To me personally, the most interesting chapter in Over My Dead Body is about Cremation. This is a growing practice nationwide. Two people I know and respect are part of this story, and it involves a place I didn’t find out about while I was there in Oakland, CA–Julia Morgan and Phil. I recently read a new biography about Morgan who became the 1st licensed female architect in California and is responsible for the house my brother lives in in Oakland. She was a true woman pioneer.

Greg Melville, the author of Over My Dead Body calls her Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland her masterpiece. It is never mentioned in her biography, which I read avidly, and it remains a controversial construction. As traditional burial grounds are running out of space, there is new thinking, and cremation is rising as an accepted practice. In 1960, 2% of deaths resulted in cremation. In 1995 cremation was selected by 20% of those who were dying for disposal of their bodies. That is a huge increase and it is a growing practice everywhere. It didn’t catch on as a means of disposal for human bodies until the middle of the 19th century. In fact, it was mostly considered oddball heresy. The Catholic Church did not approve it until 1963, and it remains highly controversial among practicing Catholics. Our daughter-in-law’s father recently died. I was surprised when I learned that Phil had selected cremation as the way to dispose of his human remains. This was not readily accepted by some in his family, especially among those family members who are staunch, very traditional Catholics, as he was.

The chapter in Over My Dead Body that deals with this subject is Chapter 15. It is appropriately called “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. When I read Julia Morgan’s biography, Hearst’s Castle was considered her masterpiece. This home built by William Randolph Hearst high above the California coast is as famous as the White House in Washington, DC. Some would call it the most famous 2nd residence in America. Hearst stuffed it with what he considered to be European treasures. Julia Morgan worked on it for more than 25 years. She completely designed both its interior and its exterior.

Her Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland contains vaulted glass ceilings, several courtyards, many chambers, a garden of memories, and is the final resting place for more than 30,000 people. It would probably not exist if traditional cemeteries were not running out of space, COVID hadn’t happened, and plagues had not troubled Europeans over time. It has already become standard practice in Europe for citizens of many countries to rent burial spaces for a few years. In Japan, 99.8% of people are already cremated.

The other name for crematoriums is columbariums. They’re already common in many places with high populations. The Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, a place I wish I had seen, is on Piedmont Avenue and is widely known. I found it interesting that Julia Morgan chose traditional burial as opposed to being cremated. And I would not be surprised if cremation is defeated by economic factors. Burials are expensive but cremation is a costly practice too and a big source of mercury in our environment from dental fillings.


About roads-rus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roads-rus

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