I'm Oliver Webber, here with my research assistant, Kaydence Ribetnauer. You may not be able to see us because we're tucked in between these blades of grass, waiting for our next meal to fly in and land on one of them. To nourish our bodies and souls, we ponder leaves. We encourage contemplation... especially in regard to issues that will have to be handled when we become worm grub. We hope to motivate others to thoughtfully cultivate preferences and decisions while still vigorously leaping around. We recommend croaking... using voices to broadcast wishes before it's too late to have a voice in this matter. Other than a sumptuous supply of insects, this is assuredly the most "toad-ally" considerate gift we could leave for our life companions! Don't you agree? We invite you to get your feet wet by joining our pond of pondering pre-planners. Let's make croaking meaningful!

Friday, September 28, 2012



Vehicular gridlock in cities, pollution from internal-combustion engines, and obesity caused by sedentary habits are “out.”  Bicycles are “in.”  Portland, Oregon is at the top of the list of places where purposeful and recreational bike riding has become an increasingly common lifestyle.  In fact, this mecca was dubbed “America’s most bike-friendly city” by Bicycling Magazine, and there is even a website (BikePortland.org) to promote the practice.  People on bikes there are accommodated by designated street lanes and parking corrals in front of businesses.  Cycling commuters wield a conspicuous presence amid their motored counterparts.  The city serves as a prototype for other large metropolitan areas seeking to encourage this mode of transportation and even launch bike-share programs allowing residents to rent bikes (for an hour or a day) from kiosks.   

So for many folks in Portland, using bikes to get around is a way of life.  But an enterprising cemetery operator in a community a couple of hours south of the city has also made it a way of death.  With the goal of transforming the Sunset Hills Cemetery in Eugene, Oregon into a natural burial site, a range of ecologically sound products and services are being offered.  One of them is the use of a bicycle hearse!  A three-wheeled bike was adapted so that an open-air structure bearing a casket or coffin can be placed inside it. 

Of course, biking to a final resting place has been possible for a long time simply by contracting with a business that operates motorcycle hearses.  It’s a matter of locating one of multiple companies available to provide both the equipment and the service (a driver) within one’s geographical region. Some pull glass-enclosed coaches, √† la nineteenth-century convention, or carriages suggestive of a style from the old west.  Others have adapted motorcycles so that sidecars support the caskets.

But if you would like your last ride to be away from the roar or drone of mechanized sounds, watch for emergence of the wheeled carriers earmarked by “zero emissions” and propelled by people (hopefully, also functioning in the absence of any untoward emissions!).  If you opt for this type of trendy transport, your life companions are apt to garner lasting memories of the trip to your grave.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012



Neil Armstrong was “on board” when the decision was made relative to the disposition of his bodily remains. One might have assumed that this former astronaut would want a portion of his cremated particles to be encapsulated in a container attached to a rocket during a scheduled space mission.  Although a number of astrologically or astronomically oriented folks have taken that route, it’s an expensive way to “go out with a blast.”  Sub-orbital and orbital services for end-of-life purposes are available for anyone willing to spend big bucks to head toward far reaches of the cosmos in minimized form.  

Alternatively, this pioneer – whose “one small step” upon the moon’s surface signified “one giant leap for mankind” – chose to embrace connotation within an earthly domain.   Before joining the NASA program and carrying out space missions, he had served in the Navy.  An initial plunge into a Naval ROTC program while in college led to full immersion in his role during the Korean War – as a fighter pilot while stationed aboard an aircraft carrier in the Sea of Japan.  Water was always pivotal to his work, whether he was completing missions in a plane or heading back to earth in a spacecraft.  Upon returning from extraterrestrial odysseys, direct contact with it meant that he had arrived home. 

Knowing that, one might have assumed there would be a full-body sea burial by way of a Naval ship.  For this, a metal casket is prepared according to specifications that dictate boring of holes in the bottom, weighting with concrete, and wrapping with heavy bands.  Burials for veterans take place during regular missions, at which time a military ceremony is conducted and the casket that rests upon a conveyor apparatus is advanced over the ship’s side and into the water.  Ocean burials in similar fashion are available through maritime businesses as well. 

