Are We Making Too Much of Ashes?
From Glenda Beukes, Johannesburg – I read with sadness and amusement what Fr Chris Townsend wrote about scattering ashes (“Don’t ninja-dump granny over a wall”, November 16).
The Church’s guidelines on disposing ashes are wise and good. Naturally I fully agree that human remains must be treated reverently.
My late father worked for a while at a crematorium and took me on a tour there. He explained that people are naive and ignorant about cremations.
They do not know that the ashes they are given are not all the ashes from one corpse. He said that sometimes a bone is ground down and placed in an urn. Most of the ashes are literally dumped in pits with all the other ashes. I saw this myself. Perhaps things have changed, but I doubt as much.
However, I see in my mind’s eye the scene where my sister and I knelt next to a daisy bush — a dying daisy bush, moreover — in a disused plot of land and sobbingly and furtively placed our mother’s ashes under it.
We had tried to get permission to bury her ashes in the church garden where she attended church for over 20 years, without success.
We had asked to bury her ashes in the garden at the retirement village where she had lived for 21 years, but it was not allowed, despite our promise to do so secretly.
Our family had decided that they did not want to have a niche in a wall where no one would visit or would seldom visit; or to have to think of mom as a niche in a wall. In retrospect I realise that we were too emotional and hasty.
We have in our way expressed our sorrow about this. I do not think we need to ask forgiveness as the Church suggests.
Are we not making too much of ashes?