louisiana. Seemed the priest who performed the funeral rites and the pastor at that time of the parish church,was the cousin of the Archdiocese Cemetary man. They all had developed cases of anmesia though. Hereditary?
        My stroke of luck(?) was that the former sexton had died and the new sexton was a former classmate of mine.After weeks of trying to locate the deed to my step father’s masoleum space (which was sold at the time of my mother’s burial so we could move him beside my mother’s new masoleum space) was missing. Then, also my mother’s bill of sale, deed was also missing from the church records. But then, as the next few weeks, revealed, there were “100’s” of them missing from a certain time period. Hmmmnn.. The Catholic Church has been known to keep meticulous records for centuries. How could this be? So I am call the main man in the New Orleans Diocese who tells me he can’t find this information either. Hmnnn.. the plot thickens. Duplicate copies are sent from the parish churches and he has no record either? I suggest calling the priest who turns out is his “cousin” to ask what he knows. I am told “He doesn’t know anything about the cemetaries and is now retired. I call him anyway. He immediately responds defensively that he doesn’t know anything about all that.( I didn’t even tell him what I called about) Seemed like a tip of from ole cuz.
        So I go back to my old class mate at the local church and he tells me to go see the wife of the previous sexton who has some records..get this…”at her house”..Hmnnnn? Huh?
        Well, strange, the church records have left the building and are being held hostage? why couldn’t the main cemetary man get them from her? Hmnn?
        Well, in this part of the world, I have a cousin or two also, so turns out her deceased husband/sexton was my deceased mother’s cousin and she gladly provides me with photo copies of these documents. Well, long story short, something rotten in Denmark.. This was at least 20 years ago.
        So now in January,2009, I attempt to bury my daughter in the same cemetary in the grave of my grandparents. There is one elderly living aunt who lives in another state and has no interest or desire in the vault/tomb of her parents,my grandparents and I attempt to find a deed. She has no recollection of grandma’s deed.So I am dealing with the current sexton who seems disconnected mentally,but
        well adjusted in “sales”(at least partially)
        So my remaining children and I make an hour and a half trip to pay in advance for the funeral scheduled for the next day. Cousins are scrambling to get old Auntie to sign authorization and heirship of grandma&grandpa’s tomb so my daughter can be buried. The document is faxed and received by the secretary which we confirm enroute. So the sexton upon arrival at the church office spews out something about having to provide heirship of all the heirs who would come in line of the tomb. Remember, auntie is till alive and has just faxed her consent. Apparently the sexton hasn’t even communicated with the secretary in the empty office right down the hall. He asks for the document sitting on her desk. Says he hasn’t gotten it. I remind him to go get it from her so we can proceed. He comes back and tells me he will allow this,but they do not have record of my grandma’s deed,and if I just get all the heirs to sign the printed document he pulls out of a drawer then I can get a “deed”. I am gettin short on diplomacy and patience at this point and remind him that my grandpa has been lying in that grave since 1920, Grandma since 1975,and an uncle to boot ,so that is all the deed I need. He came within inches of me yanking him from across the desk when he says the following: “All you have to do is get all the heirs to sign the paper and you can get a new deed….it’ll only cost “$35.” Needless to say…… Me thinks there is a problem with lost deeds and reissuing of new deeds for a small fee and some deed wrangling going on there. I cannot think of words to sum up the feelings stirred up by this encounter. This is just the tip of the iceberg I am sure.
        So thank you for letting me vent on this topic which came to my attention unintentionally. I hope people will wise up to the thievery and defrock the wolves.
        The funny side of this though… Grandma was a stubborn woman and had a beautiful steel coffin flown over from another state where she died. I guess we had all forgotten. When the tomb was opened,as is the custom, the older coffins are dropped into an underground “vault” to allow for more burials after time.Some cemetaries take the pieces and dispose of them and rest the bones or whatever remains in the tomb. In grandma’s case, the steel coffin from 1975(coincidently the year my daughter was born) was in magnificent condition and didn’t want to budge.Apparently the ground had shifted the old brick and mortar tomb some and grandma would only move so far…just enough for my daughter’s small wooden coffin to “rest” on top of Grandma’s steel coffin. This really broke a heartbreaking moment with a light chuckle at the gravesite. Grandma got her last word and she provided a safe place for my daughter’s coffin off the ground. Also, no one else can be buried there.

