"I told you I was sick!"

By R.T. Jordan

“I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather… Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.”

—Will Shriner

Heh, heh. You’ll need a sense of humor when you find the lovely parting gift your loved one has left when said loved one’s earthly remains need to be ditched. What could be so difficult about getting rid of Grandma Sally’s body after she leaves to meet up with Grandpa Larry at the Decay Buffet? It’s not that hard, but it sure can be expensive-o! Don’t be surprised by surprises.

E.T. BONE HOME (Some Stuff About “Cremains”)

C'mon baby, light my fire.

This edition of BRUISES THE GIN is a bit o’ macabre fun that’s mostly about “mortal remains,” or more accurately, “cremains.” There’s a lot to be said for the cost effectiveness of lighting a flame under the dearly departed’s rigor mortised butt, rather than spending $10,000 on a full-on funeral home burial that includes a casket, vault, flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards, perhaps a celebratory party if the goner was Shari Draper (read Ben Tyler’s too-hot-to-handle novel TRICKS OF THE TRADE to understand this Hollywood insider’s joke).

Cremains—or ashes to you and me­­—but not really.

When Grandma Sally comes out of the oven and is swept into a plastic bag and delivered to you in a cardboard box roughly the dimensions of a “Harry Potter” novel, what you’re actually receiving is her pulverized skeleton. Shocked? Dear Grandma Sally’s body and organs vaporized while she was busy baking her buns for an hour and a half—at 1400o–2100o F. If you’ve been paying attention to “NCIS” you know that bones don’t burn. So it’s off to the cremulator, which is a fancy name for a big ol’ pulverizer­—think stone grinder that mills wheat or corn into meal. Twenty minutes later, voila! The process is complete and the powder is ready to be scooped up, poured into a Ziploc bag, then transferred to an urn or buried in the ground, or scattered hither and thither. Or not.

But are you getting your elegant Aunt Cora’s cremains or those of Agatha Dee, some anonymous ne’er-do-well whom Auntie would never have invited to her famous candlelight suppers (tip o’ the chapeau to Hyacinth Bucket!). Aunt Cora was a bird of a thing compared to fatso Agatha, whose midnight runs from her bed under the freeway overpass to the corner trash can for snacks contributed to her demise. (Homeless but fat. Only in America.) Do the math. Cora’s cremains should weigh a lot less than Agatha’s. Check the weight. It’s been said that loved ones have a sixth sense about the right/wrong cremains they’re given by funeral homes or crematoriums. Could be a mix up or …

According to an article published in USA Today (April 28, 2006), there’s a huge demand for body parts on the black market. Things such as bones and tendons as well as organs are prized by tissue banks. According to the article the price of a brain is $600.00 (with or without a Ph.D), and $850 for a hand.  An analysis of market prices for fresh or Green Giant frozen body parts used for research and education was compiled by Annie Cheney, author of Body Brokers: Inside America’s Underground Trade in Human Remains. Buy this fascinating book, which every mystery writer in America should own, and every one who knows a dead person will find fascinating.

The same article explains, “[Some] Funeral home employees, crematorium operators and others with access to the recently deceased have secretly dismembered corpses, taking non-organ body parts such as knees, spines, bone and skin without the knowledge or consent of family members.”

Alistair Cooke, the famed British/American journalist and renowned host of Masterpiece Theater for 22 years, was a victim of body snatching. For the grisly stuff click here.

Neat and complete. Well maybe not so much. Here are a few anecdotes from people who thought, as many of us do, that arguing over the division of the estate is the biggest problem when mums or da-da or your SO’s passport to planet Earth expires.

Jorge worked in the “death care” biz, in a retail casket store. He says that funeral homes are a money-grubbing, hit-you-up-for-all-you’re-worth racket. “Funeral homes don’t like to have bereaved families buying caskets and urns from retailers [see the below referenced list for a few special places to buy cheaper burial/cremation stuff] because they make so much money selling coffins at insanely marked up prices.”

While strong-arming emotionally numb survivors interested in buying less expensive caskets from retailers (or even the funeral home: “Tsk tsk. You want the welfare casket?”), many funeral homes will go out of their way to make the burial or cremation process as difficult as possible.

Recalling one particular incident, Jorge says, “You’ve heard of ‘dead weight’. This one funeral home I dealt with intentionally damaged a casket from our store out of spite, so we had to personally take the body from the ruined casket and place it in a new one. The funeral home people just stood back and wouldn’t lift a finger to help. So my boss picked up the dead man’s feet, and I took the upper body and together we desperately struggled to get this dead weight over to the next casket. All I could think of is that I hoped it wouldn’t rip.”

Was he wearing clean socks?


Exactly what you’re picturing. Yeah, it happens.  “There are two occasions where this could easily occur,” Jorge continues. “In drowning, the body is bloated and limbs start to disjoint from the muscles because they’re all fluid. The same sort of thing happens with embalming fluid. They take out all the blood and replace it with formaldehyde and methanol and stuff to preserve the body. That means there are a lot of hollow spaces filled with these fluids. So we’re lifting the body, but there wasn’t any support in the middle and I thought it was going to literally rip apart. There was some fluid leakage coming out through the ears and nose, but the guy remained intact.”

[Ed note: A dressed corpse in a casket could be hiding all sorts of stuff the family wouldn’t want to know about. But you’re probably better off not thinking about this, or checking. Sorry I brought it up.]

Camille wanted to have her pet cremated. Yeah, pet cremation is big business. She had a frog. Seriously. But it was a special prince of an exotic frog so we’ll give her the benefit of the sanity doubt.

