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the ritual of death

I'm watching the Today show this morning because that's what I do. I watch the Today show. I admit it. I'm a terrible Katie and Matt addict. I have to have my morning shot of glossy, innocent, overblown media or I just can't function the rest of the day. I don't drink coffee. I have to have something.

And this morning they're interviewing a guy from a company in Illinois that may be making, in Today show terms, the Next Big Thing.

I sit in absolute wonder and disgust and the pure horrifying reality seeps in a bit at a time. This man, I realize, is no ordinary man. He's sick. He's twisted. And he'll convince thousands of people all over the US to follow him because that's what a sick and twisted society we live in today. You think I'm kidding. I'm not.

The man owns/runs/works for (who knows - I was too busy being horrified to pay attention to those kind of details) a company called LifeGem.

A little pseudo-scientific background here. Humans have carbon in them. This company has found a way to collect that carbon while the cremation process is taking place. And as you know, diamonds are made from carbon that's been super-compressed and heated or something like that.

Come on, put it together. I know you can do it.

That's right. This company can take your recently dearly departed Aunt Edna, bake her, compress her, and turn her into a shiny, ridiculously expensive diamond you can then have put into a ring or a tiara or a necklace you can wear around your neck like an albatross until the end of time.

See, the way I figure it, this idea was inevitable. We already memorialize our dead in dozens of odd and archaic and strange and overly-attached ways. But we still hadn't figured out how to keep them with us always. Oh, sure, ashes in a pretty jar, but that's at home and in this day and age who is home all the time?

Now, we can wear them 24-7, dead bodies baked and pressed into small stones we can wear as decoration. Yum. Are we impressed with our own technology, are we ever, golly gee.

How do you explain this to coworkers when you show up to work wearing a fancy new diamond ring? No, no, I didn't just get engaged. No, it wasn't a gift to myself. I got it from Aunt Edna.

[Holds ring up to coworker's face] I don't believe you two have met. Sally, meet Aunt Edna. Aunt Edna, Sally.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I have trouble accepting death rituals anyway. They seem elaborate and horrifying and archaic by turns. We put a dead body in a box with the lid lifted up. We slather this decaying, e. coli-ridden corpse in makeup, stuff solvents inside of it so it doesn't smell during the ritual, place flowers all around the box so no visitors could possibly miss its existence, and then we stand around drinking tea and nibbling on proper little cakes or cookies while talking to people we only see at weddings and funerals, yes I'm doing fine thanks job's going well and how's little Timmy doing? As though there weren't a dead body in the room. It's like when you're in an elevator and someone farts. Everyone knows someone farted. Everyone knows who did it. But you all stand there anyway pretending that the fart smell isn't curling your nose hairs. Funerals are like that. Everyone's standing around visiting and talking and trying to pretend there isn't something dead in the room. In squirrels we call it roadkill, in humans we call it a memorial. Potato, potahto, I suppose.

I can see so many terrible applications for this.

1. The husband dies, the wife gets him made into a diamond (and there's a phrase I never thought I would write) and she wears it on her hand. That hand is going to feel awfully heavy at times. And what if she starts dating again? Does she take her husband off and put him in a drawer? Does she wear her husband on the date? And if her husband's going in the drawer what was the purpose of having him crammed into a diamond in the first place?

2. Grandma Ruth dies and the family has her carbonized for eternity. She's attached to a lovely gold chain that goes to her granddaughter on her 16th birthday. Happy birthday, Jennifer, here's a lovely 14k gold dead grandmother to wear around your neck. Make sure you tell all future boys you date about Grandma Ruth watching over you from a place that's real close by.

Even more interesting and horrifying and thought-inspiring is the fact that the guy in the interview said it's actually possible to make up to 50 diamonds from a single body. What are they going to do with the rest of the body? Make more diamonds for themselves? Where are these diamonds going to go? What if some nice young couple is picking out an engagement ring six months from now and it turns out to be Grandma Ruth?

I wonder if you can specify what part of the body you want the diamond made from? The mind reels.

Even more horrifying and ridiculous and crazy: “At LifeGem, we understand that people love their pets like children. We take that into account and, of course, offer our services and products to pet owners as well. ”

It's not cheap to get this kind of priceless sicko memorial, either. The price is steep. Eight thousand dollars minimum, that's for two 1/4 carat diamonds. Eight thousand dollars.

Or, just as an alternative, you could pick up a set of 1/4c. earrings for $400 and take yourself on one hell of a vacation with the leftover money. Talk about a better way to celebrate a life and memorialize a loved one. Thanks, Aunt Edna.

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