Wednesday, August 01, 2012

And Let Me Rise

For as long as Cremation has made a modern revival of an ancient rite in the United States, a popular ideal has centered around the scattering of Cremated Remains. Just as strong an ideal, though, has been the opposition from those who agree that there ought to be some sort of permanent memorial.
 
The Memorial Idea, a phrase coined by early Cremationists in America, has been a staple of those who provide Cremation services. The Cremation Association of North America began a campaign early in our history, affirming that “Cremation is not final disposition, it is preparation for memorialization.”
 
Without memorialization, the burial of our dead would be no more of a rite than a dog burying his bone (but at least he attempts to remember where he buried it); Cremation would be no more sacred than my grandpa’s brush pile that he would burn every-so-often. Without the idea of giving memory a permanent place, those of us in this profession would be disposers – no different than the garbage collectors.
 
Scattering is a popular idea. It seems quite romantic to think that a loved one’s cremated remains could blow free in a favorite place, or could be placed around a rosebush “that the queen of flowers might seek sustenance from the cinerary remains and scent the air with her message of beauty and fragrance.”
 
What those who choose to scatter cremated remains seemingly fail to remember is that the spiritualization of the body, the actual process of Cremation, releases - scatters - into the atmosphere that which is perishable of our mortal bodies. Arlo Bates, the 19th- and 20th-century writer and scholar, made the point in one of his poems, popular among early Cremationists:

“Then wrap around my frame a robe of fire,
And let it rise as incense censer swung,
Until in ether pure, it may inspire
To greet the stars along the azure flung.

And let me rise into a filmy cloud
to touch with gold the amber sunset sky;
or veiled in mist the driving storm enshroud
both land and tossing main – as on I fly!”


Maybe, then, the bone structure that remains should be preserved – to leave a permanent resting place for the deceased; to be ever-ready to receive those who cherish the memory the most.

Short of abandoning cremated remains, there is really no wrong way to remember a loved one when their life on this side is finished. However, the decision of what to do with the mortal remains of our dead is a choice that we must live with as our lives go on. Irreversibly disposing of them – not creating a permanent memorial – has the potential to cause undue remorse. Care, permanence and security should be afforded our loved ones in death just as is in life. Utmost respect assures peace: not just for those we love that have died, but for those of us who survive as well.

At least, that’s my perspective…

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