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Dutchess_III's avatar

Does the thought of someone being cremated upset you?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42438points) April 17th, 2016

Before I met my husband I’d only been to one funeral in my life, and I was a kid then. We lived 2000 miles away from any other family.

Rick has a very large family, close by, and since I met him, it’s like there’s a funeral every other month.

My mother and father both chose cremation, and I think that kind of took their families by surprise (if I know Mom, she chose it because it was the cheapest way to go!) I have made it known that I want to be cremated as well.

However, the mention of cremation upsets my husband quite a bit. None of his family members have ever been cremated.

I, on the other hand, have a serious aversion to the open casket portion of the ritual that his family seems to prefer. It’s horrifying to me.

What are your thoughts?

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56 Answers

filmfann's avatar

I have been to many funerals, and every time there is an open casket, I think “That’s a dead body!” It doesn’t matter how close I was to the deceased.
I have instructed my family to have a closed casket. I am also going to be cremated.
If you want to give them a good reason not to be buried, show them that clip in “Poltergeist” where the person looks in the mirror at the rapidly decaying body, covered with maggots.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The first funeral I went to of Rick’s family, the casket being lowered into that deep, dark, black hole was horrifying to me too. Funerals are just horrifying. Memorials are so much nicer.

elbanditoroso's avatar

My will says that I want to be cremated. Burial is a waste of space and money.

If the soul (if it exists in the first place) is separate from the body, then who the hell cares if the body is burned? The soul would exist no matter what.

Jews don’t do open caskets (I find the idea rather grotesque), so I haven’t had to deal with that.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

I agree with you. The casket thing, open casket thing, all of it. Horrifying to me.

Seek's avatar

I plan on willing my body to a medical school. They use the body for whatever they need it for, cremate the rest, and return the cremains to the family. This costs my family nothing (unless, of course, I die in some way that makes donation impossible. Then they’re out of luck).

The one phobia I have is oxygen-free environments. I will never go SCUBA-diving (I’m not even an accomplished swimmer). The idea of being buried alive is terrifying. If I were being buried, I’d have to leave instructions for them to chop off my head first, just to be absolutely sure I’m dead.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

@elbanditoroso I didn’t think Jews would allow cremation. I have many many Jewish friends and they bury their dead very quickly (no embalming). Never cremation though. They are reformed but I don’t know if that makes a difference.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They do the coolest stuff with the cremated remains nowadays, like make a gem out of the carbon. I think I would like that, but my kids would have to like it too.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@MollyMcGuire – the more religious Jews don’t allow cremation. I’m one of the more liberal, less religious ones.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Cemeteries are SUCH a waste of space, IMO.

Jak's avatar

You can now be in a sort of pod that grows a tree and apparently uses your decomposing organic waste as food. That’s kinda cool. I have alwaays planned on being cremated. My “family” members of the Christian persuasion feel that cremating will somehow negate the “Dead in Christ shall rise” idea and for that reason are against it. I am however, not averse to this tree thing.

jaytkay's avatar

I never gave it much thought until my dad died.

The idea of Dad being consumed in a fiery furnace and then “here’s your little bag of ashes!” still freaks me out, but it’s not worse than any other disposal.

zenvelo's avatar

I agree with the early posters, an urn at the memorial is way less creepy than an embalmed body that is all waxy and everyone is supposed to peek in on.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Jak I thought about that a long time ago. But instead of paying a few hundred dollars for the tree thing, why not just have the family dig a hole, dump your ashes in it and plant a tree in the hole!

A long time ago my husband and I touched on it. He said something about you have to be buried with your head pointing east, and also something about rising. I said, “Rising? Like…won’t they just be decomposing bodies or bones or what? What exactly rises?”

Jak's avatar

I don’t know. I’ve heard of pointing to the east and also the north. Though if the poles shift…..Meh, couple hundred dollars beats the shit out of thousands for a fancy schmancy casket, and I don’t thing ashes would provide much nutrients for a growing tree. besides, if you go to the trouble of burning me to ash, I want to be scattered to the winds, not buried in a hole! For all I care, you can throw me to the ravens.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“If the poles shift…” LOL!!

