Do-It-Yourself Cremation

Glasnevin CemeteryThis actually happened. There was a funeral for an elderly gentleman who was loved by many in the community. During the funeral, the decedent’s grandson read some touching words to honor his grandfather’s life. The grandson read the eulogy on his mobile phone. (No, he didn’t call in his eulogy.) He read the eulogy from notes in his mobile phone. (Do they have an app for that?)Times are changing.

Prior to his death, my father made all the funeral arrangements with a family-owned funeral home that had served his small community for generations. When my father died, it was a tremendous blessing for our family to be unburdened with making funeral arrangements in the midst of our grief. All we had to do was dress up and go the funeral. His funeral took place in the state of Georgia. But something unusual happened on the day of my father’s funeral; or it seemed unusual in the eyes of this Californian. A group of mourners had gathered at my stepmother’s home. We all got into our cars and drove through the countryside to the site of the funeral. Along the way, nearly every car going in the opposite direction pulled to the side of the road until our funeral procession had passed. I noticed that the men who pulled over took off their hats in a gesture of respect. Wow! I have never seen that happen in California.

It used to be that funeral homes were considered a ministry or a sacred community service. Not too many generations before, families assumed the grim task of tending to their dearly departed. Somewhere along the way society made changes in the way we mourn and dispose of our deceased relatives. Recently, I have read reports that the funeral industry has become excessively profit-driven. The implication is that many funeral homes take advantage of grieving families to nickel and dime people in a moment of weakness. I am sure there are still reputable funeral operators, but the thought of death used as a profit-driven venture with shareholders to satisfy . . . well, it has an irksome feel to it.

When I was a child, I occasionally hung out with a kid who lived nearby. His dad was a gruff logger. When his dad died of natural causes, his family shocked the community by insisting that they would dispose of his remains. Legend has it that they went up into the mountains where they built a massive bonfire and cremated the poor fellow. (That’s how we roll in my hometown.) Some in the community were horrified. Others were sympathetic because the family of the deceased was poor and probably could not afford a funeral. Even the police got involved because, apparently, do-it-yourself cremation was against the law. I sort of admired the family’s actions. (I must have Viking blood in my veins.)

Anyhow, as we age and pass away, death can still be a powerful opportunity for those who follow Christ. The only time many people darken the door of a church is at weddings and funerals. A funeral might be the only time a person will ever hear about Christ. As the massive baby boomer population ages and exits this life, there will be a lot of funerals. In fact, I am sure there will be a lot of unconventional funerals as boomers try one last time to express their individuality. I hope Christ is not forgotten in the mix. The important thing to stress is that for believers in Christ, the tomb is empty.

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Posted on March 14, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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