      • Gerry,
        Ironically a British Knight in Shining Armour has, in fact,taken on the platform of which you spoke in your post. You wrote:
        “But what seems a more than casual observation is that the dead here remain in expensive structures, the cost of which far exceeds the value of the shacks that house many of our living poor. And many of the poor, including helpless, hungry children, live in cold, deserted doorways and on the grates in the big cities, some even in the sewers.

        I ponder a simple question: Might we better honor our dead by turning dead money spent to honor the dead, honorable or not, into something life-giving by contributing the funds, say, to decent housing for the living?”

        http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/12/12/londons-new-robin-hood-moves-the-homeless-into-citys-poshest-m/?icid=main|compaq-laptop|dl3|link4|http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailyfinance.com%2F2009%2F12%2F12%2Flondons-new-robin-hood-moves-the-homeless-into-citys-poshest-m%2F
        Enter Sir Mark Guard(don’t you love that name?)
        “The Merry Adventures Of Mark Guard

        The stunts are beyond brash as Belgravia is no run-of-the-mill neighborhood, but rather a super-posh address favored by Britain’s elite. Homes here are furnished with crystal chandeliers and Frette linens. An omelette at the cafe around the corner can cost you £14 ($21). But after playing a cat-and-mouse game with authorities, Guard was due to head to court on Dec. 11 when the eviction process was scheduled to get underway. The process could take months.”
        A Millionaire On A Mission

        Guard is using the stunt to draw attention to other vacant buildings in the area, many of which are part of the Crown Estate’s £6 billion ($9.8 billion) property portfolio — land formerly belonging to the British monarchy that is now managed for the government by an independent organization. He fumes at the fact that 13% of the Crown Estate stands empty, saying it could all be used to provide shelter for the homeless. “I think the Queen should consider taking take the Crown Estate back because this administration is mismanaging it,” he says. “I know for a fact that the Queen is concerned about homeless people. She never leaves any of her properties empty, mothballing.”

        As for Guard, he himself is a millionaire and far from homeless. He owns a home in nearby Knightsbridge, where the fabled department store Harrods has its flagship. He stages the squats, he says, on behalf of others to draw attention to all the empty Belgravia properties — some 312 of them now in total.

        More pointedly, Guard says the vacant homes represent a major injustice: Many of the residences have been bought by foreign investors who keep their money offshore to avoid paying astronomical British taxes. Shopping with bloated Euros or stolen rubles, they snap up London homes — more affordable today with a weakened British pound — and then allow them to fall into disrepair.

        The Taxpayers Picking Up The Tab”

        What A BALLSY BLOAK!! What the world needs now is more Mark Guards!! N’est Pas?

  15. I read a statistic a while back that said 2/3 of all the people who were ever born are still alive. So there. You have a better than 50-50 shot. You people are such fatalists!

  16. That not fair…

    The big chief was an hour away and no one said anything…

    JR and Vicki have some explaining to do!!!

  17. The Yankee white man is tellin J R don’t
    rattle his old bones, you all never quite got
    the drift of the ghost dance at the ranch.
    Like he was tellin you all strong earthly spirits
    beckon from the wind rivers.
    Becoming one with the earth is
    just down the road.

  18. Dear Gary Spencer:

    This is a particularly fine and timely observation and, as one person we knew said, I have two responses to that:

    1. Don’t wait to help out the hungry and homeless by donating the cost of your casket and burial later on, help those who are desperate now instead of buying unneeded gifts for ungrateful people (you’ll be surprised how good it feels and saves time shopping);

    2. My sister’s life was just saved by a liver transplant. Before any readers burn up your old, beat-up body, donate it to some deserving person who needs it more than the worms do. You’d be amazed with can be harvested — pre-existing conditions are not excluding (like insurance companies). The fine young man who helped my sister also donated his heart, lungs and kidneys that we know of. How wise and generous he was at 24 years of age.

    Contact: http://www.donatelife.net/CommitToDonation/

    This doesn’t have much to do with cemeteries, but Donna L. opened the door (as they say on Law and Order).

  19. Having recently lost my Dad, I’ve had occasion of late to ponder many of the very points addressed by your post. You can’t really honor the death. You can possibly honor their memory by the choices you make and how they effect the lives of the people around you. And at that, all you’ve really done is create a reason for someone to say, “You know old dead so and so, he really had a wonderful son!” While not concerned about the implications of the rapture, as one who doesn’t believe in that sort of thing, one shouldn’t go around pissing on graves, just in case. Social convention is the only basis for not speaking “ill of the dead”. Who are we trying to kid? All of us have encountered many people who have only enhanced our lives by their passing. As for disposition of the dearly departed, burial should only be an option for those who actually get something out of standing in the middle of nowhere, peering at the ground and talking to someone who ain’t gonna answer. The decent man who was my father will live in the memory of those who knew and loved him and that’s good enough for me.

