Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cardboard Cremation Caskets

Cardboard Cremation Caskets
Whenever I mention these as one of the options for people in speaking about home funerals, I see people sort of frown or smirk…. "Cardboard?...CARD Board? I’m gonna put someone in CARDBOARD?" Well I suppose it can seem a bit odd, yes. And why is that? Once again, it’s a cultural belief system in operation. It’s because we have all these associations with 'cardboard boxes' and their basic unworthiness.

Okay. I get it. But bend your mind for a minute here. That’s what I’m always trying to get you to do, in my writing, isn’t it? (and lest you think you are the only victims, I am always trying to do this with my own mind as well.) I think it’s a good thing to ‘bend’ or ‘stretch’ one’s thinking a bit. It’s good to challenge concepts or opinions or pre-conceived ideas. We like our pre-conceived ideas, don’t we? We’ve often spent a good long while working on them, refining them, polishing them. We’re often quite proud of them. But let me say, it can really be liberating to let them go sometimes!
Like now, for instance…like this idea about the "lowliness" of a "cardboard box".

A "cardboard cremation container" is the standard name for this . It is, in fact, what is used by a funeral home or crematorium, for what is referred to as 'direct cremation'. It’s generally a simple, sturdy cardboard container with a lid. It has handles pre-cut into it for ease in carrying and I’ve been told it can fit someone 6 foot or slightly taller and support up to 275lbs .
All funeral homes carry a version of this. Many of them do not display or offer these for sale on the showroom floor, but a family may certainly request one. They’re by far the least expensive option, if that is a consideration. But the simple cardboard box has a few other noble and redeeming features.
First, whether used for cremation or burial, it takes the least amount of time to 'dissipate'. I mean it either composts in the earth more rapidly than other casket materials, or burns quickly- using less fuel for cremation (and, I’m told, reducing wear on the 'retort' -or cremation chamber)
Second, it’s light in weight which makes it somewhat easier to carry.

Another of its virtues is that it can be decorated easily…and here is where it’s humble profile really shines! It has a kind of friendly, unassuming demeanor which puts would-be artists right at ease! It seems that it’s just not so intimidating to think of decorating cardboard as it might be to think of doing the same to a fancy wooden casket! People, once they get going, seem to dive right in!
I’ve seen elaborate paintings, collages, written messages…flowers, trees, animals, birds, abstract designs, handprints and even pawprints! Family or friends can each take a small or large area and do whatever they like. Some like to coordinate an overall design, and some create a mélange—colorful mixtures of heartfelt messages. Children get right into the act. It seems to really engage people in a way that is often satisfying and healing.
I’m kind of fascinated by this. I think of it as an emerging folk art trend. I’m glad it’s an option and I’m happy to tell you about it.
Now I’m not knocking caskets…in fact 'some of my best friends are casket makers…'. (I had to say that…) I am not suggesting that everyone go for the cardboard option. I just want folks to know it’s there. Remember, I am a proponent of choice…and in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m always interested in 'jiggling' some of our 'solid' opinions and ideas…just to make a little room for something new and unexpected to come in.
And I just wanted to bring this simple humble player out into the spotlight for a bit of recognition.

This is the feature article from the E-Zine of a Fine Farewell . We post there twice a month, with additional information included in this blog, where you are free to leave comments. I invite you to subscribe here.
Newsletter and blog content copyright A Fine Farewell 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Risin' Up from Bein' Dead

