Considering Cremation? Look No Further than the Funeral of Barbara Bush.

Posted: July 10, 2018

Over 6,100 people filed past Barbara Bush’s casket the evening before her funeral in Houston, Texas in April, 2018. Now, it may seem irreverent to ask this, but why? Why did so many people stand in line, day and night, to walk past a closed casket? Was it because she was a former First Lady? Partly. Was it because she touched the lives of so many people?

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No one actually WANTS to be cremated. So, why do we keep saying it?

As one of the only independent funeral home owners left in Houston, something I hear often is, “I just want to be cremated.” To which I always reply, and usually in my mind only, “No, you don’t.”

People want all sorts of things: a new car, more vacation time, a better job, or good health, perhaps. All of these suggest a benefit of some kind that can be enjoyed or at least utilized once received.

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Mass First, Cremation Second.

As a life-long Catholic and a provider of funeral services, I’ve observed first-hand the direct impact of the increasing use of cremation on the Catholic funeral rite. Specifically, Catholic families who choose cremation are increasingly less likely to celebrate a funeral Mass with the body of their loved one present. In fact, when speaking with families, I’ve found time and time again that they hold the completely erroneous belief that choosing cremation somehow precludes their loved one from the funeral Mass.

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Why Didn’t Anyone Cry at Grandma’s Memorial Service?

I recently chatted with a friend who’d just returned from her grandmother’s memorial service in California. My friend’s “Grandma” sounded as if she was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting: a sweet old lady, kind-hearted, always ready with a hug or a wise piece of advice. Grandma had been in great health at Christmas a few months back, but took a fall about two weeks after, and died not too long after that.

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NPR’s Two-Part Report on the “Death Industry”: Is There a Bias?

The funeral business has been in the news a lot lately: the Texas governor is seeking to require burial or cremation of “fetal remains”; the Pope recently reminded us what Catholics should and should not do with deceased family members; and, NPR recently aired a two-part report on the “death industry.”

Part 1, “You Could Pay Thousands Less for a Funeral Just by Crossing the Street”

Part 2, “Despite Decades Old Law, Funeral Prices are Still Unclear”

While there was much that I agreed with in these reports, elements of the report were misleading, it painted funeral service, something very near and dear to me, with a very “broad brush,” and it focused on one community in Florida, which obviously does not represent the entire US.

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Why is Cost Such an Issue in this Debate?

The news here in Texas over the last week has been dominated by the recent announcement that the proposed rule requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains will take effect on December 19 (if you’ve missed this, you can catch up with these articles from the Texas Tribune, and the Washington Post.)

Clearly, the disposition of fetal remains is a complex issue that provokes strong feelings for many people.

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Keeping the Dead in Their Place

NPR broadcast this short segment on Louisiana’s “runaway coffin” issue on September 23. It does a great job highlighting the very important work of Louisiana’s “casket wrangler,” Arbie Goings. Mr. Goings is responsible for identifying and returning caskets that are washed out of their resting places during floods. While this may seem like a case of “it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it,” it’s actually a fantastic demonstration of our duty to honor the dead and the places where they rest, in addition to providing comfort and solace to the families of the deceased!

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