Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Spending Some Time Wondering About Cremation

This past weekend found me being part of something that I've never done before. My uncle passed away from cancer a little over a year ago and he was cremated instead of burial. On the first anniversary of his passing, it was decided to have a family ceremony to spread his ashes in San Francisco Bay. After a little time spent to find where it was legally allowed to do this, we hopped on an extended family member's boat and chugged our way out to Angel Island on Saturday afternoon. It all went down between 11am to 3pm.

While there were some laughs and tears, there was something that really kind of struck me as odd about the whole cremation process. The thing that really stuck in my brain was when I first saw the box that my Uncle's ashes were held in. It amazed me to see a box that small that could contain all of the non water based parts of the human body. We always see the human being as sort of a big and chunky thing that takes up a large amount of space in whatever environment the person is in. My brain kind of got stuck on this aspect of the whole thing. You don't contemplate that a 6'2" 230lb person would shrink down into a little box.

This also led to one of the most humorous moments on the trip and one that seems it was perfectly timed for the ceremony. When we reached Angel Island, the boat was sort of put into hover mode due to the odd currents and wind forming the need to keep the engines set on idle and we all went to the back of the boat for the ceremony. As the music was keyed up on an iPod and flowers were handed out, there was a sudden problem that no one really thought about - We couldn't open the box. There were no latches or hooks or buttons or whatever else you can come up with to get the thing open. Everyone seemed to have an idea about how to get it open but none of these seemed to work. It probably should have been something that we thought of before we left the dock but that just would be too much forethought on our part. We could actually hear my Uncle complaining about how silly we all were for not being able to open his box.

The ride there and back went well though it wasn't the most happiest of trips. It just kind of leaves a person feeling very opened up to the world around you and you kind of just look around you as you remember past times. The way that you look at the whole situation adds to the quiet mood when you realize just how small we can all wind up looking. It is true that they say that the human is made up of around 60% water which leaves a small amount to be turned to ash but it still doesn't help to calm the mind on how small in physical content we all really are.


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