Close this search box.

My Leftovers: Scattered, Not Boxed


I attended a funeral for a cousin whose death came too early. She’d beaten breast cancer, twice, but years of smoking and living around heavy smokers finally took its toll. The experience reinforced my desire to spend eternity fertilizing the earth instead of being locked up in a box and forgotten.

My perspective is the result of years with parents and relatives who’ve all had open caskets at their funerals. I’ve heard of grown children, squabbling over details of their parent’s funeral. I’ve seen young children stand in bewilderment, waiting for their loved one to wake up. I’ve seen people talk to, and caress, the deceased while wailing in grief, and I’ve watched people whisper as they’re viewing the departed.

Let’s face it… When we have “one last look,” we have one of two comments:

  • “Oh, doesn’t she look good?” We pretend they did a wonderful job with hairspray and makeup, trying to replicate a photo or follow directions from family members. I’ve seen too many people who don’t look at all “natural” and those visions are burned into my memory. I have never seen anyone who looks good.
  • “Oh, she looks terrible. That doesn’t look like her at all.” We might not acknowledge it, but most often the attempt to make the deceased look lifelike fails miserably. Instead of remembering what was real and meaningful, we’re left with memories of what looked like an imposter.

I want my family to hold a celebration of life with lots of pictures and poignant stories. Afterwards I want the crowd (hopefully there will be one) to share memories over a feast of fajitas, shrimp, margaritas and champagne. If there’s a need for closure, hold a photo of me, grasp a family member’s hand, and talk about the good times we had.

My husband and I recently created a trust for our assets, not because we have great wealth, but because we want to make things easier on our children. We have wills, advance directives to physicians and a document sharing our wishes for our “handling” after death. I encourage you to do the same for your heirs if you haven’t already.

Today we have so many intriguing options for our bodies after death. We can be turned into diamonds, tattoos, reefs or fireworks. When my days on this earth are done, I want my earthly vessel to be returned to ashes and scattered among the vineyards in Italy. For years to come, I will be part of conversations between girlfriends, fun-filled family dinners and joyous celebrations as I nurture the soil to produce good wine. Plus it will be a heck of a trip for my family to take me there!

How about you? Have you made your plans?


Share this Story

Susan is passionate about helping women become stronger and more vibrant by helping them define what’s truly important in life. Like all of our Contributing Writers, Susan has found herself at a major crossroads. Her site was one of the top five resources for women over 50, but she felt it wasn’t enough. She now supports women—on a deeper level—and 1010 Park Place is excited to host Susan Tolles’ Q&A’s. She will answer your questions about integrating your life with your desires. Susan doesn’t do fluff. She digs deep. Want to create a legacy that goes beyond material possessions? Ask Susan! Susan can also be found at

11 thoughts on “My Leftovers: Scattered, Not Boxed”

  1. My brother passed at 44 from cancer. On his deathbed, he did not look himself. My young nieces would have that final memory of him had we not had an open casket. They were so surprised to see their dad look like himself in the casket. Yet I also have been to wakes where the funeral parlor didn’t do such a good job. It’s not an easy decision to make.

    Lastly, FYI on taking ashes over seas. My friend was taking her parents ashes to Ireland to scatter. She had no idea how lengthy a process it is to take ashes over seas and hadn’t started the paperwork far enough in advance to take them on her trip.

  2. We are making lots of plans but your article has reminded me to get it all in ink. My fiancé was a widower and we know that you cannot take these things for granted. We have already done lots of the financial legwork and have even visited a cemetery to look at plots. Personally, I love the idea of being made into a diamond.

    • Jen, I love the diamond idea too! But I’m not sure my daughters would want to “wear mom” around. Maybe some of my ashes could be made into fireworks and displayed at my “going home celebraton!”

  3. Susan – this is such an important topic to discuss, and a conversation we all should have more than once, since we will are all just passing through!
    Having everything legally handled, and your wishes outlined is very helpful to family when they are mourning your loss. My sister’s clear instructions about her last wishes offered us a lot of comfort and a sense of direction at a time when we needed it most!

    • Donna, you have inspired me with your downsizing! It is an important part of leaving things in order for those who come behind to take car of our “stuff.” Even today, I am cleaning out my closet and have five bags to take to Safe Place. All the time, I am thinking of the women who need those clothes much more than I do. Plus, it’s a gift to my children! We never know when our last day will be, so careful planning will make things so much easier, as you experienced first-hand.

  4. Susan,I too want to be Scattered,Not Boxed.
    My family of boys(men) are all keen clay shooters so I thought it appropriate that my ashes be turned into a clay disk and used at target practise as my family fired into the air during a celebration party.Not sure if my wishes will be carried out however it sounds like a great ending to my beautiful life.

Comments are closed.


Sign up to our list and we’ll send you our sought-after guide “50 Ways To Change Your Life”
I'm happy you've joined us! If you like what you read, I'd love for you to stay and subscribe to our updates by email. We have a great community of like-minded women, and your presence can only make it stronger.