I got the idea for my story on Every Day Fiction today, “The Day My Neighbor Amputated One of My Grandmother’s Limbs,” from two real methods of preserving human remains–the Bios Urn and the LifeGem.
I first heard about the LifeGem about 9 or 10 years ago. It’s a method of compressing the ashes of a loved one–human or animal–into a gem stone. Being about 19 at the time, I thought this idea was bonkers.
“Love your earrings. What are they? Sapphires?”
“No, it’s my mother.”
As I’ve gotten older (not necessarily more mature), I think of it a little differently. It strikes me in two different ways, depending on my mood. Sometimes it strikes me as sad, this inability to let someone go. The need to literally preserve a loved one’s remains and keep them nearby at all times. But I see how it can provide comfort, although then I picture someone rubbing the gem in times of stress. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be rubbed without consent.
I’m sure there’s a sci-fi story in here somewhere about a consciousness trapped inside of a gemstone, living forever, being passed down through the ages…
The Bios Urn is a more recent development, which I heard of last year. It’s a more organic alternative, returning a loved one’s body and life energy to the soil and using it to provide energy and sustenance to a new life: a tree. This appeals to the modern-day hippie in me.
Then I got to thinking, what if someone got really attached to this tree? What if they took “tree hugging” to an entirely different level? What if something happened to this tree? So this little story was born, a combination of both LifeGem and Bios Urn. These thoughts and ideas were compressed into a seed which grew into something new.
Everyone grieves in different ways. Everything we do to a body after death, whether it’s stick it in a box, burn it to ashes, squeeze it into a gem, or use it to plant a tree, it all seems a bit goofy when you think about it.
This story is about seeing another person’s point of view and trying to understand it. It’s not always easy, and it doesn’t always happen. An often the people who are different, the ones who really want to be understood, they, too, have a difficult time empathizing with others or dismissing them as bonkers.
Empathy is an eternal process. Like life. Like death.