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In the not-so-distant past, our western culture frowned on cremation, but times are a-changing. What say you, “To cremate or not to cremate, that is the question”? Cremation seemed taboo growing up around Christian communities. When making arrangements with funeral homes, and the attendant presented the options for handling the body, an emphatic “No cremation” resounded in response. I often wondered why we held such views. My mind recalled reading how Vikings sent a departed warrior on his journey into the afterlife atop a raft engulfed in flames. My mind pondered upon the scripture in I Corinthian 13:1, which states, “…though I give [surrender] my body to be burned [as a martyr],…” In the early days of Christendom and other cultures included, many martyrs met their end burned on the stake, essentially cremated. The martyred receive noble honor from their disciples. So, I wrestle with why we held and some hold such strong views, “to cremate or not to cremate, that yet remains the question.”  

 

Presiding ministers pronounce, “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” as they commit the body back to earth from which it came. I never put much thought into the phrase, but as I aged, the impact of the declaration rests with me: “Ashes to ashes…” The body devoured by flames becomes a heap of ashes; however, “dust to dust” evidence of the human vessel remains from years of decay. The end result, the same–the body ultimately reduces to its minutest common denominator–ash or dust. 

 

Over the past twenty-five years, a transition has occurred in regard to what to do with the last remains, the shell, visage of where a person once lived. Notably, among Christian cultures, more and more families opt for cremation. Initially, it struck me by surprise, especially when the staunch submitted to such a practice. I wondered what had changed in their beliefs that moved them toward the fiery furnace. Personally, I ride the fence, and this may sound silly, but I wrestle between getting burned up or suffocating in a box. Don’t judge me. Hehehe! I know the real me, the eternal me, doesn’t reside in that house any longer, but psychologically, that’s what keeps me from making my final decision. So for me, “to cremate or not to cremate” is still my question. 

 

For so many people, the cremation or no cremation pendulum swings with the notion of cost-effectiveness. The average cost of a traditional burial cost in California ranges between $1400-$4300, not including a casket, plot, or gravemarker, so I’d estimate nearly $10,000. The average price of the cremation costs $550-$3540, with no viewing or ceremony. The full service cost $2770-$9770, includes the facility fee, embalmment, viewing, hearse, & graveside service (quoted source: Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage at lhic.com). It seems that the practicality of cremation has superseded mores from days-gone-by. The added monetary benefits of cremation supplant the aged taboo, which has morphed into beautiful presentations and preservations of a loved one’s remains. Ashes sprinkled across the terrain of a favored place or added to the soil of a growing tree, bush, or flower bed established to receive remains. I noticed how artists mingled loved one’s ashes with rich coloring to create remarkable portraits, pottery, and jewelry charms. Now, for me, I envision my ashes through one of these artistic lenses. It makes me smile, knowing that, in some way, my earthly remains become a source of beauty for my family and the world and not decay.

 

To Cremate or Not To Cremate–That Is the Question–

 

What’s your take? Please share.

 

Live Long and Prosper

 

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