Wrinkled Wisdom: Coffins, Cremation, or Composting?

Okay, we’re all getting up there. Guess it’s a good time to give the kids copies of our wills and final directives, and get ready for some “interesting” conversations. One of those conversations will contain a threat. If you dare use any unflattering pictures of us, we will haunt you mercilessly from the grave! Hmmm…the grave? That brings us to the big question and to our title: coffin, cremation, or composting?

Being buried in a coffin was the way it was when we were growing up.  And, there was always a family plot to ensure family members shared burial spaces. Our great grandparents were laid out in coffins at home. The wake the night before the funeral included lots and lots of alcohol.  Those traditions morphed into a viewing at the funeral home the eve of a church funeral service. Then to the graveside ceremony, often limited to family only.  

And, let’s get the terminology correct. Coffins are tapered to conform to the shape of the human form. They have removable lids. Caskets have lids with hinges and have rails to make moving them easier. The average cost of a coffin is between $2,000 and $5,000. Some go for as much as $10,000!  Eco caskets are made of materials that quickly degrade once in the ground and cost less. Good reason to go green!

But, do we really want people to see our embalmed head with bad hair and a terrible make-up job lying in an open casket?

Thankfully, cremation has burned its way into popularity.  Oh, wait. The Romans practiced cremation centuries ago. But, they did things a little differently. At a cremation funeral, the heir lit a pyre with a torch, his face averted as the fire consumed the corpse. The Romans obviously loved drama.

Cemeteries are hurting for space and the family plot is chockful. Ashes in urns are space-effective and friends and relatives can still visit you, propped up on a loved-one’s shelf. If your kids are creative, they can have some of your ashes pressed into jewelry, glass art, and sun catchers, which they can give as gifts. Just an idea!

Ashes can also become part of an artificial reef, mixed with ink for a tattoo, sent into space, buried in a biodegradable urn, or turned into a vinyl record. Yes, a vinyl record! A guy from the UK started And Vinyly, thinking of it as sort of a joke.  He realized what he had created when people started using the records not only to preserve remains, but to include their loved ones stories and memories for posterity. Cool!

Cremation scenes stole the show in lots of movies we grew up with. Remember the Big Lebowski when John Goodman is tossing a friend’s ashes out of a Folgers Coffee can and the wind blows them all over Jeff Bridges? Bridges’ look is priceless and can still be found all over the internet.

The newest trend, especially appealing to the green–minded, is composting bodies. The body is placed into a stainless steel vessel with wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. Same concept as backyard composting of food scraps and yard waste. Well, sorta. It is, after all, a dead body so we don’t recommend this at home. Microbes that naturally occur on the plant material and on and in the body then power a transformation into soil. One advocate describes it as a way to create life from death. There’s a website, Green Burial Council, dedicated to helping you find a certified professional for this after-life option.

Just know these are not body farms, where scientists study the process of human decomposition using donated, nude, dead bodies. One of their main research aims is to make it easier for pathologists to determine a corpse’s time of death. Wow!  Our dead bodies can help solve murders???

Our Wrinkled Wisdom for today?  Rethink whether you want to end up in the ground, as part of the ground, or on a shelf. Make sure you have those flattering photos saved for the party and obit —which you should write!!!  We know the kids don’t want our stuff, but make a list of what you own that’s valuable. They don’t have a clue. And, make one of them swear on your grave that they will keep your parents’ first chair or other family heirlooms. They may not be worth much, but the stories that go along with them sure are.

P.S.  In one version of Samuel Morse’s telegraph code, LOL meant “loss of life.” Guess the old saying is true: “There is nothing permanent except change.” Laugh out loud.

Wrinkled Wisdom – Crosswords…Not Cross Words

We love crossword puzzles. They were a comforting friend and welcome bit of normalcy throughout the pandemic lockup.  We had no idea that crosswords were once touted as an antidote to dementia.  Wow.  But, not true.  Yet, some researchers think doing crosswords can delay cognitive decline by a few years.  Yes!  Many believe that working a puzzle daily helps keep our brains active, improves memory, and builds vocabularies.  We’ll settle for that.  They certainly helped ward off Covid boredom.  Less time to be irritated and, well, use cross words.  

Science also confirms that solving a puzzle in a group strengthens social bonds.  We have no shame.  We’ve asked bartenders, fellow diners, and middle-seaters, among others, if they can help us with an answer.  And, no fellow “crossworder” is a stranger.  One of our favorite stories involves a group of old men (we were much younger then!) at McDonald’s.  We asked if they wanted a crossword puzzle answer they were struggling with.  From that day on, they called us the “Crossword Ladies.”  We all met around the same time on Saturdays to tackle a puzzle.  This relationship developed into true friendships way beyond “words.”

We are so glad that Sunday dinner is back on the agenda.  It is de rigor to do a puzzle at our family dinners.  The kids were introduced at an early age to the joys and aggravations of the puzzle.  They love crosswords!  Also, luckily their brides either embrace or tolerate the puzzle.  Once we complete it, we google a blog written by an English professor under the pseudonym Rex Parker.   He opens by addressing the relative difficulty of the puzzle.  Then he comments on the puzzle’s theme, where he stumbled, and what he found annoying.  The annoying part is the most entertaining.  If you need to cheat, you’ve got all the answers from Rex.

