Mailing human ash is not nearly as complicated as you might think. You basically just need some bubble wrap, a sturdy box and a special label, according the U.S. Postal Service’s handy guide.
But why? 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 just passed a health-care bill widely expected to strip insurance from millions of people and hike medical costs — just in case that leads to your death.
What started as a morbid joke on Thursday afternoon became by Friday a functional website, and not so much a joke anymore.
Mail Me to the GOP: the brainchild of college junior Zoey Jordan Salsbury, who threw the website together after the vote, and by 3 a.m. had hundreds of submissions on a small server that keeps crashing under the load.
A junior at American University who won an award from President Obama for her last Web project, Salsbury does not actually plan to mail your ashes to the Capitol.
But she will consult with an estate planner, she said, and help people write wills so that their cremated remains can be mailed to their Congress member of choice, if they fill out a web form before dying.
“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 actually intend to mail their ash — nor whether the barely passed Republican bill, which still has to get through a split Senate, will ever become law.
In the mean time, she’s been 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, or 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 did not 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 Thursday’s razor-thin passage of the bill.
And Salsbury said she really does intend to have her ashes mailed to Congress if she dies uninsured — which she fears may happen.
The 20-year-old said she has depression and anxiety, and this year was also 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 preexisting condition that many 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 her website’s message to Congress is deadly serious.
“It’s horrifying and they deserve to know it,” she said.
Not everyone’s a fan. “This may be one of the most melodramatic and ghoulish responses yet,” wrote Twitchy.
Salsbury’s last online project was not 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 said she’s since picked up enough coding skills that she was able to put Mail Me to the GOP up 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 so 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.”