What Did I Earn From The Urn?

Andrea Blacker

By Andrea Blacker

In the 1940’s Dad and his new bride began their lifetime in the D.C. area—employed in government service, raised a daughter and son (my sister and I) and lived modestly in the same home for most of their 63 years of marriage. So as not to burden us with this responsibility, they purchased their gravesites in the Lincoln Cemetery by the time we entered High School and College in the 60’s

Dad died at 88 years old, but final arrangements for cremation and an urn had not been made, so that responsibility fell in the lap of my wife and I. Dad always loved a bargain and he was thrifty and practical in finding ways to recycle, reuse and repair to make things last. His favorite repair item was Scotch Tape. Therefore, thrifty shopping for Dad’s Urn was the best way we could dignify him. He was a “depression baby” born in 1917 and very thrifty, never wanted anyone to waste money buying him a gift.

Once I brought home a beautiful pair of thick corduroy pants (LL Bean) and he was upset at what he imagined I had paid for them…. until he learned that they were $8 at a thrift store. Though facing the onset of dementia, he never forgot that deal!

After discovering that urns were sold for hundreds of dollars (even cardboard ones) and learning from a helpful undertaker that one could have his ashes put in a coffee can or a tackle box if that was his wish, we decided to find our own.

So off we went to Home Goods for an ash container. We looked at vases, crocks, some with covers, others without. After mulling about unsuccessfully, I found the perfect container—brushed stainless steel, about a two liter size– with a lid! -And only $14.99. I walked up to my husband to show him. We both felt it was perfect, masculine enough, dignified, strong. Then, I pulled the long knob on the lid to lift it off and lo and behold…..a toilet brush came out. We laughed so hard our knees weakened until we could barely stand upright.

We still felt it was the best looking ash container around, purchased it, went to a hardware store, bought a brushed stainless “short” knob to replace the “long” knob. Then we went to a trophy store and had a stainless steel label with Dad’s name, DOB, DOD and had it attached to the canister all of which he kindly did free of charge. The mortician was very impressed with the quality urn we gave him. We didn’t have the heart to tell him what it really was. He filled the canister with the ashes for us and we sealed the lid with plumber’s goop, thus storing the ashes until they could be disposed of.

By the way, since we would not pay to have the ground (vault) opened up, the cemetery engraved “in memory only” after the stats. Dad would be so proud of his offspring and how well he had taught me to be thrifty and practical!

Although the cemetery plots were paid for, we were told there would be an additional fee of $1200 to open the ground…..even for ashes. We opted to put dad’s ashes in the location of a favorite childhood camping area from my days of camping with Dad….back to the dust he went, and now we had an empty canister to return home with us to be used with its original “long” knob, brush and liner in our bathroom, still bearing Dad’s name and stats.

What did I earn from the Urn?. In dollars, approximately $2,000, but what really matters is I earned an inner peace and satisfaction that my dad’s wishes were honored, his example was followed……and …

in the end, we got….a snazzy toilet brush!