Of course a couple hundred dollars beats the hell out of thousands for a casket, but why even spend a couple hundred bucks when you can do it absolutely free? Or for maybe the cost of a sapling? Or you could start the tree from seeds. I have 3 huge trees in my back yard that I started with seeds I picked up in the driveway.

I like the idea of whatever minerals are left of me feeding one specific tree even if it’s barely a blip. Also, I checked with my kids, asked if they’d rather scatter me, or put me someplace they could “visit.” They said they’d want to visit, so that decided that.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I want cremation then put in a large mayonnaise jar and put in the closet till the end of time.
I don’t care for graveyards and the whole funeral thing, have a celebration of life and be done.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My feelings exactly @SQUEEKY2, but I think a pickle jar would be more holier than a mayo jar.
Tell stories about me, laugh and laugh.

dammitjanetfromvegas's avatar

I feel exactly the same as you and my mother also felt the same. She didn’t want a funeral and chose to be cremated. My sisters and I plan to buy a locket to keep some of her ashes.

zenvelo's avatar

@Dutchess_III @SQUEEKY2 There are people on this web site who would make a case for on of those ballpark size mustard jars being appropriate.

I would just as soon be planted also, yet the State of California gets really creeped out about people burying remains in the backyard. So when one gets planted, one has to do it in a “park”.

elbanditoroso's avatar

My will says that I want my remains to be tossed to the winds in a forest somewhere.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My sister took over Mom’s funeral duties. She asked if I wanted ⅓ of Mom’s ashes. I said, “No.” That was just weird to me.
Where she was “buried” was in a wall in an actual cemetery. It was a long, black wall, about 4 “stories” high (about up to my waist) really pretty, actually, with a place for the earns every foot or so.
We all put things in her space before they closed and locked the door.

anniereborn's avatar

Both my husband and I want to be cremated. I have been to many many funerals and only one memorial for a person who was cremated. I have to say that as a mourner I prefer the traditional funeral as it brings me closure. Probably because it’s what I have been used to my entire life and I know what it means. Even if no one was “in” the casket, if there was a cheap “fake” closed casket and someone doing a Eulogy, my brain would connect it.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The thought of someone being cremated doesn’t upset me in the least. How one desires to have their body disposed of should be upheld, if possible. The choice should be accepted by those left behind and not carried out based upon their own desires. It’s one last nod of respect to the deceased.

This is one of the reasons why having a will is so important. Even then, it doesn’t necessarily result in one’s final wishes. It’s a matter of conveying what you want to those closest to you that are left behind and convincing them to carry out your request.

As for the acceptance of a cremation, it all boils down to what we are used to, doesn’t it? If one is brought up in a culture where an open or closed casket is the norm, then any deviance is looked upon questionably as a break from tradition or worse, a sin.

Just an FYI. Cremation is not the cheapest way to go, nor is it cheap. It’s just less expensive than the funeral with a coffin and gravesite.

anniereborn's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer It depends on what you call cheap. I think you can have everything taken care of including the urn for less than $1,000.00. Yeh, not THAT cheap, but a traditional funeral etc will be waaaay more than that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So what IS the cheapest way to go @Pied_Pfeffer? Mom’s stuff was about $1,500. Rick’s mother’s was $15,000.

JLeslie's avatar

If I think about the actual burning of the body, it creeps me out a little. The idea of dying by fire is so horrific to me. I know this is after death, but still, watching a body being consumed by flames is unsettling to me. However, being buried isn’t a great thought either. If I don’t think about it how it happens, the ashes of someone doesn’t creep me out. If people keep them, or I know someone has their loved ones ashes I don’t think that’s weird at all.

