Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Urns To Die For - by Sybil Sage

"Would you rather be buried or cremated?" is a question some of us are asked more frequently than "Want to get it on?" so I've been reflecting on it. The problem was less about the how than the what. The truth is I want to stick around, which isn't always an option. The closest one gets is being the last one standing on "American Idol."

In a recent special, Barbara Walters and other A-listers who'd had open heart surgery -- David Letterman, Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton and Regis Philbin -- admitted the experience had forced them to confront their mortality and recognize that the good table reserved for them will one day be on the other side, where Elaine Kaufman has probably edged out St. Peter and is directing traffic.

It's clear that we're all going to die and can't take our Sleep Number beds with us. Though I have friends who've been diagnosed with control issues, I'm the only one who's created her own cremation urn. To future generations, I won't be reduced to "beloved daughter, sister, wife, mother" (and perhaps "bubby"), as they will see photos of me on a beautiful mosaic urn -- beaming at our son's graduations, admiring a Buddhist temple and hiking in Costa Rica (with nothing to suggest that I turned back after four minutes). I embedded only flattering photos and used our dinnerware so the pattern, if not my face, will be familiar to our son.

With the growing popularity of cremation, it was clear that others would be excited to have an urn like this. Though it aired decades ago, I've never forgotten the memorable Barney's commercial (when Barney and the writer of the ad, Steve Gordon, were going strong). Young boys sitting on a stoop were answering the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Each kid took his turn, expressing a lofty aspiration. The spot ended with Barney shrugging, "I don't know, but they're all going to need clothes."

That brings me to my online mosaic art boutique (, where along with other functional art, there are now urns, the Et URN ity and Pet URN ity. These are done on a commission basis. The client chooses the colors and provides photos that I re-size and mount onto clear glass, integrating them as well as other personal items (a business card, final Twitter update, signature, etc.) onto a metal urn. They can be ordered in advance by those who demand photo approval, or when needed.

Seeing what I'd done, a friend gasped, "Those urns are to die for!!"