Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cremation: Not a bad way to be laid to rest: Part I

So, like I said last week, my father-in-law died two hours before we landed in Osaka. Someone came to the airport to get us and whisked us directly to the hospital. He still lay in the bed when we arrived. In general I can be pretty insensitive. I tend to use the excuse of being an engineer and therefore having no social graces as a cover for this. Refer to this statement as you get irritated later on.

Anyway, so when people say someone looks so peaceful in death, I usually think they're full of crap. The person who's dead looks dead, the spirit's gone and no one's home. I suppose we get attached to these bodies. It's only natural, right? But, it is so clear to me when looking at the dead that what remains is just a vehicle that I find the things we tell ourselves to be asinine. I believe the spirit moves on, leaving the broke down 1975 Gremlin of our bodies on earth. This has to be more important than anything else.

My father-in-law looked worse than most. He lost a ten year battle with liver cancer and exploited every possible course of action to prolong his life. "He looks so peaceful," the pastor said. Uh, no he didn't. Japanese custom is for the body to come home and spend one final night sleeping in their own bed. The event serves in a similar manner to a viewing at a funeral in the US. So my wife, my youngest boy and I slept upstairs that night with the body downstairs. They packed dry ice around the body's mid section (to slow decomposition, I guess). My engineering mind immediately started doing thermodynamic calculations, it wasn't pretty.

The next day we accompanied the body to the crematorium. It is rather convenient for the crematorium to be part of the city dump as will later be explained. The body was at this point in a coffin and the whole thing slid into the oven and the door locked. My wife pushed the arm button and then the activate button. You could hear the mechanism inside ramping up in response. We left and then came back an hour later.

Now, I really had no idea of what to expect at the next stage of the process. I know I have sounded calloused and cruel in the descriptions up to this point. I've done this intentionally, because, well... that is really what I think and I'm not sugar coating it. But also because it puts into stark contrast the emotions the next step   elicited in me. It was one of the most spiritually impressive moments of my life. Come back tomorrow to hear about it.

What are your thoughts about public viewings of the dead. How does it make you feel?


  1. It's interesting how different people view death. Cade and I have played at several funerals. I've noticed some people openly grieve at the viewing, while other families, pull anyone away who starts crying.

    Needless to say, I'd rather play at just one wedding, instead of all this funeral work we keep getting hired for.

  2. I close up at funerals. I guess I'd rather grieve alone.

  3. I've told mu husband that (IF) I die, I don't want a funeral. I want fireworks, instead--to celebrate my life. He said that wasn't his thing. To be fair, he DID offer to stick sparklers in my butt. Somehow I feel that wouldn't be the same...

  4. fishducky my dear, you are hilarious.

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