Cremation or embalming?

I just returned from Colorado, an eight + hour trip by plane for me, to meet my brother, sister, and aunt from the Phoenix area in Denver, then driving another two hours east into the vast prairie where our ancestors homesteaded, to bury my parents. To bury their ashes, to be exact. Dad died and was cremated in 2004. Mother died last September. A cousin had made a handsome walnut box for their ashes and they were buried in a plot purchased by my grandfather in 1923 where he and my grandmother are buried.

Mother’s instructions were explicit: their ashes were to be mixed together and buried together. After 67 years together it was appropriate. And I do mean together, as farmers, ranchers, and then as minister and wife, it was pretty much 24/7 for 67 years.

We held hands around that small hole in the ground and said our prayers, our goodbyes, and that was it. Of course there had been earlier memorial services with many mourners and memories shared and pot luck dinners to enjoy.

We had not been subjected to choosing expensive coffins with the most comfy satin resting places, guaranteed waterproof, and feeling obligated to “view” the embalmed, plumped, groomed, beautified body, good as new. Nor did friends and relatives feel obligated to spend big $ on flower arrangements to be disposed of somewhere.

But still, carrying out our parent’s wishes cost enough to feed hungry families for weeks in our country or perhaps months in Africa.

Now I understand that some religions frown on “ashes to ashes to ashes, dust to dust” final disposition of the dead. But if they believe the physical body is necessary for resurrection day, what do they think may remain after years or decades in the ground? Even in the most expensive coffins?

My husband Mark and I and my sister have expressed our wishes for our cremated remains to be even more simplified: no tombstone, no specific burial place. Just remember us for who we were.


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