The Daily Undertaker
I am someone who wakes up every morning and touches my own face, shocked and in awe of my simple aliveness. Why me? Why do I get to be alive? The answer to that question doesn’t matter, the awe does. I am so happy for my short time on this planet and constantly aware that – poof- it will be over. So my gratitude and joy live side by side with death. I am, like most of us, death haunted.
Patrick McNally’s blog, The Daily Undertaker, presents all sorts of different ways of thinking and dealing with death. He takes things from his experience as a funeral director in Wisconsin, but also mixes it up with the personal and the literary. There are posts quoting Charles Bukowski (linked here) as well as fascinating discussions on new techniques of burial, the most notable to me being promession (linked here), in which the body of the deceased is prepared for the earth in a way that enables it to compost properly as opposed to just rot. There are some lighthearted moments as well, as in this post where he discusses some of the more eccentric ways in which people can handle the remains of loved ones:
My father used to joke with my mother that when she died, he would put her ashes in an egg timer. That, he said, would be the first time she ever helped him make breakfast. This was just a joke forty years ago, but today people do many more unusual things with cremated remains.
Here is just a beginning of a list:
- Shotgun shells…Deer hunters can continue their involvement after death by having their cremated remains placed in shotgun shells and salt licks.
- Shot into Space…Join Tim Leary and others with a small portion of your cremated remains shot into a low earth orbit ( the flight is wildly expensive, and temporary, as the remains will eventually return to earth.)
- Jewelry…All kinds of jewelry is available to hold a portion of cremated remains.
- Ocean Reef…Eternal Reefs will mix your cremated remains with cement, creating a habitat for sea life on the ocean floor.
- A girl’s best friend…LifeGems and others transform the carbon elements in cremated remains into actual jewels.
- Sculpture…Memory Glass incorporates a portion of cremated remains into blown glass sculptures and pendants.
- Painting…There are several services that produce paintings with cremated remains mixed into the paint.
- Keepsake urns…Many families split a loved one’s cremated remains into several portions. Some may be buried, some kept, some scattered.
- Christmas Tree Ornaments…The down-side on this one could be feeling bad about packing the person away after Christmas.
Partrick’s father was my Godfather. When I found out he was studying to be a funeral director I said, “He’s the perfect person for this.” Since then, I’ve emailed back and forth with him, and indeed, he told me he feels it is a “calling.” Patrick’s life is dedicated to death and in the most reverent way he ushers us through the myriad issues of what it means to be an expendable life form, what it means to lose someone important to us. He does it with depth of thought, with unfallible respect for humans suffering loss and with a great love for the mystery which is our burning star like moment in this visible universe.