Friday, 4 January 2013

In the end, most of us will burn

Regular readers of this scurrilous blog will know that I do like the odd shocking headline.
It's the adolescent in me you see?

But also, I must admit, it does help to raise the level of interest in the post in question.

Of course, I don't do it for that reason, what sort of a person do you think I am?  Don't answer that, please.

So, an end to aimless literary rambling and a quick scene shift to the issue in question; death.

Or, rather, what happens to us after we die.

What's it to be? Flame grilled?

As an inveterate reader of The Daily Telegraph obituary columns, no, not to see if my entry is there, I still retain a few grey cells, but  more out of interest to see who has 'stretched their paws' as Signor Mundabor so gently puts it.

And one thing comes through loud and clear; whether the entry is for a Catholic, Methodist or Bush Born Baptist, most elect for the quick visit to the 'crem' rather than the burial in a cemetery.

Last year, my good friend A Reluctant Sinner posted on a certain bishop who had died and been cremated and he commented mildly at how surprised he was at that fact.

He was, I believe, inundated with some rather nasty comments; it appears that liberal Catholics prefer the gas ovens while most orthodox Catholics opt for the gentle return of the bodily remains to the earth.
This, in turn gave rise to the new hymn "Feed the Worms" (apologies to Bro Eccles).

But we do (those of us who prefer the prospect of a 6x6x2 hole in the ground) like to think of the body as a temple, given to us by God and returned to Him in one piece; not flame grilled a la Burger King and as the Freemasons suggest.

At a rough estimate I believe that something like 80% will go for the burn, 10% for the burial and a further 10% don't know. Well, not so much "don't know" as "don't specify".

Since plucking these figures out of thin air (I'm rather good at that) I have researched the matter online and find that, in 2010, some 493,000 deaths were registered, of which 73% went to the crematorium.

That is pretty close to my guesstimate.

Of course, being a cynic, I think that the reason for these figures lies more in economic than environmental concerns.

To be cremated you will pay as little as £800 while, to be buried it can cost upward of £5,000.

Personally, I like the sort of arrangement I came across whilst visiting the States some years ago.
The township of Concord, Massachussetts had a rather attractive and very natural spread of parkland with graves discreetly planted either side of the pathways. Of course, there were no eight feet high marble angels or plaster statues of the saints, just small slate headstones on every plot.

Provided that the ground was sanctified in accord with the rites of Holy Mother Church, that arrangement would suit me very well. A most natural and harmonious end to life on earth.
And for the dog walkers, the joggers and roller bladers, it would provide a very neat reminder along the lines of the grim reaper and his phrase: "Tonight, maybe?"

Much better than being reduced to an urn in a Garden of Remembrance that no one remembers.



  1. Call me old-fashioned but I think burning is for pagans...or, perhaps heretics!

  2. A plug for St Patrick's Catholic Cemetery in East London. They have opened up new graves and a one-off sum will purchase the grace and maintenance. Profits go to the support of retired and ailing clergy.

    There is also a Catholic cemetery in Kensal Green in North London and (I think) one in Liverpool.


    1. "a Catholic cemetery in Kensal Green..."

      Might this elucidate GK Chesterton's poem "The Rolling English Road"?

      "My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
      Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
      But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
      And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
      For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
      Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green."

    2. Yes!

      While trying to doublecheck this, I noticed that there is a gastropub in Kensal Green called The Paradise, whose slogan is: 'Paradise by Way of Kensal Green'... (goes so well with "The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road")

      Would GKC have approved? Probably.


  3. I wish it ws simple over here in Oz. the upkeep of a grave seems to be astronomical compared to being fried.
    I know of a little cemetery not far from where i live in a semi rural location where a friend of mine- who's 1962 Missal I inherited-is now interred awaiting the Last trump. I think i would like to be buried there -next door to the Catholic Church .
    Afterall as Job said "man who is born of woman has but a short time to live"

  4. Another downside to cremation is the abuse of the ashes. I've heard many stories of families who keep the departed's ashes on the mantle or worse, take them to family functions. I've even heard of Catholics who wear their loved ones' ashes in a locket around their neck. Like Holy Communion in the hand and folk guitars at Mass, cremation seems only to invite abuse.

  5. Here in Malaysia/Singapore,all the clergy/religious dead that I knew of were burned although there is still land for burial. Parishes are now busy building columbariums. Of course, this is still spirit of Vat II land- no TLM's except by the good ol' SSPX!

  6. Patricius - tsk! tsk! Such uncharitable thoughts. But I'm with you all the way. Gervase C, everything in Australia seems to be astronomically priced but in a Land of endless horizons, I can't understand why you cannot have a cheap cemetery out in the bush somewhere. Perpetua -good links from you. I think that my paternal granparents are in St P's and, coming from West London, Kensal Green was the destination for many family and clergy alike. So, yes, Patricius, you are dead right (oops) to link to GKC. Joyce, holy wishes to your family for 2013. You are right to flag up the abuses of ashes. I knew a potter who made a living firing ashes into a bowl or ornament - ugh! And there are some who can (so they claim) produce a small diamond type stone so that you can wear your loved one on your finger! Joshua - prayers needed for Singapore.

  7. The parish at which I often attend Mass has a columbarium in one of their chapels; it serves as a dignified resting place for the bodies of the dearly departed, and as a poignant reminder of our own mortality. Momemento mori, and all that