July 2, 2013
Thanks for this Caryn. I hadn't given it a lot of thought, but I think like you I'd like a specific place, preferably with others I care about. I like the way your plan balances memory with environmental and economic responsibility.
An interesting video I just saw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIBkKGPfJ9Q&feature=share
The writing on the pre-cremation cardboard box is a lovely (if heart-breaking, to think about) idea.
This piece reminded a garden I visited in Germany where there were flowers and vines and trees and benches and low stone walls, but also receptacles for cremains. Some were urns anchored among tree roots, while others were hanging with windchimes below them. It was the most beautiful, peaceful place I think I've ever been - perhaps not ooky-spooky as Caryn longs for, but definitely God- and meaning-infused.
What I remember though, as I read this post, is a little detail a friend mentioned to me. The families didn't buy a space in this garden, they rented it. For a good length of time, I believe thirty years. After that you could buy another rental, or you could disperse the ashes and trade it in for a spot on a dedication plaque recording the people whose cremains had been put there. The idea was that the space was permanent, and the community it represented was also permanent, but that our individual place in that community was fading. We were still a memory, but as time passed we were supposed to be free to move on to something greater. It reminded me of the stories I'd heard about the Hogwarts ghosts, souls who were so tied to their earthly bodies that they never were allowed to move on.
I find myself thinking about this in light of the topic you discussed. I think there are excellent financial and environmental reasons to cremate rather than bury people. I'd like to be cremated myself. I also think there are good reasons why the living (those we leave behind) need a space to come and remember us. Ritual and set-apart places are important, and even if we choose to remate people that doesn't mean we have to deprive ourselves of these kinds of spaces. (Though for those same environmental reasons I'd encourage it to be a shared space rather than devoted to a single person.) But there's also a desire to make ourselves permanent, I think, to anchor ourselves to a specific location rather than accepting death's liberation. I'm not accusing you of that (in fact, your wanting a special place seem to be driven by just the right reasons!) but I can see some people wanting a space because they're afraid of dying. This is one way I think cremations are somehow more Christian than even being buried: it is a reminder that whatever is still to come, the body of our earthly life is returned to dust. That fear is quite normal, but I think it's worth being on the lookout for it. We just need to be sure our longing for space is driven by the right kind of thinking.
I am in agreement with your preference of cremation. The thought of being buried is, in my opinion, too horrible to contemplate. Yes, burial gives family a place to mourn after the formal service, visit (with plastic flowers) once a year,, has less impact on the environment, and perhaps even gives one a sense that after death, they will have a sort of permanence. However, I believe that once you're dead, that body is dead, and to be quite graphic, unless it is cremated, it will decay. That thought is horrendous to me. It gives me the chills far worse than the creepy trees in the darkly wooded forest that you long to be have as your final resting place.
Nope! Once I die, I want this earthly vessel to be incinerated...quickly and cleanly. I don't care where the ashes are placed, scattered, or buried. I will be with my Lord, and will care not one whit. Should my family have a need for a specific place to visit, I suppose they will work something out with a cemetery. I certainly doubt they would fight for shared custody of a bit of ashes! I'm chuckling at the thought! How funny would that be? At any rate, I have my tiny, oak, one-room, mini-condominium awaiting my use, locked safely in the closet, and feel quite comfortable about the whole scenario. I would certainly would not feel comfortable about the prospect off death, if I did not have Heaven to look forward to. I'm so glad that I do.
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