VALLEY DISPATCH STAFF , Paul Sullivan’s vintage columns appear every Friday in The Valley Dispatch. He wrote this one in. Sullivan’s WBZ-radio show airs Monday through Friday from 8 to midnight.
First there was time sharing. Now comes casket rental.
As unbelievable as it may sound, the Massachusetts Legislature is actually debating a measure that would allow folks who want to be cremated the chance to rent an expensive casket for their wake, but then switch to a plain box coffin for their actual cremation.
Talk about going out in style for your final exit.
Before we go much further, let me say unequivocally to my nearest and dearest:
I, Paul Sullivan, being of sound mind and somewhat flabby body, hereby state that I want a brand new casket when you send me on my final journey.
No used coffins, no demonstration models, no loaners. I want the price tag still on, the pillow still in the plastic bag and no previous tenants.
The last thing I want is for someone at my funeral to say: “Sully didn’t look as good in that coffin as so-and-so did.”
Or some catty mourner gossiping about me at my wake: “You know, that wasn’t even his casket. It was a rental.”
I’d hate that.
Now I’m not against this legislation. People probably should be able to get buried in anything they want. And who cares where your bones end up once the lights go out?
But where will this stop?
For now, the rental legislation affects only funeral homes that sell the caskets. No doubt they will do it in a dignified manner. But what about when these rent-a-casket places start sprouting up around the state? Are we ready for an aggressive 1990s marketing campaign? Imagine the slogans.
* “Don’t buy and burn. Rent and recycle.”
* Or “Put Jack in a Box, not in a casket.”
* Maybe “In by 10 out by 5, with caskets by the hour.”
* Or “Save with Wake and Bake.”
Will there be specials for weekday rentals like rent-a-car companies?
“Three days of pure luxury in a coffin you will wish you could have lived to see.”
The possibilities are mind-boggling. But there are some potential problems.
The proposed legislation allows renting a casket only when the rentee is going to be cremated. What about those who want to be displayed in mahogany but figured that pine is fine once they’re six feet under?
How long can it be before we hear from those who think they are being discriminated against because their choices when being laid to rest have been unfairly limited?
Imagine the demonstration from those who won’t be allowed to rest in caskets: “Hey, hey, ho, ho. Let us rent or we won’t go.”
How about the spouse of the dearly departed: “Two-four-six-eight, give us leases for our mate.”
By now you may be asking — is this law really needed?
It seems that Massachusetts is bucking the trend. It remains one of only eight states that forbids the reuse of caskets. The law was passed here, according to those who want to change it, in the 1950s to prevent the spread of infectious disease. That seems a little peculiar, since who would care about catching a disease after they died.
Why didn’t they pass a law forbidding the reuse of hospital beds, since most of the folks who ended up in the caskets no doubt spent some time in a hospital bed?
This whole concept strikes me as weird.
Renting a car, O.K., renting a house, sure, even renting furniture is tolerable. But renting your final resting box?
What next? Renting the outfit that we are laid out in? How about a rental hairpiece for those of us who die after a life of being follically challenged?
How long before cemeteries get in on the action?
“Sublet available: One grassy plot. Garden views. Must move, in-laws haunting me.”
To comment on this story, email Paul Sullivan at email@example.com.