While shopping online recently for items I could have easily purchased at a local discount store—if the store had offered to deliver them to my front door for free—I stumbled upon an online sale item that stupefied me. I stared at the screen for a full minute, horrified and fascinated at the same time. I am the mother of three teenagers, so I don’t shock easily. I can weather fender-benders, throw-up viruses, and gruesome sports injuries without panicking, but when I saw caskets for sale online at Cosco, I admit it temporarily scrambled my brain.
Tell the truth: Did you know you could buy discount caskets online? When I discovered that, questions immediately began pushing and shoving their way to my frontal lobe and demanding answers. First of all, I wondered, who in the world buys caskets online? Isn’t that an item one usually purchases from a funeral home in a package deal—like senior portraits and wedding invitations? Now that I know there are more buying options for caskets than I ever imagined, I’m sure there is someone out there trying to sell me—and you—more casket than we really need. It’s a business like any other, I suppose, an honest way to make a buck. All God’s children have to make a living.
The second thing I wondered is: If I order a casket online, how will it be shipped? Will I get a knock on the door from the UPS man?
“Sign here, Ma’am, I’ve got a casket for you.”
What would that be like? I don’t mind telling you that the whole idea gives me the creeps.
I can’t imagine that many people buy caskets in anticipation of their own demise. I guess maybe if you know the end is near (or you’re thinking of taking someone out in the near future), it could be helpful. It’s a practical purchase, I suppose, although not a gift I’d be comfortable giving, regardless of need.
I am always on a budget, so maybe this is a topic I need to research more. I’m open-minded—even when I’m a little horrified. Are there coupons for caskets? Sale days? Is there a particular color that I could get a good deal on? I once attended a funeral for an LSU fan who chose a purple-and-gold casket. It had a tiger on the lid. I’m not making this up. I bet that was a custom job.
I know responsible people pre-plan their funerals. It’s thoughtful. It helps the loved ones we leave behind. We should all go ahead and make some decisions. For instance, I want to be cremated, I think, although I’m still struggling with the whole burn-to-ashes aspect. I have several lovely antique vases that could hold my ashes. If I choose cremation, I avoid the whole casket selection issue altogether. Since I will have gone on to a better place, what difference can these minor earthly decisions possibly make?
As a naturally bossy Southern woman, I like the idea of picking out my own hymns, readings, and music. I’m picky. There is no telling what my kids might choose if left to their own devices. They have a wicked sense of humor. “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead” comes to mind. Nothing would irritate me more than a tacky tombstone. I swear right now that I will return to haunt someone if my final resting place is marked with anything pink or heart-shaped.
I will also be highly embarrassed if I look down from the pearly gates and see there isn’t enough food to feed my mourners, so I might go ahead and book the caterer now, although the head count is hard to pin down for a future event. I like to think my family and friends will actually be sad, so they probably won’t dive into the buffet. Then again, some distant relatives might turn out just for the spread. We know how to feed people at a funeral where I live in the South.
There are a lot of variables when you plan a funeral down here. Funeral food has its own section in our cookbooks. It’s worth going to a funeral just to eat the consoling casseroles afterwards. I promise. If I live to a ripe old age, my friends may be too old and frail to attend my service. Bummer. If I die during a big football week in the South, my kids better plan my memorial service after checking the kick-off times, or the turnout will be slim-pickings. That’s just the way things are in the Southeastern Conference. I’ve planned a few parties in my life. I know what I’m talking about.
When contemplating my own funeral, I never before thought about buying the casket ahead of time—from the same store that sells tires, wrapping paper, and sunglasses. I had planned to buy my casket on an as-needed basis. However, I am always open to a bargain. I suspect caskets are a racket. Who cares if the lining is real silk or not? I think thousands of dollars are wasted on nonsense like that every day. Somehow, the purchase of a top-of-the-line casket feels like a testament to how much we loved the deceased family member. Ridiculous. My kids know I’m okay with a pine box or a Café du Monde coffee can. I’d rather they used that money for something that matters to the living—like a college fund deposit or making sure no one runs short on cheese straws, fried chicken, or pound cake at the luncheon in the church parish hall after my service.
A final question: If I go ahead and buy the Cosco casket now—because it is a great deal and will be needed at some point in the (distant, I hope) future, what in the world will I do with it in the meantime? Where does one store a just-in-case coffin–in the basement with the extra toilet paper and bottled water? I’m feeling just fine today, thank you very much.
A wonderful Southern storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham, kept a simple pine box for just such an occasion. She asked to be wrapped in her grandmother’s quilt, tucked in the pine box, and laid to rest to “I’ll Fly Away”—short and sweet. That’s exactly what happened when she died. While she was alive and well, she stored her mother’s fine china in that box. Handy. I do like a woman who is prepared for emergencies. I have Band-Aids and Tylenol in my purse and batteries and canned food for hurricanes, so a small part of me says buying a casket ahead of time isn’t really that different. After all, I know where this parade is headed. I’m at peace with that. In the meantime, I’m having one heck of a good time.