I really dislike open caskets at funerals. My grandmother had a closed casket, but my cousin (not really a cousin) who works in the mortuary business said at the funeral we should see my grandma she looks so at peace. I really regret it! She didn’t look at peace to me, she looked dead.

In Judaism they/we believe it’s the cycle of life to go back to the earth. That’s why they don’t embalm. Technically, you are supposed to be buried in a pine box that will degrade, but that usually doesn’t happen. Maybe the Orthodox still do that.

Also, it’s hard not to think of the Nazis burning bodies, lines of people going into the ovens. But, there are mass graves of Jews too at the hand of Hitler, so I guess that is an irrational thought.

For myself, I’m unsure what I want. I know if I die before my parents I’d probably want what they would want, just because my death would be so horrific for them.

@Pied_Pfeffer I do think it has a lot to do with what one is accustomed to. Also, the expectation. Since I’m Jewish I had expected always to be buried when I was younger. As I get older the expense of burial is so ridiculously high, and then the taking of the land and paying for the maintenance of the grave seems impractical.

I remember the first time I heard of cremation I was quite young, maybe 10 or 11, and it was a British neighbor of mine. She said in England they are such a tiny country it’s impractical to bury bodies. They don’t have the space.

ucme's avatar

I’ve left clear instructions to pack me in ice, cryogenic styley like in Demolition Man
It’s a shockingly expensive process & has limited chances of success, but hey…i’m worth it!

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@anniereborn Right. It depends upon what one considers cheap. Cremation is cheaper than a burial with a casket, but that may still be an expense that the person could not afford, nor their loved ones.

I only have experience with three people who chose cremation. All were carried out in small towns by different funeral homes, with one being in the UK and the others in the US. In all three cases, the cost was over 2000USD. None included an urn, nor the additional cost of the obituary.

@Dutchess_III Donating a body to research is cheaper than cremation. There can still be costs involved, depending on the situation. There are people who prefer that their body decay in specific grounds, like where they resided. It used to be common to have a family cemetery on their land.

@JLeslie Yes, one’s decision is often influenced by the cultural norms. As for England’s preference to cremation over burial due to the lack of space, I haven’t experienced this to be true. There are plenty of operating cemeteries.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m pretty sure that in the US you’d have to get special permission to bury a body someplace other than a cemetery. Plus, no matter where you’re buried, I think the laws state they have to be in a hermetically sealed casket and you have to be embalmed, and that’s thousands of dollars by itself.

I’ll leave it up to my kids as far as what they want to do, and I’ll let them know about the donating thing, though what possible good this body could be is beyond me.

It’s only common sense that we’re going to run out of room for burying people before long, just like it’s common sense that we’re going to run out of non-renewable energy sources eventually.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@Dutchess_III – you realize that there’s a synergy in what you just wrote? Burn bodies for energy creation…

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Dutchess_III Yes, a permit is required in the US. Without comparing the cost to that of cremation by location, I could be wrong about which is more expensive.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think it’s the casket that’s the most expensive, but I could be wrong.

I don’t think you’d really get much energy from burning a human body. If you did, why aren’t we burning other dead animal bodies, like cows?

Jak's avatar

We do burn them. On the grill! BWAHAHAHAHA!

Dutchess_III's avatar

EW!! Fried Green Tomatoes!

Jak's avatar

(The secret’s in the sauce!)

Dutchess_III's avatar

So they say!

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I think she felt it was wrong to take up the land space. I didn’t get the impression it was some sort of dictate from the government. I did get the impression she wasn’t the only person who might feel that way. It might just be in her circles or family, I don’t know. I’m making a lot of assumptions.

Dutchess_III's avatar

If you’re referring to me, yes, I think it’s wrong to take up the land space.
I’m pretty sure that after a few hundred years, most ancient cemeteries end up neglected, then forgotten, finally to the point they just recycle themselves, but as we become more “civilized” that isn’t going to happen any more. Especially with the kind of hermetically sealed caskets we are forced to use. Theoretically, they should never recycle. So, what is the point of it all, 3000 years from now?

