Today we attended a conventional church funeral of a greatly loved cousin-in-law of Much Better Half. MBH had been bridesmaid to her cousin (who died in her sleep relatively young many years ago) in the same church over fifty years ago.
During the service and at the graveside, I found myself questioning the conventions which bring us to want a place to identify for ‘visiting’ the deceased. Surely once life has departed, the body is simply a group of elements of no greater significance than a pile of compost, so why all the elaborate ceremony?
It is a morbid and unpleasant thought that a spirit would remain in the vicinity of the body. Ghost stories are often based on the fact that this is, indeed, what happens – but if true, then surely those are only the most lost and troubled spirits. Or is the rationale to give the spirit an ‘anchor’ to a place where the living can still communicate with them?
As one who loves gardening, a fancy which quite appeals to me is where a cemetery has only the simplest headstones or plaques, and where all of it is given up to nature, whether wild or tended as a garden. Thus the place would act as a reminder that one form of life feeds and becomes others, and it would be valid to say that some elements of the loved one were still there.
Cremation defeats that object, of course. The scattering of ashes can never be more than a symbolical gesture. Most of the body has been dissipated as gases. One way or another some portion of those will also, in due course, be involved in one or another form of life cycle – but not where one can identify it as happening.
As far as I’m concerned, though, there should be no ceremony involving the body itself. The corpse should quietly be disposed of in the most convenient manner, while any remembrance friends or family want to show should be centred round places or things which were the favourites of the departed. Is there any remotely logical reason to attach importance to the remains? Other, perhaps, than that doing so provides a stage in ‘letting go’ and accepting that the person is no longer here?
© October 2012 Colonialist (WordPress)