Thursday, April 9, 1998
At age 15, I lay in a coffin for the first (and last) time. As an after-school delivery boy for a flower shop, I made daily rounds to local funeral homes, pinning carnations on corpses and draping caskets with roses. One day an undertaker with a dark sense of humor accommodated my morbid curiosity and closed a casket lid over me, providing a dark preview of eternity. Though it was warm and comfortable, I knew that the dead couldn't appreciate that fact, so why, I wondered, do we go to all the trouble and expense? Warmth and comfort are only for the living. My will now stipulates that I be cremated with the ashes put out with the trash.
Each year Americans spend billions of dollars on elaborate funerals for dead loved ones who don't (can't) care. In this week's cover story, CW examines death rites--strange, costly rituals practiced in some form in every culture.
Following in a death-and-taxes theme, writer Chris Wilson looks at new tax preparation software that can keep you from feeling suicidal this time of year.
Ashes to ashes,
ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR