Emotional aspects of cremation
by Susan Cox
As the world continues to spin, it becomes a much smaller place. The age of information has arrived and with it are buried (no pun intended) many of the old ideas, but not necessarily the old traditions. When you ask about the emotional aspects of cremation, there are several things to consider. Each of these aspects differs from one person to another.
Prior to Christianity, cremation was an accepted form of final disposition of deceased human remains. Two thousand years ago, it became "popular" to intomb the body of the deceased person in a sepulcher. Because this was also done with the body of Christ, following the crucifixion, it became a part of the Christian belief and practice that deceased human remains should be intombed or buried. The non-Christians of the time continued to cremate their deceased human remains. Over a period of time a fixed mindset evolved that Cremation was Un-Christian. It has taken the better part of two thousand years for this belief to wane. Proof of Christian acceptance of Cremation? From the King James translation of the Holy Bible (there, again, some people believe that this is the only "acceptable" version of the Bible) in I Corinthians, Chapter 13, Verse 3:
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
Okay, so it does not say, "It's okay to be cremated!" But it DOES discuss cremation in a very positive light: as an act of love for others. This is not meant to negate the ideas or beliefs of any other religions. I just come from a Judeo-Christian background, and cremation is one of the biggest emotional issues I have heard discussed by Christians. What about the change in the physical form of deceased human remains? Even with earth burial or intombment, change will happen. It will take much longer, but change will come... One reasonable question to ask is this: Do you want the change in the deceased's physical remains to happen over a period of four hours, four hundred years, or four thousand years? An actual cremation may take around four hours. Earth burial (with embalming, and a sealed, high grade metal casket, and vault) might possibly maintain its contents several hundred years in the right climate and soil. And today's headlines continue to surprise us with new finds of the results of ancient mummification in dry climates.
Cremation is the neatest, cleanest, safest form of disposition of deceased human remains. There may be some concern that prior to death and cremation you were a certain size and now you would fit into an urn of 200 cubic inches, but an urn can be held; caskets are a little too bulky for holding. Sometimes one must be reminded that embalming is a surgical procedure for the TEMPORARY preservation, sanitation, and restoration of deceased human remains. Decomposition can be slowed and delayed, but even in mummification, it still occurs over a period of time.
As a new mortuary student, I took my objections to cremation with me. I really just didn't know what to think about the first cremation with which I had to assist. On the one hand, I had almost 30 years of "anti-cremation" ingrained in me. On the other hand, in actually seeing a cremation, I couldn't see anything "Un-Christian" about cremation. By the time I assisted with a second cremation, I was changing my paradigm..."getting out of my box" of ingrained thought processes about cremation. It wasn't long until I became excited about cremation because there are so many different options available to families who choose cremation.
When you consider that our physical body is what keeps us "grounded" to the earth's surface, and when you consider how much pain our bodies can cause us over our life time, it's no wonder that more and more people opt to do away with THAT physical presence completely in order to maintain the memory of the person's spiritual self. Just think what the spirit could accomplish if it were not confined to the container known as the human body!
Discussion, even if it is difficult and uncomfortable, with family and loved ones, may help you uncover the reasons behind their feelings about cremation.
Susan Mitchell Cox has served as the managing funeral director of Alexander Funeral Service in Taylorsville since it's opening in 1996. She was the first woman in a ten-count area of northwestern North Carolina to be a licensed as a funeral director and embalmer. She was recently elected as the District 10 Director for NCFDA.