As a vicar I obviously conduct funerals. It is a great privilege to help family and friends to both grieve and celebrate a person’s life.
It hopefully helps to bring closure to colossal personal and emotional pain and gives strength and encouragement to carry on with life. The ceremony usually involves either burial or cremation.
Burial gives a location which friends and families can visit, and which can be therapeutic.
Cremation is different, but can have the fixed location by having a burial of ashes. I firmly believe that the soul of the person has moved on but we have to do something decent with the shell that remains.
It has done its job for however long and so you treat it with respect.
There are issues about how graves are adorned and churches have strict rules from the Church authorities about what is and isn’t allowed.
One problem is that people still associate the person with their remains and want to decorate graves with all kinds of paraphernalia.
Churchyards are meant to help those who visit them to find peace and encourage faith that allows them to hand the care of their loved ones into God’s keeping and mercy.
It’s hard to do that where graves are decorated with wind chimes, fluffy toys and bunting! But any such trappings should be treated with thought and respect as they represent people’s emotions.
Civic cemeteries have different, ‘anything goes’ rules.
I have also heard some very strange stories where a loved one has been buried and the relatives decide to move and apply to have their loved ones’ remains move to a cemetery near their new location.
I find this totally bizarre as if the deceased relative’s remains are part of the luggage of moving house.
The final resting place should be just that. Final! Which is why I am also disturbed when I visit museums and they have on display ancient human remains discovered at some archaeological site or other. It doesn’t matter if it was some ancient
Egyptian or a Saxon warrior. They were laid to rest in what was believed to be an eternal resting place.
If those relatives and friends had known that in hundreds or thousands of years’ time their Egbert or Winifred was to be on display in a glass case for the amusement of museum visitors I suspect that they would have been deeply deeply upset. Perhaps we should be calling for museums and anyone holding human remains to carry out decent reburials. Should anthropological or historical interest supersede how our human ancestors are treated? Anyone care to join me in starting a campaign?