Friday, January 04, 2008


A couple days ago the local newspaper carried a story about the growing interest in "green burial," where a body is buried in a simple cardboard or wooden box that will decompose quickly. The grave markers are very simple, such as a stone flush with the ground. But even green burials take up space. Although cremation uses energy, that is my preferred final end, and I've already told my daughters Nell and Tess that I don't want to be stashed in a columbarium or kept on someone's mantle in an urn. I want my ashes scattered somewhere in the open, free and unconfined. This seems the most ecological, it relieves my survivors of paying for or maintaining any sort of burial site, and it suggests that my family can best remember me as I was in life and through whatever useful or attractive artifacts I've left behind.

Ever since Janne and I traveled in France a few years ago, exploring Autrey-les-Gray, the rural town near Dijon where the Autrey family originated (and left, cast out as Huguenots), I've said that I wanted my ashes scattered beneath the Eiffel Tower. Recently Nell asked me why I kept insisting on this, and I responded with 10 reasons:

1. The Eiffel Tower is near the Autrey ancestral homeland.
2. I prefer a gray instead of a green burial.
3. It's so crowded there that no one would notice you scattering ashes.
4. Every time you see the tower, you'll think of me.
5. We can't afford a plot in Pere La Chaise Cemetery in Paris (where Jim Morrison and Balzac and other notables are buried).
6. No one else has claimed the Eiffel Tower as a memorial. It might as well be me.
7. It will still be there long after anyone who has ever heard of me is dead and gone.
8. It's a beautiful monument, and you can climb to the top of it and get a great view. I can't think of any other burial monument you can say that about.
9. Scattering my ashes there will provide at least you and Tess (and any other family members who care to go along) with a chance to have a good time while mourning my passing.
10. The burial plot won't cost a thing, but I plan to set aside $10,000 to defray travel expenses at least for you girls.
Ultimately, though, I told Nell that such a trans-Atlantic ceremony wouldn't be necessary. I agree with her that it would be preferable for us all to travel to Paris before, rather than after, I die. So, we'll have to plan for that. And my ashes can just be dumped in a nice field somewhere.
World Hum (online travel writing): most popular stories of 2007
"Zen and the Art of Poetry," an interview with Jane Hirschfield in Agni
164 scientists answer the question, "What have you changed your mind about?"--from Edge

1 comment:

Anne said...

Ken, you are great.

That manages to be profound and hysterical at the same time.

We were trying to figure out a way to go to France this summer. Too many FF points (I still have some from Dayton!). Maybe next year. But I won't go to scatter your ashes -- you need to hang around!