whose death is it anyway? the cremation conundrum

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tso of video meliora recently posted a link to this article at touchstone against cremation. hmmm...

i am terribly claustrophobic and the thought of being locked in a dark box six feet under makes my heart race, my palms sweat, and if i imagine it for too long, i actually hyperventilate. of course, if i was dead, my heart wouldn't be beating and my body wouldn't be sweating or hyperventilating. regardless, the thought makes me ill, so why put myself through it? i've always actually been comforted by the thought that i'll be cremated.

it wasn't even an issue until shortly after i joined the catholic church, and an elderly lady told me that catholics couldn't be cremated as cremation is a grave sin. i was totally shocked. in my naïveté, i couldn't believe that the church would have anything at all to say about how one was buried. so, i quickly did a little research. finding that pagans and "freethinkers" would have their bodies cremated as a sort of "thumb in your eye" to the idea of a resurrected body and the church's horror at such a notice made sense to me. but, then i found that according to the catechism of the catholic church, “The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.” and i breathed a very heavy sigh of relief. if the catechism gives me the green light, then i'm good to go. besides, thinking too hard about an emotional subject hurts my brain; so at the time, that was enough for me.

the only time i ever actually argued with anyone about the subject was when my stepbrother died. he wanted to be cremated, but my biological father refused to do it. i was completely appalled that anyone could be so selfish and insensitive. when i went to the funeral and there was my brother's body on display, i confronted my dad for not honoring my brother's final wishes.

dad, how could you not honor his final wishes to be cremated?
because i don't want to burn in this life or the next.
are you kidding me? this isn't about you.
i'm not gonna burn my son. and i won't burn you either.

i walked away essentially hoping that he would die first so that he couldn't cause a fuss. and later, staring at my brother's sunken, waxy body in his casket, knowing that was not what he wanted, made me physically ill. i firmed my resolve to be cremated and actually made sure that everyone close to me knew full-well my wishes to be cremated. it was easy in fact because my mom, my step-father, my husband and i all want to be cremated. and more likely than not, we'll be the ones making arrangements.

but now there's a wrench. my step-father is gravely ill and he still wants to be cremated. some of his family (in-laws, no less) are kicking about it. in fact, one of them told my mom, death is for the living. to my mom's credit she didn't slap the woman, but said, this isn't any of your business. the woman in question argued that, it is our business. we're all family and we should all have a say.

okay, this sort of thinking is totally alien to me. where is this woman coming from? yes, i agree that a wake or a memorial service is for the living -- closure and all that. but the burial itself? i don't think so.


read very carefully just how the church wants cremations to be handled. Ideally, the funeral mass will precede the cremation - it is second choice to have the cremated remains present for the funeral mass.
I am very angry that my dad was cremated, because it gave his second wife/widow an excuse not to have any kind of memorial service at all. We had to organize one ourselves......
I have made it abundantly clear that I do not want to be cremated. I don't need an expensive casket or embalming, and the casket can be closed - but don't burn my body. My soul will probably be in the fires of purgatory, anyhow - so bury my body and pray for my soul.

Wow it's interesting how people can have different views. I guess part of my thing is I'm so traditional and burial is a very traditional thing and you, smocko', are not too traditional. I also like the idea of individual headstones because they convey a reminder to everyone that earthy life is short. Sometimes I even actually pray for the souls in the cemetery when I pass by in my car. Not often, but still.

I'm claustrophobic too, but I guess I've sort of internalized that it doesn't matter to be in a small space when I'm dead. Or maybe just that I'm so used to the idea since when we were growing up it was the only option.

It probably goes without saying but I do think the wishes of the recently deceased should take absolute primacy concerning whether to bury or cremate.

Oh, this family debate can extend past the burial/cremation question. Exactly where do you bury the deceased? I know of a family where the mother was widowed then remarried. Only children from the first husband are living. There were significant relationship issues with their stepfather. Mother has indicated she wishes to be buried next to her second husband. Children have indicated they plan to bury Mother next to their father because they have no desire to visit their stepfather's grave. By the way, she was married to her second husband decades longer than she was married to her first husband.

When it comes to Catholic cremation, remember that there should be no sprinkling or dividing of ashes. They are to be interred reverently just as a body would be.

In RCIA they told us cremation is okay as long as the ash stays together...

I hope I didn't read too fast. You can have a wake and a memorial service AND cremation. You can embalm and then cremate a body. Do I read that you are saying it's either/or?

I appreciate the feelings of people who, if they don't go to a wake, don't feel like the person's dead, or that they actually paid their respects to him and the family. I don't know how I feel about myself....

Well, PapaC and I intend to be cremated as well, and I'm about the most traditional person I know--I guess Alicia would say in all matters except this.

I understand the sanctity of the body--it was baptized, annointed with oil, loved by my family (and me!) and will one day be glorified and be part of me again. But I still don't want to be looked at just lying there. Those that loved me most will probably have already seen me--hopefully will have been holding these hands when I died. If not, they've seen me after death. Everyone else, well, they'll have to remember the last time they saw me.

I'm not freaked about burial. I just want to be "buried" at SMV--in the columbarium. Where people can walk past and pat my nameplate.

neither of my parents are catholic yet, so neither are bound by or beholden to any church traditions.

i do believe that if one is cremated, ideally their cremains would be buried in a sacred place or space set aside for christian burial.

i agree with TSO about the markers because i've spent literally hours praying for "specific" strangers reading stones as i've walked through cemetaries. also, our church is right next door to a cemetary, and our family says a prayer for the poor souls in purgatory every time we pass by it...even if smockdaddy and i are chatting in the car, one of the wee ones reminds us "we need to pray for the souls in purgatory!" as we near our church.

bottom line: i think families need to respect the wishes of the deceased. period.



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This page contains a single entry by smockmomma published on January 15, 2007 5:48 PM.

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