Every day on my way to work I pass by the Columbia City Funeral Home, and this sequence of nouns repeats itself in my head:
An unfortunate combination of like-sounding words, which prompts me to think of alternate options for what is left of the bulk & heft of the deceased. When my spirit makes its last presence known, I'd prefer to be sent to a creamatorium, and be rendered into a nice hunk of aged cheddar.
When I picked up the ashes of my late husband, I was handed a yellow shopping bag. Inside was a brown plastic box. Inside the brown plastic box was a plastic bag held closed with a twist-tie. And inside that plastic bag, well, looked a lot like what I sprinkle on my roses every March.
This yellow shopping bag, along with a box containing odds & ends from my late mother, got shoved into a spare bedroom of my Brandon Street house. My sons and I, who more often than not find great glee in black humor, started referring to that room as The Death Room. We became so used to that name, that whenever we had company, one or the other of us would say, "Take Ann's coat and put it in The Death Room." Matter of fact. And much to Ann's -- and every other guest's -- astonishment.
But no need to worry -- it's been transformed into an ordinary bedroom now, with fresh paint and absolutely no evidence of its prior use. The "cremains" have been sent on their way, adrift in the waters of Thornton Creek, which empties into Lake Washington, which connects by way of the Montlake Cut to Lake Union, which meets the saline waters of Salish Sound via the Ship Canal. And past that, north through Admiralty Inlet, in and out of the San Juan Islands, and finally west through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, where the waters of the Pacific stretch out beyond any visible distance. What cellular bits of those cinders have made it that far? Perhaps a smidgen of them are at this moment sunning themselves on a Fiji beach. Not a bad thought.
Cheese, on the other hand, would make a decidedly different journey.
I wonder if the pope would consider changing Ash Wednesday to Cheese Wednesday:
Cheese to cheese,
dust to dust.
From cheese we came,
to cheese we shall return.
In lieu of smudging foreheads with ash (messy, that), the Catholic Church could host informal cheese-and-wine masses to mark the onset of Lent -- "Casual Cheese Wednesday"!
Just a thought.