I walk into the post office with a small, white cardboard box. It weighs about 2 lbs. …maybe more…. I don’t know. Before the cremation, the body weighed close to 250 lbs… I know this because I helped transport it to the crematory.
The box contains the cremated remains, aka “cremains,” of an individual whose family lives in another state. They made arrangements with our funeral home to have us perform the cremation and mail the ashes, or cremains, to them when it was completed. We obtained the necessary paperwork and went about our business. Amidst it all, however, I couldn’t help but think of how different that kind of situation is. It seems so detached and unusual to receive a box of cremains in the mail. It is happening more and more often, however.
As I stand in line at the post office, one of the postal workers gives me a sideways glance. She recognizes me. I come here often to mail letters and buy stamps for the funeral home. Every once in a while, I come to mail cremains (and as my dad reminded me….I sometimes call it “cremailing”)
I walk up to the counter and place the box on the scale. I tell the attendant I need to pay postage on the package. She asks if there is anything liquid, perishable or potentially hazardous inside. I say, “No, but this box does contain cremated human remains.” Her eyes widen a bit and she quickly diverts her attention to the computer screen. She doesn’t say anything, and I wonder outloud if she has heard of the new label the USPS has announced they will start using for cremated remains. She says she hasn’t. I’m a little disappointed. I watch as she attaches the certified mail receipt to the box. I tap my keys on the counter as I wait for the total to appear on the credit card machine. I swipe the card and thank her for her service as I walk away.
The USPS is the only shipping service that will mail cremains. Companies such as FedEx and UPS will not because they do not assume responsibility for anything that is not replaceable. And of all the things that are not replaceable on this earth, cremains certainly make the short list.
People often ask about the process of cremation and about how we go about getting the ‘ashes’ (cremains) into an urn or into cremation jewelry. It is a fascinating process and honestly, I love talking about cremation and cremains. I even use the word “cremains” in casual conversation because it is just plain fun to say. It makes people chuckle…..then they start asking questions…..and probably end up finding out more than they ever thought they could know about it.
It brings me joy to shed a little light on the subject.
Have you ever received cremains in the mail?
What burning questions do you have about cremation? (haha… burning…. get it? Mortician joke.)
Feel free to post questions in the comment section below or on the Facebook link.
If you ask, I might write a blog post about it next time!