Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Last night, several of us were sitting around talking about how we'd like to be disposed of when we die (I think it came up because we were watching "Ocean's 11" - the original one). We discussed the merits of building your own casket, the rules about embalming, and that episode of Northern Exposure where they catapulted that dead biker into the lake. Lee expressed a fondness for the idea of a pyre over which mourners could toast marshmallows. Rob wants to be blown up (exploded, not inflated).

Now as for me, being a claustrophobe and thus rather averse to the idea of spending forever in a box not big enought to roll over in, standard burial isn't too appealing either. Honestly, I've always kind of liked the idea of being posed and encased in a block of clear Lucite, kind of like a human version of those novelty bug-in-the-ice-cube gags. I could have a clause in my will that whosoever should inheirit my vast fortune would be obligated to prominently, yet tastefully display my smiling, waving corpse on the grounds of my estate. Of course, this would be rather expensive, and it would suck if my estate ended up being a condo by the freeway - exhaust fumes are hell on Lucite.

I've also thought taxidermy would be a nice condition in which to carry out my eternal rest, but I don't know if any reputable artisan would undertake the task, and I don't want any disreputable artisans having unsupervised access to my vacated earthly vessel. Lord knows what kind of satanic tomfoolery my remains would be subjected to by the kind of person who would actually stuff a human. I've watched enough tabloid TV to know better than to fall into that trap.

Of course there's cremation, but that always seemed like a cop-out to me - you either end up dispersed into the air, where you will probably be breathed in by countless jerks and lazy people, dumped in the sea, where fish will eat you and poo you out, or sitting in one of those stupid urns on somebody's mantel, just waiting to be mistaken for coffee grounds or tea by some idiot house guest in a cheesy, farcical sitcom-episode-come-to-life incident.

So what's a body to do?

Then it hit me. I'll combine the convenience of cremation with the class, staying power and affordability of taxidermy.

I've decided to have an animal stuffed with my ashes.

It's brilliant, really. Not only do I become part of my own memorial, but I'm infinitely portable, and there's little or no risk of Desecration By Beverage. And really, if you were a little kid, and someone had to point to something on the mantle and say "That's your Great Grandpa," which would you rather it be - some old dusty urn, or a friendly old badger? Faulknerian metaphors notwithstanding, to me it seems an easy choice.

Only one question remains. Which of God's many creatures would make the best final resting place? With the whole of the animal kingdom to choose from, it's a pretty tough decision. There are so many factors to consider, such as size, personality, endangered species status...the list goes on and on. What if it turns out that reincarnation is for real? Would the animal I go out as influence the results of how I'd come back? What about the many varying religious interpretations associated with various animals? I'd sure hate to be immortalized as a snake if that whole "Fall of Man" thing turned out to be true. And don't even get me started on Aesop's Fables. When you think about it, this decision is as fraught with pitfalls as any of our toughest life choices.

Take, for example, the common city rat. While this might seem an appropriate choice from the standpoint of Chinese Astrology (I was born in the Year of the Rat), the unpleasant associations with the plague and general nasty living conditions tend to rule it out, as does the risk of being nick-named "Ben," "Templeton," or "Chuck E. Cheese."

Now a Lion on the other hand has lots of fantastic qualities and associations - bravery, royalty, the whole apex predator thing - that would tend to recommend it as a worthy choice. Unfortunately, lions tend to be on the large side, and would take up quite a bit of space in the sitting room. Moving the thing around would also present a problem, and kids would always be sitting on it, hanging on its neck, and generally abusing it, so that's kind of out, too.

Really, this tends to eliminate most if not all of your basic large mammals. Birds carry too much easy, trite symbolism. Fish? They've got too much of a victim mentality. Invertebrates are right out. Maybe a whole family of shrews? Might that give people the wrong idea, like maybe I was a multiple-personality case?

Of course, I've always had a soft spot for weasels...