The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Haunting presence

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Is there a psychologically satisfactory way of disposing of a dead person’s body? That’s a judgement only you can make. If you buy into a belief system you’ll probably have no difficulty because faith renders what must be done, the burning, the burying, the dissolution and the nature of it, rational and purposeful. Rational, that is, in the context of faith, not of objective reason, so you can call it kidology if you like just as one faith will denounce another faith’s practices as superstition. Until we can feel sure about what happens next, when we die, we’ll never be clear of unease and puzzlement. Because what we have to do is to get our heads around horror.

The beauty of burial is that it results in the permanent relocation of the complete body. You think it’s all over as the soil rattles down on the coffin. It is. Your hands are now empty.

Not so with cremation. You get a version of the body back. You haven’t necessarily conducted a full imaginative rehearsal for this. Suddenly, there it is. Now get your head around what it has become, its composition, its dimensions, its divisibility, its ludicrous portability, the way it haunts. What to do with these pulverised bone fragments we call ashes? In the words of one blogger diarist in the US, “I’m not really sure how I feel about all this urn-as-dad stuff. Or dad-as-urn.

She starts her post: “I never thought we’d be the type of family who would refer to an urn of ashes by name. And yet, here I was, a day after my father’s funeral, reading over my mom’s list of what to pack for our trip down to the Outer Banks and right after “beach towels” and “fishing rods” was “Jim.”

Read the rest here.

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