JLeslie's avatar

^^No, I was referring to my British friend.

Pandora's avatar

I have yet to see anyone cremated except my dog. I had him cremated and thought that was a good idea but I find it left me feeling kind of (for lack of a better word) misplaced. I felt conflicted at the idea of him being burned and his beautiful fur and gentle body being burnt to ashes. But I have to admit that the idea of his body being eaten by worms is no better.
I chose cremation because someday I want him placed with me or buried in our final resting place. I know I keep going back an forth as to what I want. I like the idea of a cremation because I don’t like the idea of an open casket either, nor the expense of a burial plot and taking up land. But I don’t like the idea of my family keeping my ashes. Who wants to do that.
But I do want my puppy with me. I know it really isn’t like he will be there but it’s comforting in a strange way.
When I think of my love ones, I don’t want to think about how it will feel to think of them being burned to ashes. Nor do I want to tote them around till I go.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, this had an interesting turn. The whole reason this came up is because a week ago Saturday, my husband’s nephew, “Tom”, who was only 44 was running on his favorite jogging trail and had a heart attack and died. It was a terrible shock. Young, healthy, no drinking, no smoking, athletic. He has a wife, three daughters, the oldest is only 17.
My husband’s family is typically very long lived. His dad will be 93 this year, still lives in the house, by himself, that the boys were raised in.

It seems like there is a funeral every other month, something I am just not used to, since my extended family has always been thousands of miles away. We’ve discussed the open casket thing, and how horrifying I find that.

In some ways the reaction shocked me. Some of it was so matter of fact, even on the evening after he died. My husband said, “Man, what do you do? He was so young, should he be buried, where he lives now, where he grew up, or where most of the family is from?”
I said, “Maybe he won’t be buried at all. Maybe he’ll be cremated.”
That upset my husband quite a bit. He became angry and agitated, so I dropped it.

Well…guess what…..yes, his nephew was cremated. The first in the family to do so. I think it was a shock for most of the rest of the family too.

Rick and I have talked about it quite a bit since then, and he said he’s thinking about it seriously, for the first time.
However, at one point he said, “Hell, just tie a cinder block around my foot and throw me in the lake!”
I said, ”I CAN’T GET AWAY WITH THAT!!”

@Pandora, if you sit down and use your imagination regarding the entire “life” of the whole process of what happens after after you die, the way we tend to use it for cremation, the alternatives are just as horrible. All of them.
And you don’t tote them about unless you want to. My Dad was sprinkled in the ocean. Mom was interred in a wall specially designed for urns.
Tom was interred in an actual cemetery, in just a hole. He’ll have a plaque.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’m so sorry to hear about your nephew-in-law. It’s difficult when it is someone so young and sudden. At least it has Rick thinking and talking about what he wants. There are plenty of options available that should be taken into consideration.

@JLeslie A bit of research has been done on cremation in the UK. The number has risen over the past few decades and is now between 70–75%. The #1 reason is cost; it’s cheaper. Others are lack of religious beliefs, demographics, more environmentally friendly (which it isn’t), and concern for taking up land space.

@All The choice of cremation is on the rise and now outnumbering burial in several countries. The US is lower on the list than some other countries. Not surprisingly, the percentage of cremations in southern US is lower than in the north.

What we need to understand about cremation is that it is an environmental pollutant. Not only does it take a great deal of energy to bring a body to acceptable burning temperature, it generates dangerous gasses that contaminate the eco-system.

Seek's avatar

The question is, does all the extra stuff involved in traditional burial counterbalance that?

There’s the production of caskets (including display models), the production of the embalming chemicals and their effect on the environment, the land waste, necessary tools and equipment for storing the body before burial, fossil fuel burned by digging equipment, hearse, funeral procession, etc.

