HOME PLACE - Mom revs up Dad's car passion with urn

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So there was a little discussion at my house on the night before Christmas.

My oldest daughters and I were hanging the stockings with care (including their own), knowing that Mom Nicholas would have to be there. In four hours or so.

This was a special holiday, with most of my children under one roof, including my son-in-law for his first-ever Hagar Christmas. A lovely time was being had by all.

But now it was 2 a.m. We'd been to Christmas Eve services at church, prepared much of the Christmas Day meal and wrapped like fiends.

We were way past exhausted.

The subject of my late husband came up, as it does nearly every day at our house. In a very emotional moment, I discovered my kids were unhappy with a few things.

I won't bore you with great detail, but it turns out they had expected what they viewed as a traditional and fitting memorial for their father.

I am just going to admit right here that David had been preempted from his usual spot on the bookshelf to make room for glass jars filled with twinkly lights and ornaments

When my kids complained that Dad was not accessible for moments of mourning, I only affirmed the situation by telling them "Of course he is. He's in my bedroom closet right now, you can go visit him whenever you'd like."

Having Dad stuck in the closet was not what they were picturing.

Once we got through all the hurt feelings, I explained that I could not imagine having my man's ashes anywhere but home. "I mean, we can look into a stone at the cemetery and all that, but your dad is not going anywhere as long as I'm alive."

It doesn't have to make sense, for those of you ready to point out the flaw in my logic.

Fast forward a few months and I was ready to consider that maybe the cardboard box from the funeral home was a less-than-fitting final place on earth for the love of my life. But I knew urns were stuffy and spendy and oh-so-boring.

Proven wrong again.

I started looking around on the Internet and opened a universe that promises more ways to memorialize than you can ever imagine.

Thinking abut David's passions, I googled "race car urns."

Danged if there weren't several.

The very best fit is made by a company called "In the Light Urns -- next generation memorials."

There it was, like it was created for my need ... the Rat Trap Monster Car Urn, in the same lime green as our 1968, first generation Dodge Super Bee.

I stared. How could this exist? Get out of my head, urn company!

I emailed the Web image to my children and David's brother. Almost instantly, the resounding "Yes!" replies came back. "Dad would love this," one daughter wrote.

So what could I do but call the company? Why stop with the perfect urn when I could get paid to be nosy, too?

Susan Fraser is founder and CEO of "In the Light Urns," which is now a decade old.

"We have more than 1,000 urns," Fraser said from her office in Three Rivers, Calif. "We try to offer unique products. We have them made for us or we do them ourselves."

She and five employees, that is, which is why Susan had to interrupt herself a few times to answer calls.

Susan, 52, has been where I am, only worse. Her son passed away at age 14, introducing the businesswoman to the need for people to personalize the death of part of their heart.

She started with what's known in the industry as "a memorial product." It was a cobalt blue glass necklace -- meant to hold a pinch of cremated ashes -- that retailed for $29. "There was nothing like it at the time."

It was a hit, Susan recalled. So much so that it spawned an explosion of other web merchants hawking similar products. "Most of them buy from the others," Susan said.

I could almost hear an exasperated sigh in her voice. "They watch us to see whatever new is coming out."

I asked her how she could do this for so much less than a traditional funeral home. "It's a totally different system than a funeral home," she explained. "Funeral homes stick to what they know and they know their supplies."

Often, funeral directors are locked into contracts with companies and not allowed to shop for products elsewhere.

Before the Civil War, no one was embalmed, Susan said. "There were no giant caskets."

But the technology evolved to answer the need for the families to see their dead soldiers and now, "it's what we do."

The industry continues to change and now ecologically-friendly, or "green," burials are becoming the next big wave, she told me.

In the meantime, the company's most popular product has been and continues to be the $129 Eternity urn that looks like brass and allows for a few lines of engraving, Susan said. The piece fills a need for a traditional burial product and has free shipping, she added.

You all know by now how I feel about "traditional" when it comes to matters like this. Soon there will be a neon green Rat Fink car gracing some place other than my bedroom closet.

Vroom, vroom.

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