I have made an urn for my own ashes. Actually, I have made several of them, but thankfully, they haven’t yet been used, and there are no ominous clouds on the horizon.
The first couple of attempts resulted in beautiful boxes that would have done the job, but they didn’t seem right to me. They were made from fun wood; one from aromatic cedar and another from walnut; and I gave them a lot of thought and attention to detail. However, something wasn’t right about them. In each case, they were simply too nice for me…I didn’t want to “live” in something so fancy. They sat on a shelf for a while in my shop, looking down on me, kind of mocking and judging me, or so it seemed. I decided I just couldn’t let that go on so I gave them to a friend, who’s young daughters now keep Barbie clothes in them.
Ha! Let’s see them smirk at me now…
Thinking more deeply, I decided that my box needed to be humble, but I also thought of how I actually wanted to be dispatched once I was gone. Practical questions being first, I consulted with my friend Andy who is a funeral director to find out how much room I needed. He looked me up and down and said, “210 cubic inches.” Andy said it in a way that made me think he was commenting on my weight a little, so I let him know that I was intending to drop a few pounds and get in better shape in the next year. He shook his head. “210 cubic inches.” “Andy,” I replied, “What if I get some of them titanium knees before I go…surely it will be less.” “Nope, 210 cubic inches,” was his steady reply.
OK…that was clear. The next question was where I wanted to take my eternal dirt nap, and I couldn’t decide between 5 places. I thought it would be good to have at least one resting place with my name on it, so that people could say, “I remember him. Used to come to church with sawdust on his pants.” My church has a columbarium and I designed a box to fit in one of the little condos there.
But I also wanted to leave some of me in other places which were special throughout my life. I designed 4 smaller boxes that could be transported to various places where a bit of me could be left behind. (Andy assured me this was all legal, with the exception of Lambeau Field.) My kids have been briefed that I expect them to do this without complaint to me while living, or speaking ill of me when I’m gone. They shrugged, chalking it up as one more eccentricity.
What I settled on is one main box for the columbarium, and 4 smaller ones to take on the road. The boxes are made from popple, from a tree at our cabin likely planted or nurtured by my grandfather, and after it died, was cut down and chunked into firewood by my brothers. The popple I used gives these boxes the right soul, as I like to say, but currently have no finish, are free of nails, and not much decoration.
Combined, however, they will hold all 210 cubic inches of me.
-- Greg, from the Broke Yoke workshop