You may remember that I’m working on a series set in a funeral home. (Trust me, the series isn’t funereal. It’s really rather humorous.)
To support the series, of course, I’ve had to do a lot of research in the areas of death and dying. And while doing that research, I’ve become convinced that if given a choice between cremation and burial, I’ll take burial. Why?
A couple of reasons, actually. First, burial is the biblical example. All of the patriarchs were buried, and their bodies lovingly cared for. Think of Joseph asking that his bones be carried back to the Promised Land. Think of Abraham buying land to bury his beloved wife, Sarah. Only the pagan nations burned their dead.
Second, God created man body and soul. We are bipartite creatures. And I think lovingly tucking the body away in a “casket” (definition: a container for treasured things) shows more respect that burning something up.
Third, burial is a metaphor. Just as we are baptized under the water and brought up as a picture of Christ’s death and resurrection, so our burial is a picture of us “sleeping” and waiting for the resurrection . . . and there’s nothing metaphorical about that.
I found this quote in an online article:
Burial is a fitting earthly end to the life of a faithful Christian, a Christian who has been “buried with Christ in baptism” and is waiting to be raised with him in glory (Rom. 6:4). A Christian burial does not mean that we are “in denial” about the decomposition of bodies—that is part of the Edenic curse (Gen. 3:19). It does mean that this decomposition is not what, in this act of worship, we proclaim as the ultimate truth about the one to whom we’ve said goodbye.
Burial conveys the image of sleep, the metaphor Jesus and his apostles used repeatedly for the believing dead (John 11:11; 1 Cor. 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:13–14). It conveys a message, a message quite different from that of a body already speed-decayed, a body consumed by fire.
Of course, God can reconstruct any body, one that’s been turned to ashes or one that’s turned back into the “dust” from which it came; that’s not the point. The point is that in our choice, we have an opportunity to paint a word picture and give a testimony even in this choice. So, given the option between cremation and burial, I’ll take the one that looks like putting me down for a nice nap.
I think there’s something comforting about laying a loved one to rest and waiting for the expectation of resurrection. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think an urn on the mantle says quite the same thing.