One local man was refused the right to be buried with his Harley-Davidson.
Dear Matthew Alice: Due to recent painful and expensive losses of family members. I'm wondering if it would be legal to construct my own coffin in anticipation of my passing. Also, may I place the bones of dearly departed pets in the box with me? Finally, can more than one person (dead) occupy the same coffin so that my loved one (human) and I may share our eternal rest? — Thanata, San Diego
Your eternal rest will be preceded by endless cajoling, negotiation, and paperwork, I’m afraid. But if you’re determined enough, perhaps you can realize your dream. The law won’t stop you, as long as your coffin meets certain construction standards. At one time there were companies that sold kits for home handypersons to build their own. But none of those enterprises seems to be in business anymore. So much for the popularity of plan-ahead interment, at least at the home hobby level.
If you have the proper permits, theoretically you and your pals could cozy up in your handmade casket when the time comes. There are instances in the county of more than one person buried in a single coffin. For example, a mother and child were buried together in one local cemetery. There’s also a woman buried with her pet dog that had died years before and been stuffed and kept around the house for sentimental reasons and, perhaps, as a sure-fire conversation starter. Cremated remains of the previously departed are also sometimes buried in a loved one’s casket.
Environmental laws restrict what can be placed in a gravesite outside the coffin. One local man was refused the right to be buried with his Harley-Davidson, though that was a decision made by the cemetery management. State law would not have prohibited it as long as environmental hazards were avoided.
All such requests are very rare, according to most of the mortuary and cemetery managers I talked to. Each tactfully said they try to accommodate a family’s wishes. But one can safely assume they’ll just as tactfully try to talk you out of anything that pares their profit margin to the bone, as it were. Aside from being a bummer, of course, death is also a business.