Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Silver and Gold

I had an uncle, who when dying, made his children promise to ask the undertaker for his gold dental work back. When he died, none of the kids really wanted to ask about it, but they promised, so one of my my cousins broached the subject with their undertaker. The answer they got is the same thing I tell families. We are not dentists, and have no training in removing dental work. If you have a dentist who is willing to remove the gold (unlikely), we'd be happy to assist him / her. However, the value of dental work lies more in the fact that it is made specifically for you and installed securely in your mouth than the value of the gold. The dentist may well charge you more to remove the dental work than what the gold may be worth (even at today's high gold prices.) Funeral directors are skilled at many things, but I wouldn't know how to begin to safely pry out dental work from the less than flexible jaws of someone's dearly departed.
My cousins decided to let the gold stay in their father's mouth.

The Dentures, 1983 by Odd Nerdrum
Here is a funny Christmas story from Lisa Towers' and Bill Jones' blog 'On Painting' about dental gold!

My mother-in-law is a very frugal person. So was her husband, Hal. He died three years ago. Before he died, he informed her that he had quite a bit of gold in his mouth from dental work over the years. She’s no dumby. Once he was gone and before he was cremated, she told the mortician that she would take that gold, thank you. Now, I myself have a gold crown, and one time it fell out. It just looked like a mangled piece of jewelry, and I assumed that he had the same. I even imagined the mortician using pliers and his knee to pillage the gold from poor Hal’s mouth.

That December, my mother-in-law told us that she would be sending her typical Christmas package of wrapped gifts, and included would be a small box of miscellaneous gold trinkets, as well as the remains of Hal– his dental work. She wanted our son Dylan to cash all of it in for himself. When the package arrived. Dylan tore into it, anxious to behold his treasure trove of gold with delusions of making a down-payment on a Ferrari. We were both peering into the little white box when he slowly opened it half expecting a mysterious golden light to emanate from within. What we saw almost made him drop the box. There was Hal’s full set of upper choppers that we had seen a million times in his ear to ear grin. They weren’t gold on the front, of course, because they had veneers. We stood there and moaned and groaned for quite a while with our hands cupped over our mouths.

It is a holiday tradition with me and Dylan that we go to the Christmas store, and pick out an ornament that in someway relates to the year. As we perused the store that December trying to think of something, we suddenly remembered Hal. We couldn’t get out of that store fast enough once the idea dawned on us that we could just tie a string around Hal’s teeth and hang those babies right on the tree.

We still haven’t had the heart to cash them in. And they probably are worth a small fortune judging by the weight.
Dentures are certainly another story- we don't need a dentist to remove those!-D.U.

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Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization.


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