Yet 'tain't being dead-it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains; So I want you swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains. - Robert Service, The Cremation of Sam McGee
Although this writer enjoys reasonably good health and has no expectation of dying in the near future, the envelope that came from an organization called the Neptune Society, hinted at exciting news. On the face of the envelope beneath the name of the addressee was printed "Free Pre-paid cremation! DETAILS INSIDE." Although such an announcement is not quite as exciting as being notified that you have won millions in a contest you had no idea you'd entered, the prospect of receiving anything free, even cremation, excites the average postal patron and I am no exception.
Nonetheless, I was slightly apprehensive since I was sure the contents would disclose, as do so many seemingly irresistible offers, that there was a time limit associated with the offer and that in order to take advantage of it I would have to agree to be cremated by, for example, August 31, 2009 or some other date selected by the Neptune Society, probably a month in which cremations are typically low. That is how offers of free things such as free printers when buying a new Apple Computer, etc. typically work. So it was with some relief that upon opening the envelope I learned that although the contents breached the envelope's promise of a free cremation, there was no time limit for taking advantage of the offer. It would be valid even if I chose to live another 40 or 50 years. That good news was more than offset, however, by the bad news that I had not won a free cremation as promised. In that respect the envelope was no different from the envelope one gets from the Publishers' Clearing House addressed to "occupant" and informing the occupant that he or she has just won hundreds of thousands if not hundreds of millions of dollars in a Publishers' Clearing House contest the occupant had no idea he or she had entered.
The enclosed letter explained that the Neptune Society has the distinction of being "America's Cremation Specialists" and informs that Neptune's motto is "Simple, Economical and Dignified." The letter sets forth a number of reasons why cremation (after death) makes sense including the fact that by paying for the cremation now you "lock in today's price" no matter when you decide to die. Somewhat mysteriously, the letter concludes with a footnote apologizing "if this letter has reached you at a time of serious illness or death in your family." That seems odd since that is exactly the time when such a letter would be most relevant and, depending on the time of the next drawing, welcomed by its recipient.
Just because I got the letter did not mean I was entitled to a free cremation, even if the envelope suggested otherwise. All I was being offered was a chance to participate in a drawing where, if successful, I would be entitled to be cremated for free no matter how long after the drawing I became eligible to take advantage of my good fortune.
Enclosed with the letter was the ticket to participate in the drawing. It was in the form of a card, the completion and return of which entitles me to be entered in the free cremation lottery. On one side of the card is a tranquil picture of a misty forest with shades of green faintly visible through the mist, an apparent attempt to inspire thoughts of death and perhaps anticipation of what the environment in the long awaited hereafter will be. (Such a picture though a touch maudlin is certainly preferable to a picture depicting the process Neptune is selling.) On the back of the card the misty forest is again presented, this time accompanied by a quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt that has no particular relevance to cremation but is a nice quotation nonetheless. It says: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that's why they call it the present." The quotation would be more meaningful if it meant that each recipient of the card got the present of a free cremation. That, the reverse of the card informs, is not the case since only a lucky few receive the free cremation. In large bold letters the reader of the card is informed that he or she can WIN A PRE-PAID CREMATION by simply completing and returning the reply slip, thus rendering the card's recipient eligible for the monthly drawing.
I have not returned the card. I am waiting to see if those selling cryogenic preservation with the tantalizing prospect of possible future resurrection will be having a drawing in which I can participate. Then I can decide whether to go for the hot or the cold. I'll not enter both.