I mailed my Dad’s remains, illegally, to my sisters and to the company that created the cremation jewelry pieces to house a bit of Dad’s remains.
In case you weren’t aware. When mailing human remains via the USPS you are supposed to label your durably packed loved one with a special sticker indicative of human remains. You are also supposed to mail them Priority Mail Service. Neither of which I complied with. Dad was durably and safely packed. No fear of him combusting into an ashy dust plume over some innocent unassuming mail person. I just didn’t see the point in paying the extra money for “Priority”. It’s not as if Dad was in a rush to be somewhere. Also, I wanted to pay homage to my Dad’s fuck the system spirit. The rebel spirit that I inherited. As I was mailing him off and getting interrogated by the postal employee with the scripted list of what was not inside the package I was laughing to myself. Hoping my face didn’t give away some hint of my secret. Thinking he would have gotten a kick out of the whole thing. I texted both my sisters, “Dad’s on his way.” with tracking information and delivery dates.
Mailing your dead father’s remains……guess you can check that off the list of most bizarre things you’ve done.
Dad would have found the whole ordeal comical. For a couple of reasons. First, my Dad was never much one for rule following just for the sake of rule following. Second, my Dad’s nickname among his girls was the gypsy. He loved to drive. Loved the open road and meandering around the United States. Even in the afterlife he was still the rolling stone. So it was kind of oddly appropriate that in the course of a couple of weeks after his death he went to a smattering of states all over the US.
When you opt to purchase cremation jewelry, independent of your funeral provider, depending on what style you opt for, a few tasks have to happen. In my case, I opted for a silver ring with a center stone of rainbow crushed opal and Dad’s remains and a matte black stainless bracelet with “Dad” inscribed on it. Baby Reinvention wanted a glass pendant that had a baseball design as Dad or Gramps to her, was a huge baseball fan. For my ring and Baby’s pendant we received “kits” in the mail. The kit included a plastic test tube with a black marker “fill” indicator line, a slurpy type straw device, heavy duty plastic Ziploc bags, return mailing envelope and explicit instructions. The bracelet that I ordered from Etsy came with self-serve filling tools and instructions for opening and closing the hollow ends of the bracelet.
Let me tell you, if you’ve never dug around in your loved one’s remains it’s a little surreal. Okay, it’s a lot kookie and surreal but when you’re in the act you’re just minimizing the whole situation to get the job done. It wasn’t that I felt repulsed or even deeply sad. I don’t know how much emotional attachment I felt to his remains while filling up the various tubes. I think I approached it with a matter of fact, rational, medical field type stoicism. Though I must have some emotional investment or why seek out a wearable memorial in the first place?
For me the jewelry is a sweet personal reminder on days when I feel that I need my parents close by. Days I need that extra feeling of love and support from my parents. When someone you love dies you soon learn that you will take their presence in any way imaginable. Even though none will ever come close to living human beings. You make do with what you have available. Tangible and non. You seek that energy and presence out in the world and reel it in close. Because that is all that remains.
So you do crazy stuff like sift through and jam human remains into tiny little tubes and bracelet hollows with tiny tool-like apparatuses. You mail your Dad off and conjure up silly and sarcastic jokes you only dare share with the few who get it. You find meaning and fulfillment in rituals and sentimental items. Rainbows, birds, butterflies, pennies and countless other random events over the course of your day or your week become monumental signs of significance. These are the new arrangements of communication. You find comfort and solace wherever you are able.
In case you’re curious readers, Dad arrived safely at all destinations. The post office authorities were none the wiser. I did a mental high five with my Dad. Visualizing how he used to fist pump the air in an intentionally goofy way in celebration. “We got one over on the man, Dad!” I think to myself and to him, playful smile upon my lips.
Death makes you do peculiar things sometimes.