Friday, July 4, 2008

R&R: Ranting and Raving

You know, if you wanted to keep a loved one's body, after they have died, in your home - maybe propped in a chair or seated on a table, you would be thought very strange.

If you wanted to take the deceased body of your loved one and break it into pieces and give a little bit to everyone so they can remember the deceased, you might even be jailed. Imagine if you said after the funeral, "I'd really like you to keep Johnny's hand." Or foot, or knee, or whatever!

If you thought, I'm going to take the body of my deceased loved one and chop it up into small pieces and place each piece in a locket and make necklaces for everyone who loved him - they'd lock you up!

Maybe your idea would be to thrown the body of your loved one into the sea or a pond or a lake or a beautiful field and let them become food for the many creatures who live there, people would consider you a barbarian and sick.

Maybe when you don't know what to do with the body of your loved one, you'l just stick it in a container and send it to Good Will with the rest of the "junk" you don't need.

And yet, this is exactly what so many people are doing each and every day! I am always shocked and sickened to see and hear the way people treat the cremated remains of their loved ones.

If any of my scenarios seem bizarre or strange or even impossible to you, I want you to know that each of them are stories that we hear all the time here in parish life. Even the one about Good Will. Someone dropped off the remains of their loved ones in an urn at Good Will. The manager there was going to put it out on the shelf for $15. Luckily, a good Catholic working there brought them to us instead and we interred them in our cemetery.

What set me off today? Reading this story in today's newspaper:

Cremated remains part of fireworks show

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — One of the fireworks bursting above the city this year will contain a bit of cremated remains — a fitting tribute, organizers say, to the man who ran the annual event for 40 years.

Meredith Smith died in February at age 74. About a half-teaspoon of his ashes will be in a fireworks shell that will create a white burst in the sky for the finale of the show, set for Thursday night.

"I can't think of a better way," said family friend Kevin Moss.

He also will be memorialized through hundreds of T-shirts referring to the tribute as "the last shot."

Smith, a school maintenance worker, was a trained pyrotechnician. His widow, Charlotte, said they started the fireworks shows as a community service and sometimes paid for them themselves.

"Meredith felt like the people in this area didn't get the opportunities that other people got, and so he wanted to give them the opportunity," she said.

The release of the ashes shouldn't harm public health, said John Althardt of the Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County.

"I think that whatever a family can do to remember their loved one ... is great," he said.
The fireworks will be shot over the White River.

According to Indiana law, cremated remains may be disposed of on the property of a consenting owner, uninhabited public land or in a waterway.

Unreal!!! I have never been a fan of cremation anyway - I'm spending my life trying to avoid The Flames; I can't imagine the last act my body would go through would be harsh flames. Add to that the images from the holocaust of burning in ovens. I just don't like it.

But, I have to support the fact that the Catholic Church allows cremation. But, what is not permitted is any treatment of the body - whether in tact, or burned - with anything other than honor and dignity. Human remains must always be treated with respect and interred - either in the ground, or in a mausoleum or collumbarium. There is NEVER an option to scatter, keep, or otherwise dispose of them.

I often remind people who say, "I want to stay close to the person," what happens when you are no longer around? When you are no longer there to care for the remains of that person? Do they end up in the attic? The basement? Flushed down the toilet? Or donated to Good Will?

You know you would never be able to do any of those things with an intact body, because we have laws about the disposal of a deceased person in this country. But those laws don't apply when it comes to cremated remains? Why? We need laws to assure that our beloved dead are treated honorably.

I cannot imagine anything more disgusting or dishonorable than literally exploding the body of your loved one as a crowd of people watch.

I pray for Meredith Smith for this dishonor being done to her. I pray for all those who have died and have not had their bodies treated with honor and dignity.

Thus end my rant!

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