Why Are People Asking About Burial Vs.Cremation?

By Paul Larson

MILLBRAE – The question of burial vs. cremation can be a bit unsettling, but it doesn’t need to be. Even though the concept can be fascinating to the curious onlooker, it may not be too easy when facing it head on. Many of us will need to make this decision in one form or another, but with some education it can be made simple. Burial or cremation? We live our whole lives working to be as health minded as possible but still wind up in a position asking this question. Burial? Cremation? Cremation with burial? What are they? Which is the right one to choose?

Officially burial and cremation are each a form of “final disposition” authorized by the state for the processing of human remains. Burial and cremation are the only practical ways for survivors to “permanently divest” their deceased loved ones. People have always had a difficult time dealing with these topics, and even the wording can be complicated when referring to a “final disposition”. In an attempt to avoid words like “disposal” or “discarding”, creative terms such as “interment”, “entombment”, “inurnment”, “committal” and others have been fashioned to soften the harsh sound of death. The English language seems to have no suitable word to utilize when describing a “final treatment” of human remains.

Historically burials and cremations were widely implemented by ancient peoples to care for the dead. Various cultures have used burial and cremation along with a number of other unique forms of “final disposition”, such as warrior Vikings buried under mounds in their longboats, and sailors performing burials at sea. According to Britannica.com, burial, which was first practiced in the Paleolithic era, was the most natural and simplest way of disposal. By the 3rd millennium BC “coffins” made of various substances appeared in Sumer and Egypt as a way to protect and add dignity to the remains. Ritual use of “Sarcophagi” became fashionable among the wealthy in Greco-Roman society and later among 4th and 5th century Christians. Coinciding with ground burial, cremation was introduced to the Western world by the Greeks as early as 1000 BC. As a consequence of war, solders slain in alien territory were cremated so their ashes could be returned to their homeland. The Greeks & Romans closely associated this practice with valor and military glory. The pagan Scandinavians favored cremation believing it helped free the spirit from the flesh. In India cremation is ancient and desirable with devout Hindus. In Tibet and Laos cremation is reserved for the favored few using open fire piles along with cultural rituals. Interest in cremation began in Europe and the U.S. in the late 19th century. Today, even though cremation is forbidden by Orthodox Jewish practice, it has become more favorable in the Western world.

Remember that burial and cremation are both a form of “final disposition”. You can still have a funeral before a cremation and your Funeral Director will guide you in what you need to consider for either choice.

If you ever wish to discuss cremation, funeral matters or want to make pre-planning arrangements please feel free to call me and my staff at the CHAPEL OF THE HIGHLANDS in Millbrae at (650) 588-5116 and we will be happy to guide you in a fair and helpful manner. For more info you may also visit us on the internet at: www.chapelofthehighlands.com.