burial vs. cremation

There seems to be a mode of thought within some groups (my family being one) that its better to be cremated and have your ashes scattered rather than be put in a box in the ground for all eternity. I would agree, that when phrased this way, being buried (once dead of course) is highly unappealing. I also realize those thoughts are part of the corporeal identification that I have as a living human being. Once dead my body won’t have any meaning to me so I could say that I don’t really care what my bereaved family does with me! But that’s not true either.

As I’ve gotten older the more I contemplate this idea. When I picture my own death it always includes a picture of children, grandchildren, hopefully great, great, grandchildren visiting my tomb in some peaceful field or grassy hill. I like the fact that there will be a place with my name on it and date of birth, death, some other meaningful piece of information listed. A physical place for family and friends to go to feel they are “with” me or at least close to me.

My mother’s parents, who I was very close to, were cremated. They chose to rest for eternity in the stop shelf of a mausoleum. It’s not a place I enjoy visiting. I have to cram my neck just to see their names. How much nicer it would be to sit under a tree next to a tombstone, reminiscing. Admittedly I’m from Texas where we still have a lot of space to bury people in the ground. And I should be thankful that at least I do have a place to visit them, to go where I can pay respects, talk, pray, whatever strikes my fancy. My uncle was also cremated with his ashes scattered over a lake. Beautiful ceremony and location, but I wonder if his kids feel like they need a place to connect with him. I wouldn’t know where to go.

Unless your personal theory of God and death dictate that you should be scattered to the wind to get to wherever you believe you will go after death, consider a more permanent placement. Think about how future generations will connect to you. Maybe you don’t want them to but really, there’s not much you can do about that. And frankly I don’t think you’ll care much once you’re gone.

You may also think that I’m putting a bit too much emphasis on the physical need to connect with someone. Possibly, but when I took a road trip to reserach family genealogy, I was surprised by how much visiting a grave enabled me to get a feeling for my ancestor. From where they were buried, to who was buried next to them, to what was on the stone; all of these things gave me a greater understanding of the person.

I constantly tease my mother that she can put whatever she wants in her will I’m going to put her in the ground because that’s where I want to visit her! She’ll be gone and won’t be able to stop me. Ok, I’m not really that mean. If I did that then my kids would probably cremate me and scatter my ashes just to avenge their grandmother!

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4 thoughts on “burial vs. cremation

  1. Dan O'Connell says:

    Dear Friend:

    Yours is a fine essay. I am 79 years old & a widower. My wife & I both espouse cremation. She was & I plan to be, too. Our ashes are or will be mixed with the soil of a rose garden at a nearby cemetery. Two of our daughters are deceased & were al,so cremated. The ashes of the one who died most recently (7/2007) were scattered over the lake at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park, near Austin, TX, at her wishes.

    I am also a Theosophist. Like most theosophists, I believe firmly in reincarnation. Perhaps this is relevant to the discussion.

    My five surviving children know of my plans & apparently have no objection. I am a Liberal Catholic & my Church has no objection to my plans.

    Thx for your good essay.

    — Daniel O’Connell, Rio Rancho, NM

    1/11/09

  2. Jodi says:

    Dan, interesting with the concept of reincarnation. I would imagine the physical body matters even less. There’s also something very finite about cremation and going back to the earth, the whole dust to dust comment taken literally.
    Thanks!
    Jodi

  3. I found the article and response very helpful. I too am trying to decide what will be the best plan for my final journey. I’m interested in finding a solution that will make me feel at peace and in God’s grace.

  4. Jodi says:

    Good luck in your decision. I’m going to be spreading my grandmothers ashes this weekend. Always a beautiful ritual.

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