As I walk our cemeteries, I often take a few moments to read the names of those entrusted to our care and it is a privilege to speak their names and wonder about their lives. I am overwhelmed by the flowers and wreaths placed as an expression of unbroken love. I am reminded how short our lives are and I recognize that in a short span of time the only evidence of a person’s existence is the record of burial and a name inscribed on a stone.
The memorial on a grave becomes the final record of a life lived and it becomes the place where descendants will gather to reconnect with an ancestor long since passed. It is incredible to witness the reconnection that occurs when a descendant happens upon an ancestor’s place of rest and touches the name and remembers what was told about a life intertwined with the one standing in remembrance. I have often joined family members seeking to reconnect and have been honored to experience the emotions that such reconnection brings.
As I experience the changes in our society regarding burial traditions, I wonder where the next generation will go to reconnect. When a loved one’s ashes are scattered to the wind, where do you go to place a flower, to remember? What is the motivation of those who glamourize the scattering of a person’s remains? Why do they seek the obliteration of Catholic teachings with regard to the proper disposition of all human remains? As cremation was once used to undermine the teachings of the Church regarding the resurrection of the body, is scattering now a reconstituted effort to accomplish that goal? Is it an attempt to undermine Christian beliefs and teachings? Why do certain members of our society seek to bring about the end of the burial traditions that have for millennia been a part of Christian life? When you experience a Catholic funeral and understand its’ significance how could anyone be convinced that the Right of Christian Burial is unnecessary or irrelevant? The sacredness and beauty of the ritual and the honor that it bestows on the deceased should never be cast aside as an inconvenience!
Some have made a concerted effort to convince us that placing our loved ones in a cemetery is a waste of land and a waste of money. I wonder if the woman I recently met washing her husband’s memorial would agree, or the elderly couple placing flowers on a child’s grave with an inscription expressing a love that is decades old. How often do we consider that we may need that place where a flower can be laid, where our connection to the physical is unbroken? We measure everything based on some valuation and never consider that our relationship with the deceased and the celebration of their life cannot be quantified. Once again we find our faith challenged and our beliefs being undermined by changes in our society.
When the need arises, where do we go to renew our relationship? Where do we go to connect to the physical and reflect on our memories of the deceased? Where do we go if we just want some time to reflect?
~Andrej Lah, President
Catholic Cemeteries Association