our friend, stick person

After We Die...
There is burial or cremation

What Do We Do With Mom's Body?
an essay by Jon Sweeney


My mother is no closer to death than the rest of us, but since she is about to turn sixty, she thinks about it a lot more often.

We were on vacation in Italy recently—my mother and father, my only brother and sister-in-law, and my wife and me. We had left the kids with the other grandparents for a special trip. Somewhere between Portofino and Parma we stopped for the night and found one of those ubiquitous, charming sidestreet cafes for dinner. As I sprinkled romano on my spaghetti alla vongole, Mom said, "I would like you to cremate me when I’m gone."

"Really?" my wife, Danelle, replied. I think Danelle was the only other person not chewing.

"Yes, I think so," Mom said, "Dad and I have discussed it and we think cremation is best."

* * *

Since I was a child, my mother has always wanted to discuss serious issues. We were never a family for much frivolous talk. For instance, long before it was fashionable, mom said to my brother and me (we were probably eight and ten): "Do you guys want to talk about sex?"

"Uhhh, not really."

"It’s okay, we should talk about it," she said. And, so we did. Again and again, or so it seemed. Mom has always believed in talking things through.

So, it was no great surprise when she started a conversation about how we should dispose of her body when she stops breathing. It was typical dinner conversation.

* * *

"What do you think?" she said, looking at me.

"I don’t like it," I said.

"Really? What about you?" she said, turning to my older brother.

"I don’t agree with cremation," he said.

"Well, well. Isn’t that interesting," Mom replied, shooting a quick glance at my father sitting next to her.

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