  20. I didn’t mean to speak against organ (etc.) donation, which I heartily support & for which I’ve signed up. In this instance, my mother was so systemically ill when she died that no one was interested in “harvesting.” As to my father, we had no control, due to aforementioned selfish spouse.

    Bill Thompson, you phrased it succinctly and wonderfully: “As for disposition of the dearly departed, burial should only be an option for those who actually get something out of standing in the middle of nowhere, peering at the ground and talking to someone who ain’t gonna answer. The decent man who was my father will live in the memory of those who knew and loved him and that’s good enough for me.” May I quote you frequently?

  21. Gerry:
    You write on New O(G-stones), and bingo, the judge rules on liability on lake New Orleans, the USA must pay(and what a big number it will be !)

    Seems the DOJ wanted the hide of the attorney from your neck of the woods who brought the action.(like the Detroit matter gone awry from DOJ-ville)
    A most curious news clip, hot off the wires:

    http://www.law.com/jsp/tal/digestTAL.jsp?id=1202435671118

  22. A sturdy pine box near the waters edge….sounds nice. I’ve told my children that I’d like to be planted near a huge tree where it will be shady in the summer and protected from the winds in winter. Oh, and a basket with a lid will do just fine. That will speed up the rotting process.

  23. another view of death from a buddhist point of view:

    “Rainbow Body

    At the time of death of a practitioner who has reached the exhaustion of all grasping and fixation through the Dzogchen practice of Tögal, the five gross elements which form the physical body, dissolve back into their essences, five-colored light. Sometimes only the hair and the nails are left behind. Passing away in a mass of rainbow light and leaving no corpse behind”

  24. Walter McClatchey

    Mr. Spence, thank you for a great article. This is a perspective that we never hear on those historic N.O. cemetery tours (for obvious reasons). Take care and keep up the good work.

  25. Those bankers and insurance execs didn’t know: You can’t get nowhere with a thousand dollar coffin in a ten dollar hole

  26. I read a lot of great responses to Mr. Spence’s observations about housing for the dead. I had a serious bout with cancer two years ago and it totally changed my perspective. All of us are going to die (hopefully later rather than sooner) and when my time comes, I want to leave this earth with as few regrets as possible about the way I lived my life. The way in which we live our lives is much more important than the cost of our casket.

    I hate the way funeral directors try to convince us that the more we spend on a funeral, the more we loved our “dearly departed”. That is why I have decided to be cremated when my time comes, and if I can help a few people in need by donating my organs, that will be even better. I want my friends and family to celebrate my life, not mourn my passing (okay, they can be a little sad that I am gone)!

  27. An eyeopener…funny, as I read, I pictured my eyes opening inside a casket wondering why we would take up ground space when we would make better fertilizer. We can’t let go of life so we have ourselves stored in a box just in case a cure is found for the rotting dead? The addendum to the “use all working parts before burial” would be to delete ‘burial’, burn the rest and donate the cost of the pretty box and resulting party to those who could use the money.

  28. I recently watched the dvd What the bleep Down the Rabbit Hole. It kind of follows the the book and dvd The Secret. It is about lots of things –the string theory – physics and the fact that there is lots more than at least I can not fully understand that exists.
    I too want to buried shallow under the pussy willows. But however it happens it matter little each piece of thought is energy and our acts even more energy. So in each snow flake that falls, cloud that forms, leaf that turns color we may be a small part of . R I don’t need a piece of stone with my name on it
    I need to try harder as Mr Spence has already done and still does to effect all that is around me. And for the better of others and for myself. This lifetime or next. I do know this none of us are getting out of this alive. (except for me and Argus)

  29. Is Argus goinig to have his body floated down the Snake river with a 16 piece band playing
    some Pink Floyd music, to be buried at
    the site of where Cheny’s fishing camp was located– except with no pine box.
    What has Argus got up his sleave on
    his departure plans ?

