Monday, October 20, 2014

Sky Rockets (and Diggy) in flight

In the weeks leading up to his death, my husband came up with a list of places he wanted a bit of his ashes to go, and I’ve been working my way through his list. And through the small canister of remains that Mt. Auburn Cemetery held out from the bulk that are interred there, in a lovely spot on Azalea Way.

One evening, when we were talking about “the list”, Jim mentioned that he was willing to spend a good deal of money to have his ashes sent into space. A good deal of money. As in half of what was in his IRA.

And while I am not one to deny a dying man his wish, I told him that it would have to be a two-fer, because the only way I’d pay that much to have Diggy slip the surly bonds of earth would be over my dead body.

“Oh, yeah,” he said and laughed. “That must be the brain tumor talking.”

But I told him that I’d find a way to get him there cheaper, and I immediately found a couple of places on line.

He liked Celestis. I did, too.

After all Celestis’:

….heritage encompasses over 30 years of global leadership in private sector space missions and applications including:

  • the first ever private launch into outer space (1982),
  • the first private, post-cremation memorial spaceflight (1997),
  • the first lunar burial (1999)

Jim was a science guy, a math and physics nerd, with a complete fascinating with space exploration. So Celestis looked like it had the right stuff.

Plus it’s also the memorial spaceflight provider to the stars: hippie guru Timothy Leary, Gene Rodenberry (originator of Star Trek, which means little to me, but Jim was something of a fan), and Gordon Cooper. Gordo was not necessarily Jim’s favorite astronaut, but, as played by Dennis Quaid, he was definitely Jim’s favorite character in The Right Stuff.

So for a lot less than Jim was initially willing to spend, he’ll be heading into space a bit later this morning, sky-rocketing off from Spaceport America at 10 a.m. Eastern.

UPDATE:  The launch pad was struck by lightning – maybe Diggy’s not ready to launch – so his spaceflight has been postponed.

Right now, I’m kind of wishing I’d gone to New Mexico for the launch, but I’ll be able to watch it online. (I had considered going over to Mt. Auburn for the event, but didn’t want to trust that I’d be able to watch it on my aging Blackberry.)

UPDATE:  I’m no longer kind of wishing that I’d gone to New Mexico for the launch.

The option that we/I chose is just the straight up-and-down (think Alan Shephard), rather than the more expensive orbit flight (think John Glenn), or the quite pricey lunar orbit or deep space launch (think Neil Armstrong and Captain Kirk). 

Unless there’s some disaster, I’ll be getting Jim’s space capsule ashes back, and these are the remains that will remain with me, ‘til my death do us part.

Meanwhile, in my experience, something funny almost always happen around the death of a loved one.* Especially if you have a sense of humor and/or are Irish.

For my Aunt Margaret, it was the day-glo souvenir whistles sitting in baskets in the ladies’ room of the funeral parlor. (It almost goes without saying that it was an Irish funeral parlor…)

For my mother, it was my 4 year old niece asking what was in the box. (A question that my 5 year old niece could easily answer: “Grandma!”)

There were a number of things that happened around Jim’s death that would fall under the comic relief category, but I’ll stick with the one having to do with prepping Jim’s ashes for flight.

When you sign up for Celestis, they send you a kit that includes a small cylinder and a funnel.

Now, if you just looked at the funnel dead-on, it didn’t seem as if the opening at the narrow end of the funnel was that narrow. But talk about the eye of the needle.

As I began to sift bits of Jim’s remains, little pebbles (I refuse to think bone chip) kept getting caught in the narrow end of the funnel.

After a few minutes of pushing little pebbles through the opening with a lobster pick and/or tweezing them out so they wouldn’t block the progress of the fine ashes, I realized that I was going to have to make those remains a bit more granular.

I fleetingly thought ‘blender’, but that was way too ick a thought. So I fetched the little brass hammer I use to put pictures up – a hammer that we always refer to as our ‘lady hammer’ – spread out a towel, covered it with Glad Wrap, measured out the right portion of ashes needed to fill the cylinder, and started whacking away.

If ever I felt like a crazy lady, it was standing in my living room, pulverizing my husband’s remains, while “Bang, Bang, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” rolled around in my head.

Anyway, Diggy would have enjoyed the scene. As he would have enjoyed his skyrocket in flight.

Of you go, Diggy.

I’ll be thinking of you. (Not that this makes today any different than any other day.)

It may not be where no man has gone before, but it’s a place where this man hadn’t been.


*Unless it’s a child…

1 comment:

Rick T. said...

Surely you remember Martin McDonagh's "A Skull in Connemara", where the main character, MIck Dowd, is employed by the local church to make room for new bodies in the graveyard by digging up old bones and smashing them to smithereens. Almost a case here of life imitating art.

I am surprised, though, that the lobster pick didn't work. I've found them to work on almost everything I have ever tried them on. In fact, my theory is that lobster picks, widespread in New England and rare elsewhere, explains our region's overall superiority to the rest of the country.