“It was the size of a dime,” she says of the frog.  “After a year and a half he suddenly passed away. I had him picked up to be cremated and his remains were to be delivered back to me in a few days. Instead, I got a phone call saying that there was nothing to deliver because he just went up in a puff of smoke and disappeared into thin air­­—just like the $75.00 I paid for this ‘service.’”

This is where a toilet would have been as good as any other means of disposal. Camille was naturally disappointed but agrees that they could have brought her cigarette ashes as a ruse. Instead, they chose to be honest. However, she also agrees that they should have known in advance that it was possible there would be no remains due to the small size, which would have allowed her to make other arrangements. (I’m seeing that toilet again!)

Jim’s story gives new meaning to the phrase, “From ashes to ashes …” When his dad died, Jim agreed to take the cremains to his home in Alaska, where dear ol’  wanted to be scattered. Procrastinator that he is, Jim stashed the box under his bed—where it stayed until the house burned down.

Tim (a real dufus) was selected to spread the ashes of his friend and neighbor Don from the balcony of the deceased’s home in the Hollywood Hills.  It was a lovely spring evening.  The invited guests were sufficiently inebriated. Timmy indicated that it was time to do the deed. Gathering on the deck, Sunset Boulevard in the distance below, Tim said a few words in praise of Don’s long life and accomplishments, then opened the cardboard box, and … instead of the powder wafting away like the Old South in Gone With the Wind, the Ziploc bag fell out of the box and into the impossible-to-reach canyon 100 feet below. Tim has a history of grotesque failures. He once caught his own manhood in the zipper of his jeans. [Ed. note: Always wear your BVDs!)

Suggestions from a “USA Today” Article that appeared on April 28, 2006

  • Home
The chance is slim (but this tragedy actually happened to a friend of this writer)
that a loved one’s body or body parts will be stolen for personal profit after
he or she dies, but the following are some suggested tips to help prevent theft:

• Witness the cremation. If the loved one is to be cremated, more crematoriums today have set up viewing rooms where family members can watch the body be put into the cremation furnace.
• When a loved one dies, family members may agree to donate some or all of the body for research or transplant. The family should ask for and keep a copy of the consent form that was signed. It should include information on what the family agreed to donate.
• Research the funeral home that is chosen, who the owner may be, what his or her affiliations are. While the request may be legitimate, family members should be cautious if a funeral operator also approaches to ask about donating the body. (Source: Annie Cheney, Body Brokers: Inside America’s Underground Trade in Human Remains.)

TRIVIA (Or, stuff I didn’t know)

“I’d love to slit my mother-in-law’s corsets and watch her spread to death.” Phyllis Diller

• The so-called “Death Care” industry rakes in $11 billion a year.
• There are 22,000 funeral homes in America.
• Cemeteries number approximately 115,000
• Over eleven hundred crematories are “scattered” about the country.
• Enough embalming fluid is used each year to fill eight Olympic-size swimming pools.

* * *

Here at BRUSES THE GIN we’re not short on offering seemingly screwy info that also enlightens our readers. Hence we provide the ammo to help you make up your inquiring minds about all sorts of alternatives to exploring aspects of life–and death. E.g.:

Wine in a bottle vs. vino in a box?
Squeeze the Charmin or the dingle berries brand of paper that those animated bears in the television commercials use?
Praise Allah, or Oprah?

‘Sup to you, dear readers.

So, here’s the promised list of some cool places where you can save a bundle as you prep to send your stiff off to the Bone Zone.

“It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Woody Allen.


Simple instructions for the do-it-yourself types.

Kent Casket Industries

Assembly kits! Fun for the whole family. These folks provide low cost biodegradable caskets for natural “green” burials and cremations and are perfect for orthodox Jewish burials.  Easy assembly, too!

A simple cardboard casket offers the opportunity for personalization since you can draw or paint on them. Kid’s (ages 10 and under) love this!

Cremation Products Inc.
Gilroy, CA 95020

Says it all!

10 Indiana Ave.
Asheville, NC 28806

Cremation Urns by Legacy Inc.
Fido and Frisky will love these!
4285 Express Lane, #H7978
Sarasota, FL 34238

Eternity International Inc.
210 San Antonio Circle, Suite 141
Mountain View, CA 94040
(650) 559-7755

If you’re repulsed by the above, you’ll love R.T. Jordan’s series of Polly Pepper murder mysteries. However, R.T. tends to pulverize celebrities, rather than every day folk.  Charlie Sheen is ready for his close-up!

"Jordan's zany, name-dropping tale is laugh-out-loud funny." --LIBRARY JOURNAL



  1. R.T. you’re so funny. You’re KILLING me!!!!

    • In a good way, I hope! Ha! Perhaps my theme song should be “Killing Me Softly.” (Whatever happened to Roberta Flack? Loved her!)
      Thank, Dorothy, for your kind words!!!!

  2. Laura Levine says:

    I wanted to write a long note about how much fun I know this blog is going to be, but I’ve got to go and assemble my casket.
    Your fan,

    • God, you crack me up, Laura! Assemble your casket, indeed! I’m buying the one that comes with crayons so my friends can have fun writing good riddance messages before I hit the oven!

  3. Louise Helbert says:

    Know matter what the subject matter (alive or dead) that you put to pen Richard, you are fabulous!

    Fondly with love,
    Louise Helbert

  4. Laura Levine says:

    Count me in as an official subscriber.

    • You’re in edition #2, which posts on August 1st! Thank you again for your terrific contribution! As I said before, next martini’s are on me!!!!

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