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Does cremation make sense?

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Does a person’s religious faith, or Christianity in particular, have anything to say about this?

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What would I have done to my body?

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For more use the DOOR.

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[MORE]

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   As with most other posts, I certainly have not made a definitive study about this. I have pointed to the TIME June 24, 2013 issue article earlier. Other information can easily be obtained, though many don’t start their thinking about death soon enough.

   And sometimes circumstances demand a quick decision.

   Consider my comments lightly, a trigger to dig further, or perhaps discuss this further with family and friends.

   (This article logically follows the previous Oct. 31, 2013 post and assumes you’re familiar with that.)

   First, the NEGATIVE  side of cremationism¹:

   (1)  Having a body just suddenly “disappear,” and (often) no grave to mark where a person ended up, is unsettling to some. There no “marker,” and special place to return to recall memories.

   (2)  Some people may seem “cheated” to not have a “last look” (for any of several reasons, some which I’ll not discuss) at a funeral, wake, watch, or memorial service.

   (3)  Some may need to see a motionless “body” to nail down the fact that the person really is dead.

   (4)  Some may actually consider embalming to be a false way to preserve for a bit longer the body of a someone who’s no longer there, his “earth-suit,” if you will. (Note, however, that in the Old Testament Joseph’s body was embalmed in a pagan culture to later be brought back and be buried in Israel.) The Bible nowhere seems to condemn or discourage that.

   (5)  No DNA evidence remains for future identification if necessary.

   Now for the POSITIVE side:

   (1)  All the usual funeral services can still be held with an urn (or even without an urn) instead of a casket. At the front, or around the altar, can be enlarged pictures of the deceased, as most remember the person. Rarely, does a picture of a body in a casket do justice to the person’s life, or associations with the living who attend the funeral. Think about this as one might about pictures usually attached to funeral notices.

   (2)  Additionally, in a mobile world, a funeral, or the need for a funeral, usually occurs at an “inconvenient time” for many who might like to attend. And since funerals are often rare moments for far-flung families to gather and see each other, and usually eat,² cremated remains, or cremains, can more easily patiently wait for a more convenient funeral and family gathering.

   (3)  It’s legal everywhere (as far as I know) and is becoming increasingly popular…and accepted.

   (4)  Although with some Jews, there’s religious hesitation, in most religions there is no objections whatever to cremation, properly carried out. (In our last post, we mentioned that the Catholic Church and Billy Graham, referring to the Bible, has no objection to cremation.) As to the notion that cremating is somehow abusing a God-given body, or that in a resurrection at the end of time there may be no “parts” available to rise at “the sound of the last trumpet,” consider the following:

   Many godly martyrs who were promised resurrection were eaten by lions, or tortured, shot, or crucified with their bodies thrown in garbage dumps, and many godly Christians who died at sea were given–by necessity–a sea burial, becoming unexpected nutrients to underwater life. Further, most people’s body parts from the beginning of time have long been separated from each other by erosion and ground water, going into the earth, air, or sea to be recycled again and again through foods, what we drink, and the air we breathe, passing from one body to another. A case could be made, because molecules are so small, that thousands, or millions, of what once were parts of other people are now working away inside us as I type and you read. Are those parts them? Or are they you?

   A step further: How many parts of previous bodies are required to “rise” for each person? Are the crumbled remains in a rotted casket, or the dislocated bones, in a Jewish “bone box” (shorter than a casket) categorically in better condition to be reassembled to enter the next world than ashes “tried by fire” and molecules that have been distributed and busily “working” again far and wide? The stuff that makes up the eternal you has no chemical formula.

   (5)  Cremation is ecologically friendly. Not only do many parts of your body get reused, unless, of course, you seal many of them–not all, however–in an indestructible urn. Further, if you bury them–which you don’t have to do–they take up much less space in a graveyard. Have you ever wondered how many really miss a really beautiful view by all those that are sealed in mindless darkness underground? Often our most desirable real estate is controlled is controlled by those “eternally” rest under it. Yes, cemeteries can preserve the visual environment for the future, but those occasional visitors who come (and that’s certainly good), do so with their eyes down rather than up and out.

   (6)  It’s much cheaper. (see the previous post.)

   What would I do?

   First, what I have done: My mother and father both–according to their desires–were cremated. My mother’s ashes were put into the ground in a religious garden next to a church. Her name is on a bronze plaque inside. My father who had significant life experiences in another state, is buried in an urn in the small family graveyard of a patient he served as a medical doctor.

   Now me? Well, at the moment I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve accused of looking at things a little differently. So here goes. My wife and I own a small grave plot within a large cemetery not far from where we now live. I’d like an oversized urn with the ashes of my body inside, perhaps including the two screws in my femur (if they survive) that have  served me well for more than half a century and the super hip replacement that recently joined me. Add to that a small permanent screw-down box with a large enough “lock” of beard hair that could be used for DNA testing if it were ever useful. And some extra space. My wife just hasn’t made up her mind yet, but if she finally agrees to what I had done, it would be nice to have her ashes join mine, even in the same urn. We’ve been very close above ground. No reason to change things later. If she decides against making ashes (she does a lot of thinking for herself), I’d love to have whatever she leaves behind lie next to me as close as possible. There’d be plenty of room.

   Scatter my ashes or leave them on a shelf for somebody to joke about? No, that’s not for me. I want to stay in one place not too far away. Can’t give you a good reason why, though the acoustics there should be good for a trumpet call. A small marker on the ground above should say something fitting like, “Here’s what’s left of John’s body–so far.”

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   ¹ That’s our word, as far as we know. Nice to push language language now and then. Be aware, the word is not ready for Scrabble.

   ² A badly needed comma, by the way…