Bring Out Your Dead


a new Nantucket

Grim news out of Nantucket this week. Shocking, disturbing news. This past Sunday’s Boston Globe reported that the last remaining funeral home on the island would be closing — tomorrow, Friday, December 6th. The local authorities are scrambling to figure out what to do with the dead. Sure, lots of people decide they want to be cremated when they die, which makes dealing with the dead more or less as easy as composting. And in fact, the Lewis Funeral Home on Nantucket, established in 1878, is going out of business because cremation — a low-profit service for a funeral home — has become so popular.

But still, some prefer a conventional embalming, viewing, and funeral service, and for this you need a funeral home. Which, as of tomorrow, Nantucket doesn’t have.

I say: Ipswich to the rescue.

Please consider the facts.

We have a robust local death industry: two beautiful funeral homes, both of which appear to be healthy, and multiple lovely cemeteries. If there’s anything we’re fully prepared to handle, it’s more dead people. Plus, we have easy water access to Nantucket. Some of our finest citizens, owners of some of the finest boats, zip down to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard all the time. What would keep them from coming back with a dead body stowed on board?

Sure, the Nantucket folks are going to think in terms of shipping their dead bodies to Hyannis, the port closest to the island. But times are hard, and even Nantucket money is tight these days. People are looking for a bargain. There’s a certain amount of money that would have gone into the Lewis Funeral Home which we could redirect to Morris on Main Street or Whittier-Porter on High. Ipswich could take intelligent advantage of this situation. We could make them a better deal.

Here’s my recommendation — and let me just point out, this is a plan so simple that it doesn’t require a Town Meeting vote, nor even a hearing by the Shellfish Subcommittee. The only possible impact on our Town government might be on our Harbormaster, due to significantly increased inbound traffic. (“Incoming! Corpses docking!”) This plan is totally volunteer-driven. It accesses our existing resources without increasing demand for Town services. It is environmentally friendly and politically correct. My proposal involves a very elementary five-step process:

  1. I will use basic Scotch tape to affix a simple form to the first window you come to inside Town Hall, on your left. This is the window of the Collector. Do not be alarmed. This free, all-volunteer program has nothing to do with our dear Collector. She just happens to have the best window in Town Hall.
  2. On the form, you, as an Ipswich boat owner, will find a blank line on which to print your name, another blank line for your phone number, and finally a blank line on which to print the dates, or days of week, on which you would be available to carry dead bodies. (Depending on the size of your boat, and the number of revelers you normally include on your waterborne festivities, you may be able to carry a dead body only in certain situations.)
  3. The people on Nantucket who handle dead bodies will have my phone number. When they call me (or connect online via, I’ll call the next person on the list, to see if you can go pick up another corpse and bring it back to Ipswich.
  4. Those of us who don’t own a boat are not left out. When the boat docks here in Ipswich, a landlubber volunteer meets you at the wharf. This is an Ipswich resident who owns a stationwagon, an SUV, or a minivan — any vehicle with seats you can fold down, to make room for a dead body. There’s another form at Town Hall you can sign up with, and I’ll call you.
  5. The Ipswich funeral homes take the Nantucket corpses in rotation. Morris today, Whittier-Porter tomorrow. No discounts. Average cost of a funeral: $7,075. The Ipswich economy thrives. What’s not to love?

Don’t think of it as morbid mercantilism. Think of it as helping our dear neighbors on Nantucket.

Death is inevitable. Let’s not be squeamish.



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