A Very Morbid Subject
Following is a little personal background.
When I was 11, my one-year-old dog, Benny, ran headlong into a car and died. It broke my heart. I remember crying intermittently for about a month. It was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. We got another dog, Charlie, shortly after and I eventually got over my feelings of loss. About a year later, when Charlie was one year old, my parents were planning a trip to Mexico.
My older sister, Mary, her husband and child were going to stay with us - me and my four-year-old and sixteen-year-old brothers, while our parents were away. During the week leading up to the trip, we kids and parents had many conversations about the plane crashing and what would happen if Mom and Dad died … and never came back form Mexico. It was all very tongue-in-cheek, of course.
On the Friday they were to leave, I went to school as usual, knowing that when I came home, my parents would be gone and my sister Mary would be there. When I got home from school, I found things just as I expected. Mary and a couple of my brothers were in the family room. I said “hi” and no one answered. I then said something cocky and sat down. I noticed that Mary started to cry. I asked what was wrong and she didn’t answer. I stood and repeated my question … still, no answer from anyone. I began to think that my dog Charlie had died! I then raised my voice, demanding to know what was wrong. Charlie came in the room, barking. Oh no - it must be the plane had crashed … Mom and Dad!!! My mother followed Charlie into the room, reaching down and shushing the dog after I had continued to call out “what is wrong with everyone?!” Then, when I saw my mother, I just knew. She looked at me and said the words I will never forget, “Rosie, honey, Daddy has died.” He had suffered a fatal heart attack in the morning and died before they ever were to leave for the airport. He was 48 years old.
My father had a “Memorial Service.” He had donated his body to science … and so there was no “viewing,” no casket, no funeral home with “visitation,” and no burial … or grave. My mom’s sisters thought this was terrible. They said that they were never really sure that Bill (that was my Dad’s name) was really gone - because they never saw the body (this strikes me as a very strange thing to say.)
I, on the other hand, am glad for the way he did it. I don’t have any Scriptural reasons - I don’t think - I am just glad that I don’t have a memory of seeing my father’s still and lifeless body lying in a box. I think it would have been awful and that it would have made a very sad occasion more morbid then it already was. Maybe I am wrong, but that is what I think.
The week before last, there were two funerals at our church. I did both of the funeral “bulletins” and cried for both as I did the work. These things make me very sad - even though I am confident that the people are with the Lord. I feel so bad for the pain that the families must go through. The worst was that of a 20 year old boy who was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle across a busy highway. It was dreadful. His funeral took place on Saturday when I was on vacation. His poor, poor family.
The other death was that of a very beloved associate pastor of ours. He was 82 years old. His “visitation” was held in our chapel and the main memorial service (funeral?) was in the larger auditorium on Friday when I was at work (before I left for the lake). If I thought that any of his family or close friends would read this, I would not mention the following self-centered thoughts.
The casket made me feel very disturbed. I had to walk through the chapel to get paper to print the bulletin and I glanced at the open casket. I deliberately avoided the immediate area. I felt very guilty for not walking up and greeting his wife and fine children and grandchildren. They probably did not notice me – there were many visitors - but how bad of me not to stop. I told myself I would come back in a little while. Then, it was conveniently too late. I felt guilty … and selfish. Why did his body need to be there? It would not be uncomfortable if they were standing there alone.
I have been to a few funerals and seen a couple of open caskets.
My mom’s mother died in the year 2000. I walked up to that casket. There were two flies on her face. My oldest son, who was four at the time, tried to get the flies to leave her alone. I thought this was very awkward and inappropriate. Why should I look at my grandmother’s dead body and see her with flies bothering her lifeless body? I knew she was dead ... seeing her body was not necessary. Why is this done?
John and I are working these things out and I think I want to donate my body to science. I have heard Christians say this is wrong because they desecrate your body.
What about cremation? Is this unbiblical?
Is it biblical to roll a dead body into the house of worship?
Why do we do these things?
Do they do it this way in other civilized coutries?
I am sorry if these words have offended anyone. I know it was very frank and I hope I have not been too selfish by posting it.