Date: February 10, 2018 04:34PM
I am firmly on both sides of this issue...which means: I don't have any real sense of what the optimally "right" thing to do is.
For the last thirty years or so, I have functioned as my family's Director of Final Disposition...
...and I still dunno. :(
Looking back to when I was very little, I was born during a period of deep and fundamental family change, where there were still traditional burials of actual, fully intact, bodies...
...but family perceptions (on all sides and branches of my California-based family, as versus family branches elsewhere) were changing rapidly (as generational change goes).
My Mom always told me (starting when I don't think I was even in school yet) that when she died, she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes scattered (and this was usually as the result of the burial of another relative of my father or hers, relatives from a generation or more older than they were).
So I grew up knowing that, after death, some people's bodies were buried intact (I was not aware of any harvesting of body parts, which I think was about to happen...but had not happened just yet)...while other people's bodies were cremated and the ashes were then scattered.
There was then a transitional time in my family when bodies were buried, but where body parts (my mother's family was very big on contributing eye parts in particular) were harvested first...combined with (very soon afterwards) straight cremation.
When my paternal grandfather died from leukemia, there was no harvesting of body parts, and my Grandpa's body was cremated immediately by, or through, a funeral home across the river in Marysville (Northern California). At some point, my parents arranged for my Grandpa's ashes to be interred at a cemetery nearby to where I grew up in Southern California (right up against the Santa Susana Mountains, adjacent to where Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and their family lived)...and my parents bought the adjoining [small] space at the same time, so that my Grandma's ashes could be interred there after she died.
When Grandma did die (many years later, for which I am grateful because I loved, and still love, both of my paternal grandparents very much), the curtain went up for the adventurous odyssey of Grandma's ashes (which became some of the undoubtedly most well-traveled ashes in the history of American cremation). For some reason unknown to me (and probably to them, too ;) ), Grandma's ashes were placed in their camper truck, for the confusing (to me) reason that my parents could scatter them if they were at a properly scenic place in their travels (never mind that they had already purchased a place to inter them next to my Grandpa's ashes in California). My parents traveled around the country for years, and they never found the "right" place to scatter Grandma's ashes (which were still in their original packaging, and kept in the truck overhead).
When my aunt (Mom's sister) was dying, my parents flew from New Jersey (they had moved there a number of years before because of my father's employment) to Escondido (Southern California), and before they left New Jersey they retrieved Grandma's ashes from the truck overhead and brought the ashes with them to the motel in Escondido they were sort-of "staying" in. Mom told me where the ashes were in the motel room, and asked me to retrieve them so I could, at least eventually, inter them next to Grandpa's ashes in the cemetery, which (in the midst of everything ELSE that was going on right then) I did.
I now possessed the VERY well-worn package which contained my Grandma's ashes, and (several months later, as I remember) I DID take them to the cemetery in Chatsworth and pay to have them interred in the space next to my Grandpa's ashes.
After my Mom died, my sister scattered Mom's ashes into the Colorado River on a trip my sister took to the Grand Canyon.
After my father died, my sister "scattered" his ashes into a campfire in North Carolina where she (and a group of other people she had affiliated with) were incinerating the memorabilia of their prior lives ;) .
My aunt's ashes (along with the ashes of Charlie Brown, the beloved to them dog my maternal grandmother and my aunt had when I was growing up) are, right now, in a file drawer (it is a very NICE file drawer!!!) in a storage unit nearby where I live. (I am still trying to figure out the "right" place to scatter them.)
I am strongly in favor of people donating their own bodies (or any useful parts) to those people or institutions who can best use them for the good of those who are still alive.
I am also in favor of contemporary cremation (but well aware that the resulting ashes can become parts of strange family odysseys that no one anticipated...and that can, for various reasons, be difficult to resolve).
And I am VERY glad that the generations who lived in the 1800s and earlier buried their dead...because some of the places I love and appreciate the most are ("Old West") cemeteries---particularly the cemeteries in Bodie, California...and in Virginia City, Nevada...as well as Abraham Lincoln's tomb (which I have been to).
And thanks to my Aunt Tomi, without whom none of this would have EVER been written (because it would never have been lived). The immensity of what she did FOR ME, long before I was ever born, and long before my parents ever even met each other (or COULD have met each other), can NEVER be fully acknowledged.
Because of her, I am able to type this here.
Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 02/10/2018 04:47PM by Tevai.