From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Dirt Cheap

Frugality may be termed the daughter of prudence, the sister of temperance, and the parent of liberty.

Samuel Johnson

“When I die, just put me in a trash bag and set me out at the curb,” my father would often say only half joking.

“I can’t do that,” I’d laughingly reply. “It’s against code!”

“Well, don’t waste a lot of money to plant me,” he’d say.

A child of the Great Depression, my father lived simply, by choice. He wanted to die simply, too. Although he had a small nest egg put away, he loathed spending money on things he thought were unnecessary—and that included fancy caskets and expensive funerals.

This point was brought home to me when my mother died. The funeral director tried to convince Dad that Mom deserved only the best. Dad thought the best was wasteful.

“Why do you think I would pay for a box made of solid cherry when you’re just going to plant it in the ground?” he asked the director pointedly. “Don’t you have a cardboard box?”

Clearly shaken by my dad’s bluntness, the director sold us the bottom-of-the-line model.

When Dad died of lung cancer fifteen years later, I knew just what I had to do. At the funeral home, I turned to the director and said, “He wanted to be buried in a trash bag and set out by the curb. What’s the closest you’ve got to that?”

“Ah, a man like my father-in-law,” the director replied. “I know just what you want.” He then detailed plans for cremation and a simple church funeral. “And since your dad was a veteran, we can bury him in Denver at Logan National Cemetery.”

“How much will that cost?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said.

The price was right! “Sold.”

After the funeral, we were handed a plain, white cardboard box that held Dad’s ashes. On the way to the cemetery each of us wrote a parting message to Dad on the outside of the box.

“Your spot’s over here,” the cemetery guide said when we arrived. “They’ve just finished digging.” He led us to a small hole less than one foot in diameter and several feet deep. “Do you have the ashes?” he asked.

I handed him the cardboard box that encased Dad’s remains. As we watched, the cemetery worker took the box from the guide and began to wrap it in black plastic.

“What is he doing?” I asked, bewildered.

“I’m sorry,” the guide lamented, “but we put the remains in this sack so that we can respectfully lower the box into the grave site.”

“No, it’s okay,” I assured him. “Dad always wanted to be buried in a trash bag! I guess he got his wish, after all. It’s not the curb, but it will have to do.”

Lynn Dean

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