He was the first appointment of the day and I went in early to make sure I was there well before him. My routine insisted upon coffee as I sat in my office going through the files of the day one last time, collect my thoughts, and paced the halls that was my trademark thought processing ritual.
Walking in the office I could see him already there waiting. His tall lanky, slight frame wrapped in tell tale grayish skin. He had cancer and I could see it from so far away. The tall, early riser was glad to be out of his daily routine and was excited to sit with a new face and discuss new things. He needed a break from his routine and he needed the chance to share his story.
“Good morning Mr. Glenn” I greeted him. His smile was just one of those real smiles. He knew he was ridiculously early, but I invited him back to the office early under the condition that he had to join me for my morning coffee or not mind my partaking in my coffee while we talked. He gladly took advantage of Jan’s freshly brewed joe as we talked. He was soft spoken from illness and I had to ask how things were going. He discussed his cancer and the experimental stem cell treatments he was undergoing. He was not ready to die which confused him because he missed his wife so dearly. He had her cremated and still had not found the strength to take this promised horseback ride into the mountains to scatter her ashes where the couple had spent so much of lives. “She understands, but she is getting impatient. She wanted to be free in the mountains, not crammed into an urn in the house she died in.” He was right, but he could not bring himself to say that final goodbye to the physical state. It is something our culture is far too familiar with. It would seem that the majority of those I know anymore have the remains of a loved one nearby. It is not a good or bad thing, just a human condition associated with whom we have grown into as a people. Mr. Glenn came rushing back into my mind when I saw an article yesterday stemming from a California law maker trying to bring legislation back to life to legalize a process called “liquid cremation.”
Liquid cremation? The same thing ran through my mind. It is a “green” process of alkaline hydrolysis where heated and pressurized fluid is used to reduce a human body to about 120 gallons of liquid that is then disposed of or used as fertilizer. The bones are reduced to a powder state that can be placed into urns for more traditional keeping or interment into a columbarium. The legislation has failed in the past despite California’s embracement of “green initiatives.” When a corpse was reduced to a liquid state, it was then to be “poured down the drain.” Even the article I read yesterday contained the same disposal technique verbiage. Turning your loved one into fertilizer is hard enough to accept, but pouring them down the drain is too far over the top it terms of a final resting place.
Ashes are poured everywhere, but it is done on our terms at a time we have deemed appropriate. Giving the process of liquid cremation a “green” label to entice public support is solely based upon the ideology that the process does not use combustion though the expense is virtually identical to traditional cremation and produces twenty four times the amount of waste; waste that relegates a once human existence to a drain in which it is poured away. Green processes are often exaggerated in this manner, but when it comes to such matters as cremation, they should be a bit more honest. It is hard to say goodbye to a loved one and when it comes to cremation. We find emotional toil in having to do it more than once which forces those like Mr. Glenn to hang on to things a bit longer than they thought they would. A constant in life that we do not like to deal with is death. In death there needs to be the dignity of honesty that liquid cremations hides through a series of lies to have it adorned with the title of green.
What we are witnessing is the green revolution slowly falling decaying to special interests and political agendas through selling a perception of exaggerated efficiency. A field of science and technology said to save the Earth from its inhabitant’s destructive, wasteful ways; relegated to the deceptive practices of those wishing to advance an agenda by using a title of green despite the drawbacks in doing so. What they fail to realize is that maneuvers such as this will blacken the eye of green advances that are for the betterment of society. Much of what is labeled green is good while we witness the over selling of an increasing number of green initiatives that have proven to be far more impractical than beneficial. To me we just cross a line when we deliberately misrepresent cremation so we can award a state contract to a campaign contributor so we can flush the state’s John and Jane Doe’s down the drain while we willfully deceive the public about what really happens during the process in question. This is however, California. What do you really expect from a state that sought to ban 42 inch flat screen tv’s in order to not have build a more efficient natural gas power plant that would have provided employment for its economically haggard citizens?