There seems – to me, anyway – to be an overwhelming trend toward cremation nowadays. I thought about this a few months back after a friend-quaintance died unexpectedly and was cremated at the request of his family.
Now it’s back in my mind as I’m reading a book – Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – and the main character’s husband is murdered and she describes a scene at his graveside. Reading about it actually felt fictional to me, not that it isn’t in this case…I just can’t remember going to anything but memorials since a funeral for a friend about 15 years ago.
Heck, even my own grandmother’s memorial – cremated at her request – was less about a gathering of family than it was a potluck of food prepared outside of her assisted living home for her neighbors. Sure, grandma’s daughter and her family were there. Ditto some of her surviving siblings – those healthy enough to travel – had made the trek from Montana to Oregon for her send off. But when it came time for the neighbors to pay respects to the family, it got kind of awkward. Sure, the neighbors were taking a moment to share a thought or memory of grandma with her survivors…but I thought some of them had one eye on the buffet while doing so to make sure they didn’t miss one last pass at the bundt cake before it was gone. Not that I’m sure there was a bundt, but you get my drift.
Back to the last service I was at with an actual body, aside from the guest of honor, I think there was only a smattering of attendees. I’m actually not remembering a formal service.
Maybe I only went for visitation, retail schedule and all.
Maybe my Swiss cheese memory strikes again.
Regardless, the group I remember being present might have been just enough for pall bearers. If you counted the significant other’s hands.
Here’s the deal, though…when we cremate ourselves, there’s no need for pallbearers.
See where I’m going here?
I bet not…this is probably nothing more than one of Xtopher’s Early Onset Grumpiness projections. No reason not to read on and just get a little more insight into what I think about when I’m not talking.
Look around next time you’re out in public. Maybe some of you with relationships or families can even look around the dinner table and witness this – I hope not – but people aren’t connecting with the people around them. We are eschewing the proximity of actual interpersonal connections for the immediacy and ease of much less tangible and far more selfishly motivated virtual connections.
They take virtually no effort to maintain. Hell, even when someone passive-aggressively reaches out to see who their “real” friends are – requiring those “real” friends to copy and paste and leave a one word reply about whatever…well, most of us don’t comply.
Like there’s any risk of being un-friended since the foundation of social media anymore is basically validating one’s existence and self-worth by the number of friends accumulated or number of likes earned through one’s food ordering acumen.
Remember phone stacking?
Those were the good old days. Meeting friends for a drink or meal to catch up and all the phones went into a pile – a stack, obviously…hence the name – with the loser being the first person to cave and check their phone. The prize being awarded to everyone else in the form of the loser picking up the tab.
Ok, remember when we didn’t have cell phones at all? Those were the real good old days! But we only had a moment to appreciate those day as phone stacking became a thing and all too soon after became a thing of the past.
So, here we are, taking for granted those closest to us as we seek out a depth of validation I think everyone could use in their relationships by reaching across the world wide dinner table for a connection to someonevwe may never actually see in person again.
Maybe it’s someone we went to school with.
Or dated briefly before nothing happened…go figure.
Or just someone who’s company we enjoyed randomly in a bar one night – I’ve got a lot of folks like that in my virtual circle of friends and I still enjoy their personality virtually as much as that one random in-real-life night.
But I sure don’t expect those folks to show up to carry my pine box.
And here we are, growing the circles of these virtual friendships like ripples in a similarly solitary virtual pond…while in real life our actual relationships become less and less meaningful. I don’t want to go yell into the polyamory well again, but honestly, are our romantic relationships becoming more frequently “open” because humans aren’t meant to be monogamous or maybe because we both fear being alone – for realsies- and also lack the drive and discipline to commit to searching for “the one” versus just settling for one who will do? Compounding that relationship laziness with the selfishness that causes us to seek fulfillment outside of our chosen relationship and then drag our poor not-the-ones down into settling for a poly situation versus accepting being single because they know they deserve better.
I’m not articulating that scenario very well…but notice I did end up screaming into the polyamory well once again?
Maybe. It’s hard to tell which of my rant tangents I really like most, isn’t it?
Back to just establishing real, personal friendships for a sec and then I’ll wrap up.
Hopefully I can bring all this home at the end into something that approaches a cogent thought.
When was the last time you moved? Was it hard to find friends to help? I’m all for paying for the professionals to do it, but in my last move I went about 20 blocks. Thankfully, A) I’m a purger and don’t have a ton of crap; and B) I have great friends in my inner circle like The Silver Fox and Diezel – who comes with a bonus gigantic pick up truck.
That said, this past week I witnessed a social media call to arms for help moving that was met with crickets. I live half a country away, so…I guess I’m one of those connections in this instance. Another instance was met with more success. Maybe the inclusion of coffee and donuts in the ask helped raise a few volunteer hands.
Man, there’s a lot of people moving mid-month!
I’ve got another friend moving in a week…I should reach out and make sure she’s covered. Of course, I don’t drive so I imagine I’m not much help as a mover. Probably more of a liability in this case, especially, since I’d have to somehow make my way to Vantucky to help and there’s no easy way to get there from Portland without driving since the city of Vancouver essentially refuses to help pay for a new bridge between our two cities that involves light rail.
What is it with Washington and its refusal to participate in a fully functional mass transit system?
Another rant for another EOG day…
Anyway, given our evolving inability to nurture deep, face-to-face relationships maybe it’s best that we don’t stress out about burying our dead. Forget being able to find six people who can actually work together as part of a team. Let alone six people that actually care enough about a person who can no longer “like” their selfies and status updates to carry their part of a 300 pound burden a few hundred feet to a final resting place…if we go to the trouble to do all that while we’re alive, how confident are we that once we’re planted anyone will visit?
Then again – now that I’ve thought about it – with the arrival of #funeral on our cultural landscape, maybe it’s best that we admit we are no longer capable so much of gathering to memorialize another human as we are more and more capable of only memorializing every moment of our own existence.