Dying on a Budget
A deafening silence swept the room on the day I announced to my children and close friends that I was dying of cancer.
The tumor in my left lung had spread to the ribs surrounding it. But while my strength and stamina were fading, my stubborn resolve to handle the matter in the simplest of terms only grew stronger.
To those who don’t know me, I’m a simple man with a simple life. And now seeing the bulk of my days in hindsight, I’m making plans for the disposal of my physical body in the simplest manner. Arrangements for the spiritual side of my life were made many years ago, having spent hours on my knees.
Here in Dry Springs where I live, funeral choices are few. There’s only one funeral home, and regardless of the multitude of plans they offer, all of them are expensive – well beyond my budget. So, I called them to discuss the matter.
The funeral director began by quoting the cost of a traditional service, complete with casket, visitation and viewing, followed by burial in the Dry Springs Cemetery. A recording of Vince Gill’s “Rest High on the Mountain”, along with free space on their “Memories Page” was promised. But at that point, I’d replaced the battery in my calculator and realized I could buy a time-share in Palm Springs for less money.
“Got anything less expensive?” I asked.
He then explained the various costs of cremation – the charge for picking-up the body, receiving the body at the funeral home, the cost of transporting the body to the crematory, the crematory’s cost to receive the body, and of course their cost to perform the task on the body. Then, there was the cost of shipping the body in a cardboard urn to the address of my choice – that cost depending on my choice of ‘Next Day Delivery’ or standard UPS Ground Shipment. I had to think about that, while also wondering why this old man’s body had suddenly become so valuable.
My next thought was to simply arrange for a few friends to dig my grave on my own rural property – somewhere between my cabin and the pond that lies beyond it. Then, upon the legal declaration of my death from natural causes, my family and friends can place me in it, cover the area with wild flowers and proceed to a celebration of my life with music and fellowship, barbeque, potato salad, and coleslaw. Discretely hidden behind the barn, there will be a cooler of adult beverages for the convenience of the preacher who’ll deliver my eulogy.
As in most states, Texas law does allow for a home burial with no requirement of a funeral director, casket or embalming – provided the burial occurs within 24 hours of death.
My friend, James has agreed to bring his backhoe, dig my grave at no charge, help my sons and grandsons carry the body – wrapped in a quilt my grandmother sewed by hand – and lower it to its eternal rest.
The county clerk must be notified of the exact location of my remains, and the family must complete a pile of paperwork for the State of Texas and Social Security Administration. Apparently, government’s grip on my liberty extends beyond the grave.
Of course, there are other matters to consider – most notably the feelings of my family members, most of whom don’t know the legality of such a thing. They’ve never witnessed it, and most have balked at the idea.
It’s a complicated decision, but the more I consider a home burial on my own rural property, the more I’m drawn to that option. What better way to bring a family together? What greater intimacy could ever be experienced? What better way for young and old alike to learn and re-learn the truth of our earthly mortality?
“From dust to dust.”
© 2017 David Bradshaw aka ‘Dave from Texas’