Wednesday, March 16, 2011


It's truly unbelievable how many different types of urns there are. Stone, wood, ceramic, glass, metal, mixed, tall, short, round, square, solid and secure to completely biodegradable, elegant to funny, classic to bizarre. To my friends living… you may want to start looking now!

It’s been almost a year now since Alex’s passing. I’m expecting a call any day now to let me know that his remains
are ready to be picked up. At that time his sister, Julia, and I will go and collect Alex’s cremated remains. For the last year his body was used for scientific purposes – in hopes of furthering science and improving the lives of others. But now… a year later… what container is there that could capture the essence, the joy, the drive, the heart of Alex?

My only other loved one who was cremated was my grandfather, but picking an urn for him was easy. Having been late to his own wedding because he was in the car listening to the Yankee’s game, his remains were put into a new York Yankees themed urn – complete with baseball. But he had lived a full life and that was a story that was retold every anniversary, baseball game and frankly whenever we needed to put him in his place. Alex’s life though was … incomplete.

We each have a memory of a defining moment with Alex. For me – him being in my rock climbing class and more so when I got him back on the wall for the first time after a round of treatments… for Janet it was probably a much earlier memory of first meeting him in high school… for Serena probably their first kiss... and for his mom and sister – so many possible key moments to choose from to capture him in forever.

A tear drop? An orb? A fire hydrant? A box? A bag? A memory? An emotion? What form do you put on the remainder of a person when all that is left is ash?

Frankly… I say none. Alex isn’t in the ashes; Alex is in my heart and memories. Even if I were to take the fragments of DNA available and reconstruct a person from it, that person wouldn’t be Alex. Though he may look like Alex, his memories and experience would be completely different. Maybe he’d become a musician instead… or an artist… or maybe an electrical engineer at Stanford, but even then he still wouldn’t be Alex. The Alex I knew lives on in my heart and mind – not in ashes. As such… since he’s still alive to me – I can talk with him whenever I need and go to his memorial spot to find some solace. Granted… that still doesn’t help with deciding what urn to pick out for him. It does, though, help me to focus on the important facts – that Alex’s spirit could never be contained by an earthly vessel and that it lives on. We have his ashes, we hold on to memories and we move forward knowing he’s looking out for us. Someday we’ll meet up again. Until then – we live.

Written by: Blase B. Iuliano
Edited by: Janet Cheng