Ashes to Ashes – Dust to Dust?
This week marks twenty two years since Mom died and we had her funeral prior to internment at a cemetery in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Twenty years before that, in 1978, we laid Dad to rest after a long bout with cancer. It’s difficult to believe that it’s been forty two years that Dad has been gone – and that is when we also bought eight grave sites and a family monument to mark the family location.
Throughout the years, we have worked with the cemetery to keep the plots taken care of but somewhere along the line, the trees became overgrown and difficult to manage. After several years of discussions, it was finally agreed that the landscape management would be taken care of by the cemetery, the trees would be removed and the area re-seeded with grass.
In all honesty, I was relieved when all this was accomplished a month or so ago. But what prompted all this latest attention to the care of the family gravesite was the death of our youngest brother, Ken, earlier this year on February 29th. On hindsight, Doug and I were blessed to be there as he entered heaven approximately two weeks before the COVID-19 shut down everything and he would have died without our being able to be with him.
For a variety of reasons, Doug and I decided to have Ken cremated – a first in our immediate family lineage. Dad, Mom, grandparents, great grandmother and many other distant relatives were buried in the traditional sense. Yet, as Janet and I mature in our walk with Christ, we have come to embrace the idea that since we will get new heavenly bodies, there is really no need to bury a lifeless, earthly body. This is not any sort of judgment about whether it is right or wrong to have a more traditional burial, but something that we have carefully considered and we think that it would be better to have our ashes scattered – clearly a highly personal decision.
Janet’s parents chose this path and it was a beautiful thing to imagine that their ashes were mixed and then spread in the James River in Williamsburg, VA – their home. Janet and her sisters had a small, private ceremony together and I have heard all of them remark about how special the occasion was. In fact, it was a catalyst for Janet and me to consider other alternatives for ourselves.
So now, we are trying to decide what to do with Ken’s cremains. He was never married, didn’t have any children and was pretty much a recluse. We very much want to honor whatever he would want to have done but unfortunately, he never mentioned anything to me about his wishes. At this point, we are really guessing…
At first, we thought it would be great to spread his ashes in northern Wisconsin – an area that he loved. However, the more Doug and I considered that, we can’t help but believe that Ken would want his remains next to Mom and Dad. With the anniversary of Mom’s passing, all this has kind of bubbled up to the surface…
As I have aged, I have embraced the idea that God doesn’t care about our temporary, earthly bodies and being in heaven with Him is the most important thing. Janet feels the same way. But, on the other hand, I have visited graves of friends and family members for years and there is some great comfort in having a destination to visit on certain occasions. There is something to be said about a marker; and that concept is very biblical.
As of tonight, Doug and I are still undecided about what to do. And therein lies the dilemma. The Scripture is full of verses about death and dying. Moreover, we are told in Genesis that we were taken from dust and to dust we shall return. The book of common prayer used the phrase “ashes to ashes – dust to dust.” What’s the correct thing to do for someone who hasn’t ever expressed a preference?
The verse for tonight is a New Testament offering from the apostle Paul. In speaking of our new heavenly bodies, Paul tells us, in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
So it doesn’t matter if we are cremated or not – even if we are buried or not. And there is no biblical prohibition about cremation. We know that our souls do not die with our physical bodies. My encouragement tonight is that our future, as believers, is assured by our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Even the ancient Jewish people of God believed in resurrection under certain circumstances. My prayer is that we will will all focus on the things to come in our new bodies! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…