Skip to Content (Press Enter) Skip to Footer (Press Enter)

The Dude Abides: 5 Funeral Consumer Lessons from ‘The Big Lebowski’

A beloved scene in the cult classic movie “The Big Lebowski” provides some lessons about the end of life and ways to remember a loved one who has died.

A beloved scene in the cult classic movie “The Big Lebowski” provides some lessons about the end of life and ways to remember a loved one who has died. You know the one

John Goodman, as Walter, and his friend (Jeff Bridges) “The Dude,” scatter the cremated remains or “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. This scene may be worth watching if you are looking for unique memorial service ideas. 

Despite the humor inherent in the scene, Gail Rubin (“The Doyenne of Death”) of “A Good Goodbye” says there are some lessons from the film.

1. You Don’t Need to Buy an Urn from a Funeral Home

This of the many provisions of the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule. If desired, you can buy an urn elsewhere and even create your own DIY coffee can (more on that below).

The same is true with caskets. Consumers can purchase from a retailer of their choice.

2. Don’t Stand Downwind

Rubin says a boat is a better place to scatter into the water than from a bluff. Until you are ready, keep the cremated remains in a closed container. But remember to follow federal rules and scatter three miles offshore.

3. Keep the Eulogy About the Person Who Died

Rubin says to remember that a eulogy should be about the person who died, not the person giving the eulogy.

4. Consider Meaningful DIY Projects

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 for 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. As the Aril website says, “There is no right or wrong in terms of remembrance. So if a coffee can feels right for you or a loved one, don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.”

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.”

As an aside, 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.

5. Check State and Local Laws

If you are seeking a similar send-off for your loved one, check the laws about scattering in your area before emptying your coffee can urn in the wind. No matter where you live, it is best to check state and local laws and ask permission if you want to scatter from private property.  

Rubin says there are no cremation police but advises being “sensitive to your surroundings.”

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 love.

“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.”