Cremation Ceremonies and Memorial Options
One of the most important rites of passage of any society or culture has been the processes and ceremonies that surround the ways in which they dispose of their dead. For countless civilizations, the preservation of their dead in coffins, sarcophagi, cremation urns, barrows, or whatever their custom was considered the start of the memory for those left behind and the eternal life of the one who died.
Rites and Ceremonies Through History
Rites and ceremonies surrounding the dead have been an important part of the process of starting their afterlife. And for many cultures, these rites included the process of cremation, but that typically was only a minute portion. In the Iliad, Troy writes of how Patroclus, the companion of the hero Achilles, was remembered after sacrificing himself on the battlefield. Achilles sat vigil over his body for days while his friends built a huge funeral pyre that included jars of sacred oils and honey, animals and enemies that had been sacrificed for the occasion. Then they held funeral games, and demonstrated feats of strength, showing their persistence following death.
The Romans held huge elaborate funerals in the forum for their statesmen. The funeral pyre would be a focal point of the funeral. After having been lighted by the eldest son of the deceased, the cremation process would take place while the deceased was eulogized and celebrated with food and drink. Similar ceremonies would take place for citizens of the empire, though typically on a much smaller scale. Following the cremation, the urns would typically be interred in a private cemetery or columbarium, a building with recesses in the walls that resembles a dovecote where urns could be permanently preserved.
Countless societies and cultures that practiced cremation in ancient times conducted some sort of rites surrounding the dead. Just as important today in our society is the need for some type of ritual or ceremony that surrounds the passing of a loved one.
Why Families Choose Cremation?
There are many reasons families choose cremation. Two of the most common ones include the cost of cremation (which is typically much more cost effective than burial) and the options that abound with cremation – these allow for complete personalization of the services and merchandise that the family chooses.
Memorial Service Before Cremation
Many families opt to have their loved one’s body embalmed, placed in a cremation or ceremonial casket, with a viewing or visitation and a public funeral service prior to the cremation process taking place. This is especially popular among many religious groups that practice or allow cremation. This type of service gives the opportunity for family members to visually say goodbye to their loved one. This can be a service or visitation that is as public or private as you prefer.
Memorial Service After Cremation
Most families that choose cremation for their deceased loved ones choose to have a memorial ceremony after cremation with the loved one’s ashes present in their urn. This type of service can also take place without the remains present, though many families find that having the urn present offers a focal point to help bring about the importance of the service.
Involving a Celebrant with a Ceremony
When discussing ceremonies, these gatherings do not have to be formal or stuffy, or they can be so. Some families choose to involve a celebrant – a life story professional that gathers information and stories about the loved one to create a meaningful service that celebrates the person who died. These services typically include words of encouragement but are mainly focused on celebrating the loved one’s life and its contribution to those who remain to celebrate their memory. Often referred to as a celebration of life service, this type of service has become a very popular option for families who choose cremation.
If faith is important to the person that died, most churches will allow funeral services before cremation, allowing the casket to be present for the service. Many churches, especially the Catholic church, often prefer to have the body present when possible. Otherwise, many churches allow for memorial services to be held, with coordination with the pastor or church leadership.
Options with Cremation
Countless service and merchandise options abound for families who choose cremation for their loved one. From tree planting ceremonies with The Living Urn, to scattering committal services with our Eco Water Urn, the merchandise you choose can also be an important part of the services. For traditional urns, this could include their presence as a focal point for the service, and committal services at the urn’s final resting place.
Ultimately, the decision of the services is up to the wishes of the person who died, and perhaps more importantly, the survivors who must live with those wishes. That being the case, talk to your family, friends, religious leaders, and cremation provider. Discuss the various options and allow yourself time to make the choices in services and merchandise that help you in your journey of grief. What is perhaps most important having a plan that can both honor the person who lived and died and begin the process of healing grief and celebrating life. How that looks is all a matter of preference.