CREMATION AS A RITE OF PASSAGE

JGL Eye

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2012 Journal Group Link International)

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.”   Genesis 3:19

CHICAGO (jGLi) – The recent death of my first cousin (on my maternal side), Milagros “Yangos” or “Young Goose” Garra Chua, of Matnog, Sorsogon in the Philippines of lung cancer left some of my relatives scratching their heads when she decided before she died that she wanted to be cremated.

Like a typical closely-knit Roman Catholics, our extended family has never considered cremation as an option until Young Goose’s decision. Cremation is a dreaded word that is better left unspoken.

Among its main objections is its perceived denial of the resurrection of one’s body as shown by Jesus, who was given a traditional burial, not cremation, after the Crucifixion before He could rise from the dead.

Young Goose’s only child, Dave Simon G. Chua, told me in an email that it was his Mom’s decision to be cremated. But Dave did not tell me the reason or reasons for his Mom’s decision.

But I got an idea from Chicago, Illinois’ Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim: it is cheaper.

The top Chicago Filipino diplomat told me the cost of shipping human remains from Chicago to the Philippines alone comes in the range of US$4,000 to US$6,000 while shipping cremated ashes could be less than US$1,000. (Note: You can lose an arm and a leg if you try to smuggle an urn containing cremated remains by stuffing it in an airline baggage or in Balikbayan boxes and get caught!) That’s why more Filipino Americans prefer to be buried in the U.S. than in the Philippines because it is costly for their loved ones to ship their remains unless they bought life or burial insurance!

I emailed the customer service of Loyola Plans Consolidated, Inc. in Makati City in the Philippines, requesting for the comparative rates for cremation and traditional burial after it provided cremation service to Yangos. But I did not get an answer.

The National Funeral Directors Association in the United States says the average funeral cost in the U.S. is about US$6,500 and the average associated cost for buying a burial plot, funeral flowers and services can add up to US$10,000.

 CREMATION 80 % CHEAPER

 On the other hand, the Cremation Association of North America says the average cost of cremation is $1,600 but could reach $5,000. But cremation is usually 80 percent less expensive than a traditional burial. But if cremation services such as coffin, complete funeral, an ornate urn and visitation hours may cost as much as burial.

One of my second cousins, Ramon “Tamoy” Garra, also of Matnog who is now an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) in Saudi Arabia and close to Young Goose family, asked me in an email, if the “(cremation) was orally willed by Yangos?  

“’Tho cremation has become prevalent, I cringe at the thought of burning the dead body especially of my dear ones as Manay Yangos.  Wonder if the Roman Catholic Church do recommend disposing a dead body in this fashion?”

According to Wikipedia, the Roman Catholic Church discourages cremation because, aside from denying the resurrection of the holy body, the body, as the instrument through which the sacraments are received, is itself a sacramental, holy object; and that as an integral part of the human person,it should be disposed of in a way that honors and reverences it, and many early practices involved with disposal of dead bodies were viewed as pagan in origin or an insult to the body.

But cremation was, in fact, never forbidden in and of itself; even in Medieval Europe, where there were multitudes of corpses simultaneously present, such as after a battle, after pestilence or famine, and there was an imminent fear of diseases spreading from the corpses, since individual burials with digging graves would take too long and body decomposition would begin before all the corpses had been interred.

But cremation is now permitted as long as it is not done to express a refusal to believe in the resurrection of the body.

 INURNMENT ON THE 40TH DAY

 Current Catholic liturgical regulations requires that, if requested by the family of the deceased, the cremation must not take place until after the funeral Mass. This way the body may be present for the Mass so that it, symbolizing the person, may receive blessings, be the subject of prayers in which it is mentioned, and since the body’s presence “better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those (funeral) rites (or Mass).” 
Once the Mass itself is concluded, the body could be cremated and a second service could be held at the crematorium or cemetery where the cremated remains are to be interred just as for a body burial.

Dave told me he brought the ashes of his Mom home. Inurnment at the columbary will be on the 40th day also at the Loyola Commonwealth. Inurnment is the process of placing cremated remains in an urn. The urn is placed either above the ground in a niche, or below ground in a grave.

As early as Dec. 30, Dave emailed me, saying, “My mother is still fighting the happy battle together with God. She’s slowly regaining her appetite and physical strength but unfortunately we cannot prevent other complications to arise because of her illness. Her feet are beginning to swell “nagmamanas” possibly due to kidney failure. We put our trust in God with everything my mother is going through that He will continue to give her that fighting courage and spirit to fight the happy battle.

“Thank you very much for all your prayers and concern! Keep in touch!

Happy Holidays! God Bless!

“Dave”

By Monday (Manila time), Jan. 2, my other first cousin (Rosario “Sayong” Garra Burgos) emailed me, “Kaninang 6 a.m. iniwan na tayo ni” Yangos. (At 6 a.m., Yangos left us.) “Hindi me makatulog kaya pala. (That’s why I could not sleep.) (At) 7 a.m., tumawag c Manoy Uyi at nag text daw c Dave na wala na Ma2 n’ya.” (At 7 a.m., Jorge (elder brother of Yangos) called me, telling me Dave texted him his Mom is gone.).

Yangos is survived by Dave, Dave’s wife, Jackie, their two-year-old son, Danny, Yangos’ elder sisters, Panching and Belen and elder brother, Jorge. Her husband, Danny Chua, died five years ago. Yangos was the youngest daughter of the late Dominador G. Garra, a retired treasurer of Matnog and elder brother of my late mother, Consolacion Garra Lariosa.

Yangos studied education at University of Santo Tomas and celebrated her 62nd birthday last Dec. 21st. She worked at the real estate department of the Social Security System in Quezon City for a long time.
In my last phone conversation late last year with Yangos whom I had not seen in more than 50 years, she blamed her smoking habit and her lifestyle for her lung cancer.

We will miss you, Yangos. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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2 Comments

Filed under Bulan Observer and Fil-Am Friends, Joseph Lariosa, Reflections

2 responses to “CREMATION AS A RITE OF PASSAGE

  1. I express my deepest condolences to your families…..

    Burial or cremation
    We have to respect whatever the Bible or the Catholic church says about this issue in the same way that we have to respect the individual’s decision. So there are options available that lead to a sort of compromise.
    But if we look at it closer, since the death of a physical body ultimately leads to dust as the Bible verse above already tells us : “…. till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.” (Genesis 3:19), burial or cremation are one and the same only that cremation is a kind of “quick dusting process”. Only those who have little faith in God’s power to create out of dust living beings or resurrect dusted beings would stick to burial so as to comply with tradition and church dogma. But compliance is not the solution, it is your own Faith in God.

  2. Anonymous

    Death is a term we are all common with, and still, what is demise? Numerous folk have numerous understandings of what death is and it commonly provides up a lot of anxiety…

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