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Funny Messy Life

80 EpisodesProduced by Michael BlackstonWebsite

Stories about life, relationships, and culture delivered in a way that will help brighten your day or at least make you ask, "What is he smokin'?" But don't worry. It's all in good fun and it's family friendly. I'm Michael Blackston and these are tales from my blog - in audio form - all based on rea… read more


What A Way To Go - 034

   I work in the death industry. That’s the way I put it when I don’t feel like going into detail about what I do for a living and would rather you left me alone about it. It’s not very often that I have to give that as an answer because I usually like to talk to people about my job. But sometimes it’s been a tough day and all I want to think about are cuddly puppies and cheese steak sandwiches, so if you ask me what I do, I’ll reply, “I work in the death industry,” and that’ll probably end the conversation. But not always. In this episode, we won’t talk too much about what I do for a living, but because of my vocation, I hear some strange stories and I also frequently think about how my own passing will be handled. I’m Michael Blackston and this is my Funny, Messy, Life.


   Because I etch pretty pictures on gravestones for a living, and by the way, that seems like a decently short answer to give as well and isn’t as creepy, people will sometimes ask what my own tombstone will look like, whether I’ll be buried or cremated, etc. We’ll get to that in a minute. Right now, I want to discuss something that seems to be a growing trend in the funeral game and that is something called, Extreme Embalming

   I remember first hearing about it on the radio and checking it out, then saying to myself, “Self, that would make a funny topic for the podcast,” so I wrote it down in a note app on my phone and promptly forgot about it. There was probably a cuddly puppy or a cheese steak sandwich nearby or a cuddly puppy WITH a cheese steak sandwich nearby, which brings to question what I would do to get the sandwich away from a puppy who would be very eager to eat a cheese steak and how far I would go to wrench it from the little thing’s jaws. Would I hurt the puppy because I’m bigger? Would I coax it to let go of the sandwich with old fries from under the seat of my car? Would I just gnaw on the other end until me and the puppy met in the middle like the spaghetti scene from Lady And The Tramp? You can see how my mind works and why I might forget about the Extreme Embalming topic for a while.

   But I’m back to it and if you’re wondering what it is and don’t feel like googling it yourself, then stay with me. My initial reaction was, “That’s gross and stupid and dumb and gross!” My second reaction was, “That’s not entirely different from something they used to do in the old days.” My third reaction was, “I’d probably try the cold fries from under the seat first.”

   Extreme embalming is the practice of normally embalming a body, but instead of placing the body in a coffin with hands folded and eyes closed so they look peaceful and at rest like decent people, the family chooses to create a scenario for the viewing and sets up the body of the deceased in an interesting and whimsical pose as if they were still alive and having one hum-dinger of a time. This is a real thing!

   Did you hear me? This is a real thing!

   Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

   Uncle Walt has passed. He was old and he went peacefully, but he was also a maverick and Danger was his middle name. Uncle Walt had been a rodeo cowboy in his heyday. Perhaps the family feels like this is an occasion for an Extreme Embalming and so when you walk into the funeral home, you aren’t met with the fragrance of flowers, old lady’s perfume, and a casket at the end of the room with people somberly giving their condolences. No, it’s a rodeo with hay bales and ropes and barrels with goofy clowns hiding in them. And over in the corner, because Uncle Walt was a bull rider, there’s a mechanical bull like you see in honky tonk cowboy bars, going wide open. Hollers of “YEEEEE HAAAWWW!” and “RIDE  ‘EM, COWBOY!” or maybe even “GITTALONG, LITTLE DOGGIE!” pierce through the crowd full of mourners. But you don’t get a chance to ride the bull. Oh no, that’s a privilege reserved for just one man. Uncle Walt. He’s been strapped to the mechanical bull so he don’t go flying off and his right arm is stuck high up in the air holding his hat. Uncle Walt is flopping around on that mechanical bull the whole time - just as stiff as a board, but holding on to that thing for dear … well, I would say life, but … you know, and flailing around to and fro like a champion because the bolts they used to screw him on are bigguns. In my sick mind, I hear the mortician in my head stepping back after tightening the bolts and saying, “That ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

   You can find pictures of some of these scenes online if you’ve got the stomach for it and I guess I can understand the sentiment. Like I said, there was a time that something akin to this was a normal practice. In the Victorian era, when photography was brand new, people realized that if they took a photo of their deceased loved ones before they were buried, they could have one last thing to remember them by. Before cameras, if you wanted a picture of somebody after they died, you had to get an artist to draw them.

   “Call the doctor! And while y’uns is at it, fetch cousin Ruby. She draws good!”

   In my line of work, I’ve seen several modern day photos of bodies in caskets taken at the funeral home. But back in the day, they didn’t just take a pic right before the lid was closed on the coffin. They posed Granny in her favorite rocking chair and put the photo in an album filled with other photos just like it. They even had a name for albums like that - The Book of the Dead - and once again, if you have the nerve, Google will happily show you some photos. Just search Victorian Book of the Dead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you can’t sleep tonight. And you can’t blame the cheese steak.

  I don’t see the need of having my body Embalmed Extremely. I won’t be doing that to any of my loved ones, either. But don’t think for a second that I haven’t thought out what my scene might look like. After all, I’m also a playwright and creating scenes is something I do. So if it becomes a law that Extreme Embalming MUST be done at every funeral, here is what I’m asking my family to do at my viewing …

   I want there to be a living room setting with a big, comfy couch. On the wall is the largest flat screen TV you can get at the time and on that TV is a Georgia Bulldog football game. We better be playing a good team and we better be winning. I want to be sitting in the middle of the couch, dressed from head to toe in UGA gear. I want people to be tossing a football around the room and at least every two and a half minutes, whoever is holding the ball has to strike the Heisman pose. If they don’t a safety will be awarded to somebody the person holding the ball will have to punt.

   On my right hand, which is raised like Uncle Walt’s because I’m cheering for my team, is an enormous, red, foam #1 finger. In my left hand is a cheese steak. Sitting next to me is the bulldog puppy I just took the cheese steak from. There is to be a bowl of Cadbury Creme Eggs on the coffee table in front of me and several other bowls of assorted chips and dips. The game should be one from before November 20, 2011 because I want the sound on the TV turned all the way down and a radio in the room blaring the call of the game by Larry Munson. Now that I think of it, I want it to be the Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott RUN LINDSAY, RUN! win over Florida. At halftime, I want Bulldawg Bite played by the Redcoat Marching Band.

  Seriously, though, I do have a plan. I want to be cremated and I want to build and etch my own urn. It’ll be black granite and I’ll etch things pertaining to my life and loves on all four sides. But it won’t hold all of my ashes - only one third of them. I want the other two thirds handled in a special way

    I want one third of my ashes mixed into paints and a painting created by an artist. I want the last third mixed into ink and a hardcover copy of my first book, Mr. Long Said Nothing, printed and encased in glass to be handed down to future generations of Blackstons.

   Yep, I recognize that’s kind of morbid and probably stupid expensive, but in my line of work, you get a little numb when it comes to these things. I guess if it’s too expensive to to that stuff, my next of kin could go to the Dollar Tree and pick up a cheap glass to throw my funky dust in - it won’t matter to me anyway. I know where I’m going and you wouldn’t be able to drag me back if you wanted to.

   Just … please, don’t bolt me to a mechanical bull.

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