    • To Bull Rider:

      Argus told me that he wants to be buried deep enough so that he will not emerge as a coyote turd, but, instead, buried under a willow bush so that he pops out as a pussy willow in the spring. I think he has his eye on a spot on the East Fork of the Wind River, but i have discovered, to my regret, that Argus is one who cannot always be relied upon for consistency. He might as likely claim he wants his ashes to be thrown into Turd River in order to join in the pollution of that stream already in progress by such as Union Carbide and General Electric not to mention the Republican Party as a whole.

      Gerry

  30. I’m from WA state but I’m always drawn- camera in hand- to the cemeteries of NOLA during my visits because of the odd and interesting memorials I’ve seen there. I have taken many photos but my favorite is of a dirty, unadorned, vertical stone with a fading inscription that says “Mother”. Resting on the stone is a weather- beaten lower plate from a set of dentures.
    It sends my imagination flying every time I look at it.

  31. Obsession with death from a bad conscience?

  32. I remember children who pounded on their father’s grave yelling at him to wake up.

    I remember children afraid their cigarette smell father would wake up

    I remember children clipping grass around the headstones until their fingers bled in the sun

    I remember children picking plums from the cemetary trees for jelly, the only place to play.

    I saw broken glass on tiny flat graves under the blackberry bushes. Tiny typed letters for the unknown babies there.

    Those cemetaries where a home for me.

  33. Your book about personal freedom changed my life.
    My husband said, “Oh, no,” when he spotted me with “How to argue and win every time.”
    I don’t want to donate my organs because they aren’t equally doled out to people who need them. I’d do it if the Medical business changed.
    “They” will probably steal what they need anyway. Lately funeral industry people just cut out what they need and sell stuff freelance.

  34. I think it is a bad idea to keep burying people. What with land fast disappearing and predicted food shortages, etc., land is at a premium. Think of all the land we have “wasted” burying people. It is not sustainable. In China I have heard they bury them standing up to save room! Even the Catholic Church is ok w/ cremation now….when is the rest of the world going to “wake” up? (No pun intended) Go Green & Get burned.

  35. In 2007 I lent my piano to my former husband (divorced in 1979). I lost my house moved into an apartment. I lent my piano to my former husband as he is a fine keyboard player, and I knew he would take care of it beautifully, which he did. This piano has been in my family since 1953. When I was very little, my mom asked me what I wanted most when they were gone; I said, “The piano” I inherited it in 1984.

    My former husband told me he was loosing his house, and though my first concern was with him, naturally I was also concerned about my piano. I was told by him that everything was going into storage, but when the day came to do this, he did not show up. He walked away leaving everything in his home. He and his dog disappeared.

    Three weeks after he disappeared, I was sent an email, “Looking for…….”. I replied immediately and the search was on for my former husband and to get my piano back.

    When I first contacted the relator, I was told that they don’t auction anything off anymore, they just send it to the dump. I was horrified. I understand that possession is 9/10s of the law, but I would think that someone somewhere might have the heart and the scruples to return things to their rightful owners, especially if they are going to the dump. No such luck, and it is my belief that someone has claimed the piano . That, to me, is so much a part of the story. Part of the reason I believe this is the bank and realtor is up to no good is that they continually stall our efforts and time seems to have run out. I would like to believe that upon hearing a story like this, those involved would happily return precious items to those entitled to them. Doing the right thing is what makes for a civilized world.

    Having found my x husband, I contacted my high school best friend and her husband, both attorneys. They obtained a new notarized power of attorney and declaration of his soundness of mind. She sent this today. Later in the day she received the following: bank has gone to court and obtained a court order granting them ownership of everything in the house. All previous proof of ownership, power of attorney and witnesses were ignored, and I was told they weren’t proof. It has always felt as if they were stalling as time has been a factor. No matter what we did, their wishes, we always came up short. We were told if we did these things that we could get the piano back. I don’t think they ever had any intention of this as they can recoup some money by selling it or someone has claimed it. It looks as though the only hope I have is to hire an attorney who specializes in this area. I haven’t the money to do this. Do you know of anyone that can somehow help, make it public or something. I’ve tried the newspapers. I’m even trying Oprah, but it’s probably too late, and, frankly, I don’t know if she’d be interested.

    I’ve always been a big fan of yours–read your books etc. At this point, I’m trying anything. I know it’s just a piano, but no one has the right to take my piano away from me.

    As for my husband, his friends have rallied around him. He is being fed by another homeless family, two professionals who also lost their home and living in the park– trading food, including dog food, for driving her to work at The Dollar Store as their car broke down. For now, he is O.K..

    Thank you for your time.

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