Remains of the Day

Sad as the funeral business sometimes is, I get downright gleeful when I identify a new way to store cremated remains. I can’t help myself. Or more truly, this is the way I help myself. So I admit it, the top of my head lifted off when I recently learned that Johnny Carson’s wife Joanne kept Truman Capote’s cremated remains in a Japanese camphor box.

First, who knew Carson and Capote were close friends in the 1970s? Second, the decision to re-purpose a seafaring box for cremated remains seemed the ultimate savvy person’s tasteful gesture. Humble and earthy, yet so darned pretty as a funeral urn, the camphor box is festooned with hand-carved symbols of the wayfarer’s quest. Turns out these absolutely gorgeous boxes were built in Japan and China to hold precious objects for the journey to the West–silks, teas, jewelry. The protective camphor wood lends a mystical quality and a slight scent of menthol. Brass hinges and hardware keep it all together–if not for eternity, then for a good, long time.

Truman Capote's Camphor Box

Truman Capote’s Camphor Box

I’ve spent the last three weeks combing and for every affordably-priced camphor box out there so that I might offer them to Fitting Tribute Funeral customers. But you too can be on the look-out for your own. While some are worth thousands of dollars, affordable boxes are still available. The 15″-long camphor chest at the top of this post could work as a companion urn. Others I’ve purchased, similar in scale to Capote’s, will fit in smaller cemetery niches.

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