Rev. Fred Gilley,Retired Minister
Ed Maness and James Howell were present for my first funeral, a graveside service in Trent Cemetery near Critz. They told me where to stand, what to do, and let me think I was in charge.
As young men working for Ben Mays, they looked so much alike I thought they had to be either brothers or cousins—one of many assumptions I’ve had to unlearn.
After Mays Funeral Home became a part of Moody Funeral services with Ed as local manager, but before the crematorium was built in Stuart, I decided to needle Ed about the high cost of funerals. Ed was informed I planned to be cremated, instead of an expensive casket, vault, and other services.
“You’ll probably burn soon enough,” Ed retorted quickly.
We finished our exchanges by promising the survivor would attend the other’s service. I’m reasonably certain I kept my promise to Ed. James honored me with an invitation to be a participant in his service.
Cremation has outpaced burial slightly, according to recent reports from such professional organizations as Cremation Association of North America (CANA) and National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) The latter’s 2015 report projected cremation at 48.5% and burials at 45.4%. U.S. cremation rate is expected to rise to 52.9% by 2019, according to a CANA press release.
The same source reported total 2014 cremations were higher in Western and Northeastern states, which also has a larger population of the unaffiliated with organized religion. CANA also reported cremations exceeding 75% in Nevada and Washington. Four of the five lowest cremation states were in the South, with Mississippi at 19.7% of totals, followed in ascending order by Alabama, Kentucky, and Louisiana at 27.6%.
Utah, fifth lowest in 2014 cremation numbers, reached 29.7%. Mormon influence probably was responsible for the western state’s lower number.
Christians are late-comers to cremation, due to broadly held beliefs in resurrection of the body. Although cremation has been more or less available since ancient times, the first in the U.S. was in 1876, according to “Cremation Confusion” by Timothy George in Christianity Today (May 21, 2002). That final rite featured readings from Charles Darwin and Hindu scriptures. Mostly liberals and free-thinkers chose cremation, which may help explain Christian reticence.
Only five percent of Americans chose cremation in 1962, about the time Roman Catholics were lifting the cremation ban. “Heretics” and unbelievers had been burned at the stake for years, believing God also could resurrect burned bodies. The powers were so angered by John Wycliffe’s insistence communion bread did not become the body of Christ, his own body was exhumed, burned, and his ashes thrown into the river Swift.
Those churchmen denied the Lord all reassembly breaks!
An understanding of scientific fact for 50 or more years may or may not be valid currently. I think I recall matter cannot be destroyed completely. Attempted destruction succeeds only in changing the form in which existence continues. In addition to genes and memories, a useless cremated human body is reduced to cremains—ashes, bits of bone, etc.
Physical bodies are designed only for living in the physical world.
In a resurrection-seed context, Saint Paul writes in First Corinthians 15:35, “…some man will say, ‘How are the dead raised…with what body do they come?’” The apostle also suggests future bodies will please God, and adds the glory of celestial bodies differs from the glory of terrestrial bodies.