Editor’s Note: The following is a guest column by David Remkus. David is a Vice President of Hindsale Animal Cemetery and Crematory in Willowbrook, Illinois. He offers a unique view of creating a living memorial.
Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by the concept of reincarnation. At the age of four, my best friend’s grandmother was so astonished that she just had to tell my mother about the in depth and insightful conversation we had about reincarnation and why I thought it was the real deal.
Admittedly, I don’t remember the conversation, or why I had a relatively in depth understanding of reincarnation at the age of four. What I can tell you is that the spiritual concept still leaves me as full of hope and intrigue as it did back then. For what it’s worth, my upbringing was Catholic, and as I do more and more soul searching (also known as growing up) I find myself harboring feelings that are less pious and more representative of a “cafeteria Catholic.” The devout may call those like my wife and I Lutherans, but I digress… (No insult intended Michelle, I love you!)
As I grow older, and more people that I have known forever begin to pass, I find myself faced with the stark reality of my own mortality. This ultimately leads to the several occasions that I have considered how I would like my earthly remains to be handled when I pass away. Although I am sure there will be additions and revisions, currently two things I can say for certain: 1) I want to be cremated, and 2) I want to use Let Your Love Grow to come back as a honey crisp apple tree. (Everyone please spare me the forbidden fruit talk, you just can’t beat a honey crisp!) How great will it be for my family and friends to remember me, every fall in this way?
I’m sure there are those that will be a little freaked out by eating an apple that may or may not contain chemical traces of my earthly remains. I am also certain that there will be jokes about how delicious I am. Although at first some of my living doubts almost overruled this possibility, the deceased version of me is totally okay with both of these scenarios. Here’s why: those who choose not to eat the fruit from my tree don’t have to (they won’t know what they’re missing), and if my family and friends are telling jokes it means they are together and laughing, living life the way it’s meant to be lived.
The biggest part of the equation for me in deciding to do this is that I am there with them. If I am not really there chemically, and if not physically in any way, my memory will definitely be there. This ultimately appeals to me because it ensures that death and disease don’t win, which at the end of the day is what has fueled the hope and intrigue I have always felt when thinking about reincarnation. What turns this particular product and scenario into a win-win for me as a Catholic is that I will still technically be in line with the majority of the newly revised Catholic doctrine on cremation (1997), I will be able to have a service in a Catholic church while in my biodegradable urn, and then buried underground with the honey crisp tree that I have decided to come back as. The next order of business for me is deciding what the granite memorial at the base of the tree is to say. So far I’ve got:
“In Loving Memory of David Remkus
He had a great life.
To all who visit this living memorial:
If the fruit on this tree is ripe, eat it.
If you’re reading this you’ve got life,