Success with the puzzle is definitely improved by the various generations at the table!  Take one recent puzzle.  Who our age knows the name of a basketball game in an arcade?  Pop-A-Shot?  Huh??  Do any of us know what Sta4nce is?  Can’t even give you a definition after googling it.  But, we oldies nailed a number of answers unknown to the younger crowd. For example, they were clueless about the name of the heavy metal band that earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.  Black Sabbath!  Ozzy Osbourne rose to prominence during the 1970s as their lead vocalist. 

If it weren’t for grandchildren we might not know Olaf, the friendly snowman in Disney’s Frozen franchise.  There are techies in the family who help with answers beyond the obvious word “byte.”  And, some who know many of the sports answers as that is certainly not our forte!  Superman and Batman have been minimized by so many more superheroes that we have difficulty keeping up.  Not to mention the villains. While we took four years of Latin, it’s more likely French or Spanish answers the puzzles want.  We are pretty good with the gods and goddesses and mythology stuff.  Forget questions about recent movies.  Most are simply not made for our demographic.  

We find some clues silly, yet very hard.  Queen Anne’s lace?  The answer is “hers”?  What?  And, speaking of improving vocabularies, where else would we learn that a pismire is an ant or the source of the word pissant, a pejorative.   Or that an ort is a scrap of food.  

Another distraction for crossword fans and others is Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Crossword Mystery movies.  Crossword puzzle editor Tess Harper always finds herself swept into the investigation of a bizarre murder and unofficially teams up with Detective Logan O’Connor to find the killer.  

Let’s close with a little history.  Although similar word games can be traced back to Pompeii, the first known published crossword puzzle was created by a Liverpool journalist and appeared in the New York World on December 21, 1913.  An opinion column followed in The New York Times calling crossword puzzles “a primitive sort of mental exercise” and a “sinful waste” of time.  However, just two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the NYT  Sunday editor sent a memo to the publisher saying, “We ought to proceed with the puzzle, especially in view of the fact it is possible there will now be bleak blackout hours—or if not that then certainly a need for relaxation of some kind or other.”  Guess we can all appreciate that take after the last year.

So, our wrinkled Wisdom for today?  Create a crossword group like a book club!  Meet once a week with friends and do a puzzle.  You don’t have to read the assigned book to have fun.  It’s immediate gratification.  It’s cerebral.   It provokes fun conversations about clues and answers.  Everyone can participate.   Do buy erasable pens, which are a thing.  Mistakes happen.  And, best of all, the puzzles come in large print!

Our Midnight Confessions

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Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.  It’s been quite a while since we uttered that opening line in a confessional—when we were young and practicing Catholics.  But, like Stephen Colbert of The Late Show, we admit we are guilty of some embarrassing things we keep secret.  Aren’t we all???  We reiterate Colbert’s standard disclaimer: “I don’t know if these are technically sins, but I do feel bad about them.”

Well, we don’t feel guilty enough about these secrets to actually go to Confession. And, admittedly, our “sins” may not fall into the venial category—a relatively slight sin—much less a mortal sin—a gravely sinful act that can lead to damnation if a person does not repent before death…or so we were taught.  However, like Colbert, we feel we will be better for confessing—even if we aren’t all that sorry.

So, here is our version of Colbert’s “Midnight Confessions” segment.  And we promise Stephen we won’t write a competing book.

  • Sometimes we don’t use toilet seat covers in public restrooms. We just sit down.
  • We drink directly from the juice container when no one is around though we spent years, nay, decades telling children and spouses it’s a no-no.
  • Even though it’s not green, we sometimes run the dishwasher when it’s not full.
  • We have mixed our darks and lights, overstuffed the washing machine, and generally abused it. Amazingly, it still works.
  • Now that the phone or television announces who’s calling, we sometimes don’t answer—especially when we recognize certain names.
  • We have arrived at parties with food we didn’t make, but put them in our own dishes and let people think we are talented cooks.
  • We aren’t adamant fans of professional sports. We do like the cute players and their cute butts, and an excuse to order pizza.
  • Sometimes we have candy or cake or cookies for breakfast. We just tell ourselves they are no more caloric than doughnuts.
  • Sometimes we correct grammar on signs and menus—in ink. Sometimes we email the company and point out the grammatical error in their advertisement.  Sometimes we actually get a thank you!
  • When we dropped the roast and the dog licked it, we wiped it off, put it on the table, and didn’t tell.
  • We’ve removed a rock from a national park, carried agricultural products over states lines, and washed dry-clean-only clothes. (We do dry them flat.)
  • Sometimes we pretend we took a shower, but we really just washed our armpits.

So our wisdom for today?  Confession is good for the soul, or so we were taught.  It generally makes you feel lighter—at least for a few minutes. And, we hope that our unburdening lets you know you are not alone.  However, honesty is not always the best policy.  Beware of collateral damage.  Think about listing your confessions on our comments section.  No names necessary.  We guarantee absolution!  And, hopefully, we’ll all have a giggle.