Switched off but still sparking

Charles 6 Comments


Today’s theme is ashes, by the way.

In her brilliant book Making an Exit, which not nearly enough of you have read, the author, Sarah Murray, plans her own dispersal. First, she wants to be resomated and reduced to the pure white ‘ash’ characteristic of the process. What next? Scattering, of course, for cremation is, and here she quotes from Robert Hertz’s Death and the Right Hand, “usually neither a final act, nor sufficient in itself; it calls for a later and complementary rite.”

Her plan depends on the three great attributes of cremains: they are portable, durable and divisible. Her plan also takes into account her love of travel.

She’s chosen six destinations, and she’s going to set aside funds for travel grants for which interested people may compete. While doing their thing in each of the seven destinations, they will scatter a portion of her ash.

The following is abridged:

Number one: the Empire State Building … The wire mesh fence on the Observation Deck is not too densely woven, so it should be easy enough to reach through and scatter a few grains of ashes.

Number two: Vishwanath Gali, Varanasi, India. The place I really want to be is behind the waterfront, where a labyrinth of tiny lanes is stuffed with even tinier shops, cafes, temples. This is Vishwanath Gali, an ancient bazaar … Being in the midst of all these goodies – as well as crowds of women in saris, the occasional cow and barefoot sadhus in flamboyant robes of orange, gold and silver — is my idea of heaven, so please leave a portion of me here.

Number three: Echo Valley, Sagada, Philippines. Whoever’s drawn to natural beauty, tranquillity, fresh mountain air and the scent of pines should be the one to take a portion of my ashes up here. I’d like them thrown across Echo Valley to join the Igorot ancestors in their craggy limestone resting places. 

Number four: Mercado Abastos [a busy market], Oaxaca, Mexico. Look out for the sections for shoes, flowers, woven baskets and crazy miniature items … I’d like part of me left amid the throb and rhythm of the market, in with the mango skins, bits of string and cigarette butts.

Number five: Karimabad, Hunza Valley, northern Pakistan — a valley where the great ranges of the Karakoram, Pamir, Hindu Kush and Himaayas fight it out in a grand confusion of jagged peaks and gaping ravines … I hope to get back there someday while I’m still living, but I’d also like a tiny piece of me left there after I’m dead. 

Number six: Fa’s Hill [a family name, after Sarah’s father], North Poorton, West Dorset. Highlights include the spectacular coastline and pebble beaches [and] the magnificent Iron Age hill fort at Eggardon.

Sarah concludes:

In this, I join the ranks of philanthropists, medical researchers, teachers, sports coaches, parents and others who hope that they can provide a springboard for the creativity and productivity of those following them. It’s the idea that, even though the power supply has been switched off, we may still be able to generate a few sparks of electricity. That’s what I call living on. 


You can buy a copy of Sarah’s book here. Highly recommended.




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Poppy Mardall
11 years ago

One of the best books I’ve ever read. And I love the travel grant idea. Looking forward to meeting this excellent lady at the Joy of Death Festival in Bournemouth.

Jenny Uzzell
11 years ago

I am about half way through this book and liking it a lot.

When did we get a ‘like’ function by the way?

Charles Cowling
11 years ago

Oh, well noticed, Jenny! I’ve just installed it — perhaps 5 mins ago. I thought it was a bit small, so I am o’er t’moon. I hope everyone else has your eagle gaze.

Ain’t Sarah fab? I think that’s an important book. It shows us a way.

Melissa Stewart
11 years ago

I’ve read this too. Great book !

Jenny Uzzell
11 years ago

Exellent, I’ve often thought we could do with one of those!

11 years ago

Liking the like – great addition – often I want to show I’ve read and appreciated an article, but don’t always have the time to make a considered comment!