Lessons from ‘The Big Lebowski’

We can’t get enough of a beloved scene in the cult classic movie, “The Big Lebowski.” You know the one. John Goodman as Walter, and his friend (Jeff Bridges) “The Dude,” scatter the ashes of his bowling teammate, Donny, returning his “mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean.” The pair use a Folgers Coffee can for the ashes after discovering the high cost of an urn provided by the funeral home.

Fans of the Coen brothers’ movie, sometimes called “Achievers,” have created a market for coffee can urns like the one used in the film. Ohio urn company Aril (formerly Memento) created some as a charity auction and demand has continued to be sufficient for them to continue to create them as long as they can source the materials to make it possible.

The company says the prop used a mid-1990s red Folgers can topped with a mismatched blue lid from Maxwell coffee. Aril offers a how-to guide if you want to purchase the can and lid and create your own coffee can urn from the parts from a site like eBay or Etsy. Aril has also created a bowling ball base or urn as well. If you don’t require an exact replica, Seattle’s gag gift company Archie McPhee’s will sell you a “Modest Urn” for $9.50.

If you are curious about the whereabouts of the scattering scene, film buffs say it was just outside Point Fermin Park, in an area called the “Sunken City” in San Pedro, California. Sunken City is so named because a landslide pushed several houses into the Pacific Ocean in 1929. The park is the southernmost point in Los Angeles and offers views of the Catalina Islands, though the cliffs themselves are covered in graffiti and beyond “no trespassing” signs and some fencing, according to bloggers.

Despite the humor inherent to the scene, Gail Rubin (“The Doyenne of Death”) of “A Good Goodbye” says there are some lessons from the film. For example, you do not need to buy an urn from a funeral home. That’s one of the many provisions of the FTC’s Funeral Rule. Additionally, when you scatter, don’t stand downwind. Rubin says a boat is a better place to scatter into the water than from a bluff. And Rubin says to remember that a eulogy should be about the person who died, not the person giving the eulogy.

But in the end, despite the comedy, there’s a sweet authenticity to Walter’s eulogy for Donny that you don’t have to be a Dudeist priest to appreciate.

“And so, Theodore Donald Karabotsos, in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean, which you loved so well. Good night, sweet prince.”

If you are seeking a similar send-off for your loved one, check the California laws before emptying your coffee can urn in the wind above the Pacific Ocean.

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