Urn-ing eternal life

Sunlight on ivy (2)I’M NOT given to thinking about my own demise very often – far too depressing, I find – but when I do, I try to focus on the drama of my farewell, stage manage it in advance, as it were. (Way in advance, I hope.)

There was a time, for example – quite a long period of time, in fact – when I rather fancied my farewell should take the form of a high-kicking parade, with a special performance by a troupe of dancing boys to accompany my shuffle off this mortal coil in all the showbiz style I was used to at the time. I’d probably been involved in one too many Extravaganzas. The fact I was great friends with the show’s flamboyant feather master probably had something to do with the fantasy, too.

Implicit, of course, was the fervent hope I’d be miraculously able to watch all the fun from a nearby cloud, or some such wafty spot. And a show like that really wouldn’t be such a hardship for at least some of my grieving buddies to attend, either, would it?

As well as the dancing boys, I also wanted to take a letter with me into the afterlife from my ex-boss explaining that the little white lies I’d told in the course of my job were all at her behest.

The beloved wasn’t too keen on the idea of a parade – pooh-poohed it, in fact – though if I’d specified feathered dancing girls he’d probably have felt a little differently about it. But, in any case, I’d lost touch with the feather master and his partner when they’d gone to live in Hong Kong, so who would do the costumes?

In the end, it just wasn’t viable.

I know, I told him. You can bury me at sea.

Well, I’d always loved the ocean and at that stage we lived in land-locked Joburg so it was something we didn’t get to enjoy too often.

It wasn’t that simple, though (he reckons my ideas never are). A full, musical accompaniment would be required: a recording of my favourite tenor singing Gounod’s Ave Maria – specifically the one the composer wrote over Bach’s Prelude in C; Maria Callas singing La Mamma Morta (for the drama, not the words); and Guns N’ Roses singing Knocking on Heaven’s Door.

To my amazement, the beloved – while not exactly thrilled – reckoned he could do it. The only trouble was his version lacked some of the ceremony I would require.

“I’ll take a CD player, hire a rowboat and then tip you over the side when we’re out far enough,” he joked – at least, I think he was joking.

I hadn’t thought about it for years – as I said, I try not to – but the other day a friend said she’d come across a biodegradable urn.

Looking just like a giant cardboard takeaway coffee cup with a picture of a tree on the outside, it contains, among other things, your ashes and the seed of a tree. If everything goes according to plan – and you’d better hope whoever buries you has a green thumb – the tree grows and becomes your living memorial.

“I’d like to be a spreading oak,” raved a friend, “shading a long Sunday lunch table filled with happy, laughing friends … eating delicious fare ….”

Said another: “I’ll be a Japanese maple.”

As for me, I’ll stick with my sea-going ceremony – even if it is in a rowboat. — Stevie Godson

(A version of this column first appeared in the Daily Dispatch)

Picture: © Stevie Godson – All Rights Reserved

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This entry was posted by stevieg on Sunday, August 9th, 2015 at 10:32 am and is filed under General . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Great column Stevie. A grave with a tombstone in a cemetery is such a waste of space! I rather fancy a sky burial myself … where the vultures get to peck away at my remains … or even being flung into the Kruger park somewhere … a sort of continuation of the life cycle in which other creatures also benefit …
    I have already said to my “self” that when my time comes I choose to die very peacefully, preferably in my sleep. xx

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