Preparing for final arrangements (cremation, traditional funeral service, or whatever avenue you choose) for loved ones is extremely difficult. But when it comes to making the same arrangements for yourself, it is even more burdensome. That’s partially because it implies our own mortality, an inevitable but consequential outcome few of us face without pause.
Martin Oaks Crematory and Cemetery (located in Lewisville, Texas –the first choice for affordable cremation through the directors we work with in the Dallas and Fort Worth area), has seen the results of lack of preparation.
An interesting case history of such is the famous actor Humphrey Bogart; he passed away some 61 years ago last month — January 14, 1957. He had just turned 57 years old and his cause of death was a brutal case of cancer of the esophagus.
Bogie left his wife and family very well provided for: according to reports, his estate was valued at about a million dollars. That was a hefty sum in those days, worth approximately eight times that amount in today’s dollars.
Again, according to expert sources (including the excellent biography “Bogart,” written by A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax), cremation was Bogie’s preferred choice for final disposition. He then wanted his ashes scattered from his much beloved 55 foot boat, Santana, into the Pacific Ocean. At that time, this practice was illegal so other arrangements had to be made.
There is a noteworthy aspect to this situation — the fact that in 1957 one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood wanted to be disposed of by cremation.
As we have noted previously here, cremation now is a fast growing phenomenon, but one that took a long time to become established in the United States. In the days Bogie made this decision, it was a seldom used option: well less than 5 percent of the deaths in the 1950’s resulted in cremation. He clearly was committed to the process well before it was established as the norm.
The strong connection Bogie felt to the Santana (his then wife, movie star Lauren Bacall, said she felt jealous of the yawl because of the amount of time he spent on the sailboat) may have also played a role in the way he wanted his disposition conducted. But that was not to be.
Had the arrangement been researched, perhaps Bogart’s wishes could have been granted. Special permission to be buried at sea (something usually accorded only veterans) may have allowed. Instead, Bogart was cremated– reportedly while the memorial service was being conducted at All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills — and was ultimately placed in a vault in Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
Another part of planning that Bogart did not participate in was the eulogy, a cornerstone to the memorial service of any Hollywood star, especially those from the golden era of filmmaking.
After Bogart’s passing, Bacall wanted to have his close friend Spencer Tracy deliver the eulogy, but Tracy was in such a state of grief that he could not accept.
Bacall then called upon writer/director John Huston, a figure who was much up to the task. Huston was every bit as talented a writer as one could find in the movie colony, one whose scripts (“The Maltese Falcon.” “The Treasure of The Sierra Madre”) hold up very well to this day.
While the written text of the eulogy is powerful, one can only imagine the magnificent delivery he could summon for such an occasion (witness Huston’s performance in “Chinatown” as evidence of his ability to essay a dramatic moment). His speech closes: “We have no reason to feel sorrow for him — only for ourselves for having lost him. He is quite irreplaceable.”
As it turned out, Humphrey Bogart was given an appropriate send off, just not the one he wanted.
Considerable means and personal notoriety have little to do with fulfilling someone’s last wishes — planning ahead is the best path for that.