But the unassuming and private man who shunned celebrity opted for a less conspicuous exodus.  Instead of a widely heralded and televised “splashdown” like those so familiar to him in the past, Armstrong’s final journey to the ocean floor took place quietly in the absence of media.  His wife along with a Naval officer simply dropped the urn containing Neil’s cremated remains over the side of a Naval aircraft carrier – in a manner available to most all folks who at some time were members of the Armed Forces.  A restrained and succinct ceremony included remarks by a Navy chaplain, three volleys fired in tribute from a firing squad, and the playing of "Taps."  An American flag was folded according to tradition and presented to his wife.

The day before, a memorial service had been attended by about 1500 people in the Washington National Cathedral, where a stained glass window contains part of a moon rock the Apollo 11 crew brought back to earth.  Here is where this hero’s stellar life was recognized through meaningful tributes. Excerpts from a speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy fifty years ago alluded to the American rationale for moon exploration.  Diana Krall sang Bart Howard’s  “Fly Me To The Moon” as a reiteration of a rendition sung by her at the Smithsonian Institute in 2009 on the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing.  The service was broadcast via NASA’s television station. 

This was one of the universe’s most storied planet-trotting explorers.   Certainly, his ultimate ending warranted far more attention and pomp.  But as a pre-planner he had made his voice heard.  His wishes came to fruition in a way that was appropriate for him, untarnished by observances bespeaking societal expectations.  

And, in the end, relevance was achieved not only in terms of connecting with this trailblazer’s role in American history, but also by reflecting his characteristically humble persona.  Through commonplace measures, symbolism and significance prevailed. 

Monday, September 3, 2012



Imagine how people scurrying through the streets of Manhattan might appear when viewed from above.  What a massive array of human protoplasm!  Most likely, airborne observers way up in the sky would conjure images of swiftly moving ants… or maybe even animated globs… or specks if they are flying high enough. 

Though there are many of us on this planet, and though we share similarities, each one of us is different.  Just as each person’s handprint is distinct, so is each one’s life.  As you recall funeral affairs you’ve attended, can you remember proceedings that truly marked the uniqueness of the person who had died? In the past, your recollections probably would have been blurry, but nowadays you are more apt to come away from such events with a sense of personalized clarity.

Funeral home administrators as well as consumers are recognizing the worth of enhancing or replacing traditional fare to commemorate a life.  Actually, in many instances, “life celebration” is the preferred jargon for an event.  “Cookie cutter” approaches are becoming pass√©.  Instead, each decedent is more apt to be recognized for the manner in which he or she impacted family members and communities.  Individual experiences, accomplishments, characteristics, and signature features are being accentuated so that someone’s spirit endures within the minds of others long after one’s physical presence is gone. 

Although the bereavement of death cannot and should not be denied, through the tears, features of someone’s life can be highlighted joyfully.  Recently I met a woman in her nineties whose husband died several years ago.  To this day, she beams with satisfaction because of the way she managed his funerary proceedings.  The burial took place on a Tuesday so that the most difficult part of the occasion could be completed promptly.  The following weekend, she found a way to draw attention to her beloved companion’s talent and wit.  As an adjunct to a memorial service, several of his carpentry projects depicting his sense of humor were displayed.  One was a small, hand-carved edifice resembling a gazebo that had a wooden block with tacks in it; it was a “tax shelter” that had been given to a lawyer for his desk.  Another was a wooden number one with a hole in the middle of it for a golfer.  A replica of a man’s shoe had a miniature French horn sticking out of the sock.  To entertain fast food quarter-pounder enthusiasts, there was a small mallet elevated and poised to come down on a quarter embedded in the base.  A wooden hairbrush for a bald man was purely wood without any bristles attached. The man’s cleverly painted portraits had been exhibited also. Then there was the picture he had always carried in his wallet just as folks do when they whip out photos of their children and grandchildren to display their “pride and joy.” His photo was a bottle of Joy dishwasher detergent next to a bottle of Pride furniture polish.  When I visited this widow, as she showed me many of these residual masterpieces, she exuded enthused contentment because people still convey to her fond memories of the service and its accompanying paraphernalia.  She is contentedly pleased that it was a lighthearted reflection of her “happy-go-lucky” and ingenious husband.
All is takes is a little thought and a little planning to decide how one would like to be remembered and to develop ideas for one's own commemoration.  And even in this context it's possible to feel the exhilaration of creativity.  There can be energy in matters of death.