Mailing human ash is not nearly as complicated as you might think. You just need some bubble wrap, a sturdy box and a special label, according the U.S. Postal Service’s handy guide.
But why would you?
That’s in the pamphlet, too. Maybe your pet died and you want to send the cremains to someone, for some reason. Maybe you want a loved one’s ashes sealed inside blown glass.
Or maybe (not in pamphlet) you want your own mortal remains shipped to one of the Republican House members who passed a health-care bill last week that’s widely expected to strip insurance from millions of people and hike medical costs — just in case that leads to your death.
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What started as a morbid joke on Thursday afternoon became by Friday a functional website, and not so much a joke anymore.
Mailmetothegop.com is the brainchild of college junior Zoey Jordan Salsbury, who threw the website together after the vote and after seeing this tweet from writer Nicole Silverberg: “If I die because of TrumpCare, mail my body to Paul Ryan’s house.”
By 3 a.m. Friday, hundreds of submissions kept crashing a small server.
A junior at American University who won an award from President Barack Obama for her last Web project, Salsbury doesn’t plan to mail your ashes to the Capitol.
But she will consult with an estate planner, she said, and she’ll help people write wills so their cremated remains can be mailed to their Congress member of choice, if they fill out a Web form before dying.
The packages would probably be stopped“I have the feeling the Capitol building would actually stop” the packages, Salsbury said, given the federal government’s historic concerns with weird powders.
“So we’ve been suggesting people send them to the district offices.” she said. “Someone suggested a glitter bomb.”
Salsbury isn’t sure how many people intend to mail their ash — nor whether the barely passed Republican bill, which has to get through a split Senate, will ever become law.
In the meantime, she is collecting testimonials from her Web form’s final question: “Why will you die because of the Republican health care bill?”
These run the gamut from dark comedy to what read like sincerely frightened pleas to preserve Obama-era health-care law — the Affordable Care Act — which extended coverage to millions of people and has become a prime target of the Republican platform.
“I will die of an asthma attack,” reads one. “I hope my parents put my blue-faced body on Congressman Lloyd Smucker’s doorstep.”
“I nearly bankrupted my parents twice by age 13,” reads another. “My pancreas failed, I had a stroke, I started having heart problems ... ACA kept me alive, and my parents financially stable.”
Salsbury said the overwhelmingly popular choice for ash recipient has been House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., who has sought the repeal of the Affordable Care Act for years (and who didn’t respond to questions about the prospect of being mailed human remains.)
“People are not pleased with him,” Salsbury said. Speaking for her own plans: “I’ve been pretty negative toward Issa” — the California Republican who became a crucial swing vote in the razor-thin passage of the bill.
And Salsbury, 20, said she really does intend to have her ashes mailed to Congress if she dies uninsured — which she fears might happen.
She has depression and anxiety, and this year she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia — a chronic pain disorder.
“It’s not deadly,” she said, “but when it’s not treated, it feeds into the other psychiatric stuff.”
It’s also the sort of pre-existing condition that many people fear will price sick people out of the insurance market if the Republicans succeed in rolling back Obama-era insurance protections.
“It is no exaggeration to say that if it were to become law, this bill would kill significant numbers of Americans,” Paul Waldman wrote in an opinion piece for The Washington Post after the vote.
Which is why, whether people sign up in jest or not, Salsbury insists that her website’s message to Congress is deadly serious.
“It’s horrifying and they deserve to know it,” she said.
Salsbury’s last online project wasn’t so grim. She and a friend got the President’s Volunteer Service Award last year for helping create a website that links people with surplus food to pantries that need it.
Salsbury mostly handled outreach for the MEANS Database, but she said she has since picked up enough coding skills that she was able to put up MailmetotheGOP within a few minutes — albeit on a personal server that couldn’t handle even modest traffic.
“I think it just crashed again,” she said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
And it had. But that meant another testimonial, and potentially another box of ashes to the halls of Congress one day, if it comes to that.
“It’s funny,” Salsbury said. “And powerful. And could be something terrible.”