I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
Friday, February 17, 2012
is inevitable - we will all die. And for most of us a funeral or memorial
service will be held. But what is the advantage of this service?Why do we expect it, and continue to do
it?Who really benefits from it?
rites have always been a part of our civilization. All successful cultures have believed that the dead needed
attended to in a proper manner. Burial grounds dating back to 60,000 BC show
that gifts were left next to the body and rituals were performed - by
are three conditions that are always found when dealing of the dead:
Funeral rites, ceremonies or rituals are held
The dead are taken to a sacred place to be left
The dead are memorialized in some manner
death rites and ceremonies were based in fear. They were used to protect the
living from evil spirits that were associated with being in or near the dead
were offered after a death to appease these evil spirits, or to assist the
deceased into another world.
many of our funeral customs are still based in pagan rituals.
candles was originally a way to keep evil spirits at bay while dealing with the
the deceased’s face with a cloth was actually done to stop their spirit from
escape through the mouth, possibly stopping death from taking them.
clothes came about in order to fool returning spirits who might want to take
others with them.
were originally held to make sure that the person was dead and did not ‘wake’
flowers with the body was a way of gaining favor with the dead.
music began as ancient chants used to pacify the spirits.
tolling of bells began during medieval times as a way to warn evil spirits away.
after the funeral for food and fellowship began as a way to offer food to the
gods or deceased for special favors.
ancient times, embalming was done so that the soul would not leave the
body. It was believed that the
soul would stay as long as the body was intact. Embalming was also done for
Dr Thomas Holmes
America, embalming became accepted during the Civil War. President Lincoln was
interested in a way to send soldiers home for interment. Dr. Thomas Holmes embalmed over
4,000 soldiers and officers so that they could be returned to their families
for a proper burial. Once Holmes understood the potential of embalming, he
resigned his commission and offered embalming to the public for $100.
our modern world, embalming is used to disinfect the body. It is also a sanitary way to preserve
the body for the visitation and funeral service. Embalming can also lend a
life-like appearance to the deceased and improve the appearance of someone who
had a traumatic death.
and rites were originally held to placate the spirits. But for hundreds of years, funeral
services have been held to assist the living in expressing their grief, find support
through friends and family, and celebrate the deceased’s life.
step of the service is a part of the grieving process. Having the body present
during a visitation assists the bereaved in recognizing the reality of
death. According to Dr. Erich
Lindemann, American author and psychiatrist, specializing in bereavement, “The moment of
truth comes when living persons confront the fact of death by looking at the
body. Grief is a feeling. If you deny it, you have difficulty coping with it,
but if you face it, you start the process of healthful mourning!”
visitation and funeral service also allows visitors an opportunity to remember
the deceased and share those memories with others. It is a way to honor and celebrate the deceased’s
accomplishments and life.
final step, the committal of the remains, helps the survivors acknowledge that
they must now break with the past and move on into the future without their
description of the cycle of grief was first introduced in 1969 by Elizabeth
Kubler-Ross, after studying more than 500 dying people. It consists of five stages that a
person goes through when dealing with death or tragedy.
Denial - Usually only a temporary defense.
Anger – A person realizes that they cannot continue with the denial and moves
into this phase where blaming and rage occur.
Bargaining – Trying to negotiate for more time.
Grieving/Depression – This is the stage where the certainity of death is
Acceptance – The last stage where a person comes to terms with death or
stages are not necessarily felt in this order but everyone goes through at
least two of them. Women are more likely to experience all five. Results from the study indicated that
those who felt they had found their purpose in life faced death with less fear
than those who had not.
William Gladstone summed it up best, "
Show me the manner in which a
nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the
tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their
loyalty to high ideals."