Ashes to Ashes-A A +A
Thursday, October 31, 2013
I THANK God for a spouse who can take my place as a weekend columnist. She submitted her article last Friday, as I was preoccupied the whole week last week. My business schedule was quite light, but repeated visits to funeral parlors and a crematorium took up some time. It seemed like the Lord was again reminding us that death comes calling anytime. Thus, may life find us preparing, so that death will find us prepared.
For weeks, I have been thinking about the phrase, "You Only Live Once", "Y.O.L.O.", for short. I have not been thinking in terms of how the youth commonly use it, as a reminder to be “carefree, to take risks, or to enjoy life in wanton abandon”, but rather as a reminder that we must live our lives purposefully.
Am I ready for cremation? What used to be taboo for Catholics has become acceptable to the church, and is now a widely accepted practice. So, it has now become an option. Do I want to be cremated?
Recently, I attended the wake of Dr. Charles Cheng, a respected Chinese Baguio pioneer and an "Outstanding Citizen of Baguio" awardee. He was educated as a "western" medical doctor but also practiced as an "eastern" acupuncturist. He was a patron of sports, a man of wisdom, and a man for others. He left footprints to follow in several aspects of his life.
After weeks of hospital confinement, he was finally called to his eternal home. It was one rare occasion wherein at a wake, I was faced with an urn containing a friend’s ashes, instead of a coffin with earthly remains still intact.
It was a stern reminder of the naked truth: “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.
Seeing an urn felt kind of different. It felt like “it” was over. The grieving period and time to pay our respects seemed to have been suddenly cut short.
I found it harder to grieve and was a bit uncomfortable as I paid my respects.
Do I want to be cremated? I have bought a “space” at the Baguio Cathedral ossuary, but am still uncertain if I would rather be “laid to rest” immediately in a jar or under the ground first. Coming from someone who has repeatedly shared that it does not matter what happens to the body after death, it seems that certain “feelings” in me will still affect my choice. As if it matters to me, after my death, what my family decides to do with my body.
What I realized though, is that it might be good to allow some time and space for those who are left behind, to grieve the lost of a loved one, even if we are certain he or she is in a better world, in the bosom of his creator.
“Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes , so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.” – Ecclesiastes 5:15
My Dearest Friends,
As we visit the earthly remains, bones, or ashes, of our dearly departed, let us continue to pray for them. Many of them are still in a “holding area”, which the Catholic church calls “purgatory’, awaiting their final destination in heaven. We pray that their purification time be shortened and eternal bliss and peace be with them at the soonest time.
May they be in paradise to welcome us when our time comes.
May we also be radiant in our glorified bodies, with hearts pure and holy, in the warm presence of the Lord and our Blessed Mother, in the company of all our dearly departed: from Kongkong, Popo, Dennis, and all our ancestors, relatives, loved ones and friends.
As we visit the sick, and grieve for the dead, may we always seek comfort and strength in His words.
Psalm 23:1-6 is one of my favorite prayers:
"The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He lets me lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul. He leads me on the path of righteousness for His name sake. Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me every day of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 31, 2013.