If someone told you that they flushed someone’s ashes down the toilet, you might be inclined to believe it was someone they disliked. After all, isn’t it showing a complete lack of reverence for the dearly departed to dispose of their remains in the same way you dispose of your previously consumed burger and beer?
In the case of Tom McDonald and the remains of his childhood friend, Roy Riegel, it’s really not.
You see, McDonald is taking his friends ashes and flushing them down the toilets at major league baseball parks throughout the nation.
“The game has to be in progress — that’s a rule of mine,” Mr. McDonald said one recent weeknight before entering a Citi Field bathroom, holding a little plastic bottle containing a scoopful of Mr. Riegel’s cremains.
He stepped into a bathroom stall and sprinkled the ashes into the toilet with as much decorum as the setting allowed. A couple of flushes later and Mr. Riegel’s remains were presumably on a journey through Citi Field’s plumbing.
“I took care of Roy, and I had to use the facilities myself,” Mr. McDonald said, emerging from the stall with the empty container. “So I figure, you know, kill two birds.”
“I always flush in between, though,” he added. “That’s another rule of mine.”
The key here is that Mr. Riegel was a plumber, so how better to honor him than by pumping his essence into the plumbing, Mr. McDonald said, adding that he has flushed Mr. Riegel’s ashes at 16 stadiums so far while keeping journals of his trips.
“I know people might think it’s weird, and if it were anyone else’s ashes, I’d agree,” he said. “But for Roy, this is the perfect tribute to a plumber and a baseball fan and just a brilliant, wild guy.”
McDonald doesn’t have all of Reigel’s ashes, only the portion his family passed along for the purpose. Ballparks weren’t the only destination for Reigel’s cremains, as McDonald also sprinkled some of the ashes on the schoolyard where they played sports growing up.
Some of the ashes were also flushed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as Reigel was reportedly a bit of a rocker.
While the disposal of Reigel may seem a bit irreverent, McDonald says if feels appropriate for a man who “walked that tightrope between genius and insanity.”
Reigel died in 2008 on the day of the home opener for his beloved Mets last season in Shea Stadium.
Now, McDonald has just enough ashes for one final tribute. This one at Durham Athletic Park, the former minor league ballpark featured in the movie Bull Durham.
May we all be so lucky to have friends who would go to those extremes just to flush our ashes down the toilet.