I don’t think about death often but every now and then I do think about how I want my physical remains to be taken care of. Usually these thoughts occur when I attend a funeral or read the obituaries in the paper. I do find it interesting what people’s final wishes are and how they wish to be taken care of. I know there are many different options and ways to deal with a dead body but to simplify things for this post it seems to come down to burial or cremation.
Coming from a pretty large Catholic family, traditional casket burial was the norm. When a family member died, their body was embalmed and prepared for viewing. After the rosary vigil service was over (a Catholic rite that precedes the funeral service), the general public would pass by the open casket to say good bye one last time to the person who passed on. The next morning the family and funeral party would get one last physical glimpse of their loved one before the casket was closed forever…probably one of the saddest moments one can experience on this earth. The casket was then transported in the hearse to the church where the funeral service was being held. Once the service concluded, it was out to the cemetery for burial.
Although I grew up with this type of “protocol” so to speak when it came to death, as I got older and attended more funerals outside of family and outside of my Catholic faith, it became apparent that there were other ways to gracefully lay to rest the remains of loved ones. I quickly became acquainted with cremation. As a youngster I would quiver at the thought of having my body entered into a fiery oven and reduced to dust. However, as I grew older and saw many people go the cremation route, I started to warm up (no pun intended) to the idea. I would definitely say that the majority of funerals I attend these days the deceased is cremated. Even more and more Catholics are being cremated, a new trend in the faith.
With all of that in mind, I don’t know exactly what I want for my final wishes regarding my remains. However, when it comes to my immediate family members remains, I think I find more solace in burial than cremation. I find a gravesite with the assurance that their body is lying peacefully in a coffin under the ground much more comforting than an urn of ashes. Don’t for one second think I don’t realize the benefits of having the ashes of a loved one though. When you have the cremated remains of a family member, they are always with you. If you travel or move, they are with you every step of the way.
However, I just like the thought of knowing that the body was laid to rest fully intact. I like to know that inside the coffin the loved one is there in some type of human form, whether it just be bones. Ashes just lose some of the human element of that person for me that I kind of still long for when someone passes on. Of course this just explains the weakness of our brains because the physical body has no bearing whatsoever anymore after death but it still gets me.
Cremation is much cheaper than burial and it requires far less arrangements than a burial does. Whenever my parents talk about what they want to do when their time comes, my dad is always fond of simply saying “throw me in a box and burn me.” It is just the unselfish nature of my dad to not want to add any extra stress or expense to his survivors (This is in contrast to my mom who is much more traditional, wanting to be laid to rest in the burial plot with the rest of her family). Although I think I would rather see my dad buried, I know it is one of the most important things to respect the wishes of someone when their end comes. My dad always romanticizes that after he is cremated he wants his ashes sprinkled in left field (his position) at the little league stadium he played his home games at when he was a kid.
Again, a subject like this is not something that I spend much of my time thinking about. However, sometimes these types of things crawl into my head. I think another reason for my pro-burial views is that I have an attraction to cemeteries. I find them fascinating. The history and mystery of each tombstone in a cemetery really captures my interest and imagination, I have stayed in cemeteries for long periods of time. I have only met a couple of other people in my life who share this same type of interest so I know that is a clue that I must be pretty weird. Moving on…
Sorry if I disappointed anyone with this post tonight. I know it kind of deviated from my usual rant that usually deals with sports, pop culture, the last place I ate at, or the trip I just got back from. Sometimes I do like to reflect on things that are a little deeper. Think about what you want and know what your family members want. Don’t Blink.