I worked alone, coordinating many details, for the scatterings at sea. The first day of my week began with a trip to the company crematory. Preparations had to be done in advance, before any services could take place aboard the yacht.
Having held the title of Yacht Service Director, all those responsibilities were mine. That is why I went to the crematory every week. Whoever was being scattered at sea needed to be aboard the yacht. And, if any families were going to be present, then all the more important, to match the family with the right ashes.
Within the city limits, hidden in plain sight, among the other kinds of industrial warehouses, was the crematory. You would notice it, if you looked up towards the roof. There were two smoke stacks, smoking away, like a couple of teenagers with a pack of stolen cigarettes. It was a dead giveaway.
The street was dark, quiet, and still. I was always at the crematory by 4:30 a.m.—much too early to think, let alone try to organize meticulous details.
Same old routine every week. Park the car, walk over to the side door, ring the bell.
Wait for Anthony (crematory operator) to unlock and open the door. This was an invitation-only kind of place. If the dead didn’t have their official paperwork, they were sent away. I was a regular, not bragging about it. Who would envy me?
Once inside, my eyes always had to adjust to the darkness. There were few overhead light fixtures. In the darker corners were electrical cords with dim light bulbs that hung down in mid-air.
Anthony was always in charge, this was his territory. He was the guy you could trust. He worked with the highest level of integrity that I had ever witnessed.
Anthony was held accountable for The Book. Everything was recorded about every cremation that took place—the names, times, dates, and final destinations. In true Italian style he guarded it like a plate of pasta. Everybody had to be documented, dead or alive. The Book was a big deal. You know the drill, CYA (Cover Your Ash).
Isn’t it an interesting fact, that the only way the dead can go anywhere is if someone takes them. They can’t be held accountable for their actions after death. Like I mentioned, The Book was a big deal. It was proof that the living were held accountable for the dead.
There was a section in the crematory that was constructed of wire walls with a locking door. Inside were shelves of urns from all the cremations done. It was referred to as the cage. Everyone inside was in their urns, waiting to go somewhere. They just needed a ride.
The cage was another invitation-only situation. Anthony would come over with The Book and unlock the door—another perk of being a regular and a poor example of a door prize.
The shelf marked Yacht was where I’d find my passengers who would leave that day with me. Putting together the puzzle of my week was time-consuming and intense.
Cross-checking names from the paperwork on the urns with the information recorded in The Book came next. The sea-scattering is an irreversible act and had zero margin for errors. It would be hours before I saw the light of day after processing all the details.
I always imagined, how it would be, to go through the cremation process, put inside a plastic bag, sealed with a zip-tie, and placed in an urn. These people had crossed the finish line. This was it? A bullshit prize, if you asked me.
Their paperwork read, Scatter at Sea, and they were stuck on the shelf that read Yacht.
It wasn’t the ship of fools; they knew they were not aboard the yacht.
After everything was checked off in The Book, and the paperwork on the urns read the magic words, Scatter at Sea (their ticket to freedom), it was time to load the car with my passengers. They were about to disappear.
I always backed my car in through the vehicle door of the warehouse when it was time to load the urns. Anthony lifted the door. It was metal, loud, and heavy. The pulling of the chain added to the eerie feeling of being inside a crematory.
The average weight for cremated bodies was anywhere between eight to twelve pounds. Each urn was hand-carried about twenty feet to my car from the cage. Ironically, I was driving a Ford Escort at the time. Yes, I was an escort service. When handling their remains I always treated the dead as if they were alive and beside me. Maybe they were, who knows? Truth does not always equal facticity.
It never felt crazy by telling them that they were going for a car ride, boat ride, and a swim in the bay. That was done mentally. I figured since they had left Earth, they were advanced enough to read my mind.
After awhile the weight of the urns would wear on me, while loading my car. That song, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by The Hollies would go through my mind. Only my version was “He is Heavy, He Ain’t my Brother.”
Most of the people that boarded the Titanic did the reverse of my passengers. Either way, they were all aboard a boat and scattered at sea.
Rise and Shine was the Sun’s job. Good job, Sun! Now in the light of day, I would drive to the yacht. I always thought about how many other cars on the freeway had a morning like mine, and if I was ever pulled over, what would the cop have thought?
Before I drove away, I’d look over my shoulder. In my back seat were fifty-five urns being escorted to the yacht. They truly were The Grateful Dead.