Guidelines for the dead irritate the living

There are plenty of us who would love to live forever. Besides the uncertainty some of us have, based on our actions in life, about whether or not we’re going to heaven or hell, there’s also the reality that death has become such a rigid affair.

As Exhibit A, I present to you a recent story about the Catholic Church publishing guidelines about cremation. Prior to All Souls Day, the church alerted its faithful that, while cremation has been allowed since 1963, you cannot take your loved one’s ashes home, divvy them up among the family or go out into the woods and scatter them across Mother Nature’s lap. Instead, they must be kept in a sacred place that has the approval of the church.

The church prefers that you bury your dead, but if you decide to cremate, you must abide by the guidelines. To not do so would prompt the church to deny the deceased a Christian funeral.

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the author for the guidelines, said, “The dead body isn’t the private property of relatives, but rather a son of God who is part of the people of God. We have to get over this individualistic thinking.”

I haven’t made any firm commitment about what I want done with my body when I finally buy the farm, but if I were to choose cremation, I’d rather my family get rid of the ashes in a way that didn’t suck up space, like an urn in a mausoleum. Per the Catholic Church, though, that’s a big no-no, because to do so smacks of “pantheism, naturalism or nihilism.”

I can live with that—or maybe I can’t, because I’ll be dead. Ha!

Of course, what about those folks who opt to be buried in a cemetery with a headstone marking your final residence? That’s where I come up with Exhibit B, which is taking place right here in Shawano.


A form letter is shown attached to a gravesite at Woodlawn Cemetery in Shawano, Wis., where city officials are trying to alert families to tougher gravesite decoration standards. (Photo by Scott Williams)

The local cemetery is the final resting place for many people, some who lived their whole lives here. Many folks who visit their loved one’s grave usually brings something like some flowers, a way to show that the person was loved by those who knew him or her.



However, the city is cracking down on folks who go overboard with physical symbols that they love the dearly departed, and the way they’re getting the word out is by placing form letters by the headstones where displays have gotten out of control.

Folks are allowed to have small floral displays and clay vases, but there are no glass vases, no shepherd’s hooks and no floral displays that look like you mugged a float in the Tournament of Roses parade. Suddenly, cremation looks better and better. Who wants to deal with those kinds of restrictions?

I say that, as long as what you have doesn’t infringe on someone else’s grave or blocks the path to other headstones, it’s best to leave things well enough alone and not regulate every little thing in the world. Good grief! Losing a loved one is traumatic enough, especially if you have to plan the funeral. To have to deal with government telling you what you can put on your loved one’s grave or your church dictating where cremated family members may reside for eternity is a straw that would break any camel’s back.

Live long and prosper, but if you die, may your final wishes be carried out as you want.


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