Risin' Up from bein' Dead

This week I'm sharing something I wrote a couple of years ago. It's a kind of fun exploration of my upbringing and current path...and I thought you'd find it amusing and informative-and a bit on the lighter side of things. When I wrote this, a kind reader responded with a bit of historical information that answered a question I'd posed in my writing...so I'm including her answer too!
And just to keep you in the loop... I did go and give my testimony to the OMCB in person on March 25. I'd been complimented on the clarity of my letter and the fact that I covered many of the important points and was asked to read it into the record, which I did. We managed to have enough people there to offer nearly 3 hours of testimony, and as a result of that and your letters, a formal request was made and granted to extend the comment period. This means that if you weren't able to get something written before, you now have until June 25, 2010, to do it! (and to encourage others!) Thanks for your efforts to see that Home Funerals continue to be a viable option for people in Oregon, and in the rest of the country as well. If you'd like to read my letter to the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board, here's the link to it.
Now... on to the my musings...
Some people celebrated Easter yesterday. Other friends are honoring Pesach or Passover. Both holidays occur after the start of the season of spring...which is sometimes called 'Eostara', otherwise known as Spring Equinox.
The Easter tradition that I grew up with is all about Death and Resurrection. The rituals in the church of my childhood took up most of this week in what we were taught to call the 'Passion of Christ'.
This signified the time in which this controversial fellow "...was crucified, died and was buried" and then ( here comes the clincher...) "on the third day he rose again from the Dead."
In one way, this sort of condenses the "story" that goes on in nature for the roughly 6 months between the Fall and Spring Equinoxes. ( In the northern hemisphere anyway). Not the crucifixion part literally, but the laboring and dying and fading away and then a time of quiet stasis, followed by a rebirth. I was captivated by this story as a girl, and was conscientious in my attending to the spiritual practices I was taught. There was a deep reverent sense in me about the importance of the time of Lent--in which I gave up something I was fond of--a sort of fasting--in order to prepare for the renewal of faith in life. I still love this time of year. I love the promise of it.
I think often about this story about Jesus and the impact it had on me as a child. I think about those women to whom the care of the body of Jesus was entrusted. It's kind of like it was the first 'home funeral' I ever heard about! They took him down from the cross. They bathed and anointed and wrapped his body in linen. They put him in a shroud. And they put him in a "tomb" and then rolled a big stone in front of it. I had so many questions about this! Was the tomb above ground or under? Was it a cave? How come it looked like that in the pictures in my missal? How did those women roll that big stone in front of the opening? How did they find a stone that big lying around?
Then after all that work...they go back a few days later and he's gone! Not just disappeared, no, he clearly must have "woken up" because he got "undressed"~! He took off the shroud! He left the wrappings! This is big stuff for a small girl. I pondered the drama of this moment a lot. He woke up! From being dead! And took off his shroud!

When I first started to make burial shrouds, I wanted to find a picture or a pattern of one. At that time almost all of my searches ( especially on the internet ) yielded only entries and pictures of part of the very shroud that Jesus was to have left behind. It's now called the "Shroud of Turin" (because it's in a museum there) and is purported to be the cloth that covered Jesus in the tomb. They think this because the image of his face is somehow 'burned' or in some mystical way imprinted into the cloth. This is all quite fascinating, but it doesn't give much clue as to the design or pattern of a whole shroud. And there is of course controversy about the origins of this most sacred relic of the Church. But it's called a shroud. THE shroud. The first one I ever heard about. Hmmmm.....
I often don't know what I'm going to write about when I start these posts. I had no idea that this entry would lead me to this place but I'm smiling thinking of the way one thing can lead to another. I'd not ever thought of this link between me and Jesus and Home Funerals....But there it is.
Here is the most interesting comment from my friend Beth that answered some of those questions about the tomb and the stone...
"I don't claim to know how the women in the biblical account moved the stone, but I can tell you what I remember learning when I took a course in Israel some years ago. My class visited the ancient tomb of an ancient Israelite from the time of Christ. The big stones to be rolled in front were custom made and left to one side of the entrance of a tomb, waiting for its owner to occupy it. The stones were put in a sort of track to roll it in and could be moved with some sort of leverage, such as a large piece of wood. There were caretakers of the tombs so likely the caretaker moved it in front after Jesus was buried. The real miracle is that Jesus got out - any kind of leverage had to be used from the outside, the tombs were not designed to allow exit from the inside for obvious reasons. Easter is an incredible celebration for Christians because in Christ death was truly conquered. Thanks for such thoughtful musings."

Thank you friends... please feel free to post your comments on the blog, I love to hear from you! And whatever your tradition or spiritual practice, may you enjoy the sense of possibility and joyful renewal of Spring.
Warmly ~Marian

This is the feature article from the E-Zine of a Fine Farewell . We post there twice a month, with additional information included in this blog, where you are free to leave comments. I invite you to subscribe here.
Newsletter and blog content copyright A Fine Farewell 2010