I mean, I’d love nothing more than to be burned on a pyre, but since that’s frowned upon in polite society, and we have to do something with our dead, a no-casket funeral with cremation sounds like it’s logically the most environmentally friendly alternative.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I just don’t think a human being cremated creates more and worse gasses than, say, a barbque or a fire place or a campfire or a thousand other things. There is nothing so special about us that we could create something other animals, or even plants, don’t when burned.

And what @seek said.

Dutchess_III's avatar

And to add to that we are going to run out of room in the cemeteries. What then?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Here is some information about how having a body cremated can impact the environment.

As for how to deal with running out of room for cemeteries, a Natural Burial sounds like the path we all should consider.

Seek's avatar

Thirty nine cemeteries in the whole US do those green burials.

Whatever. I’m mince meat for med students. They can do whatever they want.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Seek If having your body donated to science is the choice, then it’s worth doing some research on the front end. There are still costs involved, like having the body transported to the facility. Some sites won’t take the body for a variety of reasons. If they do, what do you think happens to the remains?

Seek's avatar

They use what they need, then what’s left is cremated and returned to the family.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

That’s what I assumed as well. Before my sister died, she asked that we arrange to have her body donated to the medical university where she had been going for cancer treatments. At first, the univ. said that they wouldn’t take her body as it was under 100 lbs. Later, they changed their mind.

A childhood friend, now a local mortician, handled transportation of her body and agreed to arrange to get her ashes back once they were available. All of this was documented in writing. The cremations were never returned. Hopefully, this is a one-off case, as her daughters were really upset.

Anyway, donating one’s body to science is a noble act, but it still involves embalming, storage units, and cremation in the end.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Per your link, which involved your preference for burial:

Environmental issues with conventional burial

Each year, 22,500 cemeteries across the United States bury approximately:[11]

30 million board feet (70,000 m3) of hardwood caskets
90,272 tons of steel caskets
14,000 tons of steel vaults
2,700 tons of copper and bronze caskets
1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete vaults
827,060 US gallons (3,130 m3) of embalming fluid, which usually includes formaldehyde.[12]

When formaldehyde is used for embalming, it breaks down, and the chemicals released into the ground after burial and ensuing decomposition are inert. The problems with the use of formaldehyde and its constituent components in natural burial are the exposure of mortuary workers to it[13] and the destruction of the decomposer microbes necessary for breakdown of the body in the soil.[14]

I’ll go google problems with cremation. I’d prefer some other sources to back up your link, which seems to be somewhat biased.

Dutchess_III's avatar

From WikiCremation might be preferable for environmental reasons. Burial is a known source of certain environmental contaminants, with the coffin itself being the major contaminant, however in some countries e.g. the UK, legislations now requires that cremators be fitted with abatement equipment (filters) that remove serious pollutants such as mercury. Other practical approaches such as using cremators for longer periods and not cremating on the same day as the coffin is received reduces the use of fossil fuel and hence reduces carbon emissions. Cremation is therefore becoming more friendly toward the environment.”

In fewer words, there are ways to ensure an environmentally clean cremation, and better ways are being developed all the time.
The same can’t be said of traditional burials. They can seal the caskets securely for a time, but what happens if there’s an earthquake, or other event strong enough to compromise the caskets? Talk about an environmental hazard.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Dutchess_III I apologize if there has been a disconnect. I have no desire for a traditional burial. My current will requests that my body be cremated and the ashes scattered on a specific hilltop.

My points were an attempt to show that while cremation is cheaper than the traditional burial, it isn’t as environmentally-friendly. More importantly, there are other options. It boils down to what is most important to each person and having the funds to support it. This requires research on the front end.

zenvelo's avatar

At a memorial/celebration of life today for a dear friend, the family gave each of his friends a small portion of cremains to dispose, and asked that they be spread in one of the many places he loved.

One was tasked with Park City Utah, another off shore on Maui, a third on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, California.

I was charged with taking to Alpine Meadows, near Lake Tahoe, one of the places where he and I skied many times. We’ll go up there this summer, and let them go in the wind.

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