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Facing terminal cancer, BC woman holds ‘Ashes Shower’

‘Even if I’m not here, the memories, I still want them to be fun,’ says Eva Hompoth

A recent event that unfolded in a cosy South Surrey home was quite literally a party to die for.

The afternoon included close friends sharing laughs over precious memories, as well as words of inspiration and some pretty skookum cupcakes.

And then there was the box.

Relatively small and plain, complete with a hinged lid, it sat unassumingly on the coffee table, right next to the cupcakes.

Eva Hompoth said she researched online before purchasing the box for the occasion. The White Rock woman knew she wanted to bring something that could hold the “six-something” pounds that she would be reduced to upon cremation.

“I went and I asked what kind of box – how you calculate for my ashes to fit into the box – and they had a number,” she explained matter-of-factly, referring to the square-inch figure she went looking for.

“So basically at the end, they said that when you die… it’s going to be the same weight as when you are born.”

A central component of the aptly-named Ashes Shower, the box was quickly covered with colourful sketches and words, added by guests “so thankful” for Hompoth, and promising to love her “for-Eva.”

Those words, along with the memories and laughs shared at the shower, are “what I’ll take with me,” Hompoth told party guests.

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Hompoth, 67, said she asked for the ‘Ashes Shower’ so that she could celebrate her life with those dear to her, while she is still here to enjoy it.

She envisioned it following word last year that her own time was limited, due to cancer invading her spine, hips, neck, shoulder and lymph nodes.

Her logic, she said, was simple: baby showers happen before a baby is born, followed by bridal showers, “which can happen many times.”

“And I said, why not to have – because I’m going to be cremated – an Ashes Shower, and instead of waiting (for) people to come when I’m not here and be sad, why not have fun?”

She acknowledged that the idea was met with a few raised eyebrows, and said some invitees were “really nervous.”

“They said, ‘I don’t understand.’ They were thinking it was going to be something really serious and really sombre, and I’m going to invite a priest or something.

“It was just getting together and having fun.”

Hompoth – who, a decade ago, organized a low-key demonstration to encourage the City of White Rock to create a dog park within city limits – is hopeful it is an idea that catches on for others who find themselves in a similar position; facing an earlier-than-hoped-for end to life. It’s a positive alternative to dwelling on the inevitable, she said.

“Why not? Why not do like, ‘hey, who cares? I’m going to die – let’s have a party today.’”

Hompoth doesn’t know exactly how much time she has left. But she’s determined to continue embracing her illness with dignity and a smile – she has even planned and paid for her funeral, in an effort to lighten the load on her loved ones.

Her positive and forward-thinking approach to adversity is a tactic she says she learned at a young age.

“When I was three years old, I was in a coma and I came out of it,” she explained, of a condition that led to her undergoing 26 surgeries on her leg.

“I grew up in the hospital, basically. You know how kids are, they’re so resilient. I think I developed a sense of positivity and optimism.

“This is the only day, the only moment you have – you never know what can happen the next moment.”

She’s also determined to surpass whatever end date doctors give her. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s beat the odds, after all.

Thirteen years ago, she survived fast-moving breast cancer.

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“So many times that people said I’m not going to make it the next year, or two years from now, but I never believe them,” she said. “I always came out of it.

“It’s funny, when I was diagnosed, my sister was here, and they said, ‘OK, this is it.’ And she says, ‘you don’t know her, she’s always beat everything.’”

The Ashes Shower, Hompoth said, was “a blast.”

“I was so impressed and so blessed that everybody basically showed up. And, it was just fun,” she said.

“Life is supposed to be fun and even if I’m not here, the memories, I still want them to be fun. I wouldn’t want people (to get) together and start crying. You know, I had a full life. It’s like, let’s celebrate now, let’s do something interesting.”
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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