Cremation with Confidence: The Power of Closure and Celebration
(Senior Link Featured Article Spring 2018)
by Laura Landes
As cremation becomes more and more popular, I am left wondering if we have somehow, as a society, lost sight of the value in the celebration of life and ultimately the closure that a final viewing offers. It seems as if “direct cremation” has become the easy way out of accepting the finality of death, allowing us to avoid the emotions that are associated with the final viewing of the physical body that we have known and deeply loved for so many years, along with the memorialization of the life that was once lived. I have personally witnessed how this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality has proven to be a debilitating error in judgement for many years to come.
Through my experiences, I have come to realize there is a huge misconception surrounding cremation. Whether for or against this practice, many believe that cremation does not, nor cannot, accompany more traditional services, much less the opportunity to see their loved one once more. It saddens me to think that cremation is viewed by so many, including some mass crematories, as a means of “direct disposal”. In and of itself, cremation is simply another form of disposition, with the freedom to encompass the opportunities both for closure and celebration.
I firmly believe that cremation families deserve the same opportunities that burial families have always been granted. To bridge this gap, a viewing prior to cremation is vitally important, offering the family a private time to say their final goodbyes while providing the peace of mind that a “positive identification” of the loved one can bring. It has been my experience that this form of closure has proven to be worth its weight in gold.
I understand that not everyone feels this need for closure, as I have been told so, outright. It has also been expressed to me, while assisting individuals in the preplanning process that some do not desire to be viewed by their family members, in hopes that they will be “remembered as they were.” As difficult as it may be, it is important that we realize that funerals and viewings are for the living, and it is not always about what we desire, but more so about what our family will need at the time of our passing.
I have come to realize that many individuals who were so adamantly against the idea of viewing for identification, after having experienced this opportunity, become overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. As a result, it is not uncommon for these same individuals to begin reaching out to their remaining family members, requesting their attendance as well.
I vividly recall the solemn, stoic gentleman who enveloped me in a strong embrace after describing the love of his life as “more beautiful than he had seen her in years and so grateful for the opportunity to see her one last time”, as well as the grown children who were so grateful for the nostalgic feeling that accompanied seeing their father appearing 20 years younger, prior to his lengthy illness. These special moments have only strengthened the validity of my belief in this event.
This act of love and due diligence should be made available for anyone opting for cremation, as it has proven to be a beautiful opportunity for those beginning the journey of hope and healing. When considering cremation, insist that the “Viewing for Identification” process be a standard part of the services being offered, as well as a time to celebrate the life once lived. The peace of mind this opportunity offers pales in comparison to the closure and comfort it will provide for you and for those you love for many years to come.
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