My father-in-law died a few days ago. He was 87, had lived a long, fulfilling life and died after a short illness, short enough to not linger unduly in pain, long enough to let his family accept his imminent passing. As deaths go, probably one of the better ways to go about it. As if one could plan such a thing…..
Hindus cremate their dead. On a pyre of wood, they consecrate the ground and consign the body to the elements. As I stood there watching the flames rise higher and even higher, morbid thoughts arose in me. I could hear the crackling, I could imagine the flesh singeing, the fat popping, the deeper tissues……the science of anatomy was not my friend at that moment.
I wondered how barbaric Christians might find it, burning a person to ash. Especially those who have never seen it. To burn up a loved one? How macabre! And then I thought of how Hindus might think of burial. Letting a loved one rot in the ground like so much garbage…..What of the Parsis who let vultures pick their loved ones’ bones clean? I wondered if there was a humane way to go about it, to dispose of your dead. I read that Christian burial rituals were a sign of their hope in the end of days when the dead would rise from their graves. Hindus cremate their dead because fire is the great purifier and whatever you consign to a sacred fire goes to the gods. Every culture came up with its own method of ensuring the dead person’s soul/core/aatman/whatever reached their cultural deity/ies.
All the while the pyre burned hotter and brighter and the crackling was no longer so loud…….