Column - Mailbox brings rude reminders of mortalityThese days, at my age, I’m leery when I approach my mailbox. I never know what nasty surprise awaits me there. This week it was an offer for a free hearing test. Last week there were several offers for pre-planned burials and a bunch of pitches for life-insurance policies. The week before that it was an offer from the Lakes Area Cremation Society.
By: Dennis Dalman, Alexandria Echo Press
These days, at my age, I’m leery when I approach my mailbox. I never know what nasty surprise awaits me there.
This week it was an offer for a free hearing test. Last week there were several offers for pre-planned burials and a bunch of pitches for life-insurance policies. The week before that it was an offer from the Lakes Area Cremation Society.
I haven’t even kicked the bucket yet and already somebody wants to torch me. Yikes. In the upper-left corner on the back of the large-size postcard is a photo of a graying couple. A little girl is hugging the man around his neck. The man and woman both have their eyes closed. Are they dead? Ready for the flames?
Below the decrepit couple are four box options to check:
1. I would like to hear how Lakes Area Cremation Society and Purple Cross can help with this decision.
2. I am interested in how the Trust is protected from nursing homes.
3. Easy payment plans available.
4. I am interested in a green burial.
What, I’d like to know, is a “green” burial? It sounds a wee bit better than terminal incineration.
There should have been a fifth box on that card, one that says, “I am not interested in being burned or buried just yet, thank you.”
On the front of the card is another old couple, but unlike the couple on the back, these two look fairly chipper and cheerful. I suppose we are to think they are happy, now that they’d made the big decision to go up in smoke.
To the left of the couple, it says, “For some people ‘the traditional’ funeral just never seemed right. For those preferring cremation, we can help!”
Gee, aren’t they kind? Aren’t they caring? Oh, sure, they can help, all right. They can light the match after I finish making those easy payment plans.
Ah, the indignities of old age. Just because some of us baby boomers are turning 65, does that give all these mailbox hucksters the right to assume we are all at death’s door? Shame on them.
I remember Dad used to rage against the thought of people trying to make money off of someone’s dead body. He always vowed he would be buried in a wooden crate. Poor Dad. He didn’t get his wish. It’s illegal to just go bury somebody in the back yard. Dad, like Mom, was cremated. My oldest brother, Jimmy, was buried with his carpentry tools, including his pencil tucked behind his ear. His wife and kids insisted on it. Oh, well, when it comes to the rituals of death, each to his own. Another brother, Michael, was cremated, which he had requested. Dad, Mom, Jimmy and Michael all had one thing in common. They were forever cracking macabre but funny jokes about death. In that respect, they were very like the Irish who have a knack for ridiculing death and even celebrating it at boozy wakes.
I have to admit I did get a few chuckles out of the cremation offer, especially a return address on it that reads, “M-spark - ignite results” of Helena, Alabama. Ignite results, indeed! Well, I have news for the M-spark folks: You’re not going to make a crispy critter out of me. Not yet!
Meantime, getting the mail is no fun anymore. It’s rarely checks and never a love letter. It’s mainly bills, along with these rude reminders of decrepitude and mortality.
What cruel surprise next awaits me in that box? The mailbox, I mean. Will I soon find in it a hip-replacement package? Or worse, a can of kerosene and a book of matches – a do-it-yourself cremation kit?
• • •
Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.