we are common insignificant sinners with a conspicuous passion for the advancement of the Judeo-Christian faith.

the ecumenical examiner is dedicated to the power and glory of the God of Creation, Yahweh, and Yeshua the Messiah.

a study on the funeral rites, traditions, and customs found among earth creatures of the human sort 


BURIAL, CREMATION, MONUMENTS, THE TOMB AND BEYOND, THERE'S A LOT TO THINK OVER --

MAYBE CONSIDER TAXIDERMY

ABOVE GROUND, UNDERGROUND, PYRES, SKY BURIAL, BURIAL AT SEA, MUMMIFICATION, DONATING OF ORGANS, OR OTHER BODY PARTS TO MEDICAL RESEARCH

FACTOR ALSO, THE SEPARATION OF BODY AND SOUL, AFTERLIFE, RESURRECTION, REINCARNATION.

INURNMENT, THE URN AS A MANTELPIECE, THE COLUMBARIUM, SPREADING ASHES ABOVE GROUND, OR SPREADING ASHES AT SEA, PERHAPS SOYLENT GREEN. 

A stuffed grandpa could make a great hat rack by the front door.

this study will take a look at how different cultures of the world have formulated a wide variety of different customs for dealing with their dead - from treatment and handling of the corpse, to caring for the deceased person's transference into the next life.

These traditions may raise many questions in the minds of the Lord's community.

Anubis was the ancient Egyptian jackal-headed god of embalming and funerary rites.

Here, wife and daughter mourn the mummified man, while three priests perform rituals.

buried along with emperor Qin Shi Huang, to protect him from the many enemies he expected to meet

only first discovered in 1974 by local farmers digging a well, a Chinese terracotta army,

  Funerary conventions would eventually comprise a wide assortment of complex structures of beliefs and practices used within different cultures of the world to remember, respect, or punish the dead. Rituals ranging from interment, to types of monuments, prayers, liturgical sacraments, and mourning practices, all undertaken as a show of respect for the deceased, and to provide a sense of comfort to the survivors. All such things are underpinned by the primitive and primal human understanding that life matters. That a life has been lost, that life remains a mystery, and the almost universal belief that life doesn't end with the death of the body.

in the afterlife. The belief was, the clay soldiers would become animated in the next life.

    The traditions of the Etruscans gradually began to give way, so that around the 2nd century in Rome, inhumation (burial) had begun to grow in popularity, and for those who could afford it, fashionable graves and sarcophagi were made and used for burial. By the 4th century, burial had surpassed cremation, and the construction of tombs had grown more popular and spread throughout the empire.

   The early Christian community often saw burial as the laying to rest of the body as though it is sleeping, waiting for the awakening of the resurrection. The problem in the days of the Roman Empire was that burials and cemeteries required a lot of open space. This wasn't so much of a problem in the smaller, rural cities of the provinces, but in a high density population center like Rome, sufficient space was unavailable. So they began to dig. They dug deeper and deeper, creating underground networks of multi-level hallways and staircases, excavated through the soft volcanic rock known as 'tufo' on the outskirts of Rome. These became known as the Roman catacombs.

   All along these subterranean hallways, niches would be dug out, allowing for the horizontal insertion of a corpse. The niche was then sealed with a slab of stone or wood, which might include an identifying inscription. Due to the high levels of humidity, the bone structure of bodies found in the catacombs have been very poorly preserved, making it impossible for researchers in contemporary times to even determine the sex of the remains. 

    The first large-scale digging of catacombs in the vicinity of Rome were dug in the 2nd century and continued over subsequent centuries. The tunnel complexes were located outside the city, because Roman law forbade burial places within the city limits. The pagan Roman custom was to cremate their dead, while early Christians and Jews always preferred burial. However, the Romans too, would gradually change their traditions, and over time, began to favor burial. If they were wealthy enough, they could afford above ground mausoleums and monuments.

   Since most Christians and Jews at that time belonged to the lower classes, or were slaves, they hadn't the resources to buy land for above ground or surface burial purposes. At first, it is unlikely that the catacombs were used for anything other than simply for burial, but as time passed they were used also for memorial services and to celebrate the anniversaries of Christian martyrs. Worship services were even known to be conducted in these quiet, underground chapels. Over time these tunnels were even used as hiding places during periods of persecution. 

   Some of the earliest roots of Christianity can be traced back to ancient Rome through the catacombs. These subterranean Christian burial sites were accompanied by inscriptions and wall art, and by the end of the sixth century over 60 Christian catacombs had been located.

   There are six known Jewish catacombs in Rome, two of which are open to the public today as cultural museums. The Jewish catacombs were discovered in 1918, and archaeological excavations continued for twelve years. The catacombs extend for more than 140,000 sq. ft., and date back to the 2nd century, possibly continuing in use as late as the 5th century. There are almost a century's worth of epitaphs, and rare frescoes showing the classic Jewish religious symbols which distinguish them from their Christian counterparts. Words from the Old Testament and the symbol of the menorah are found on the walls of Jewish Catacombs. The Jewish people were not known to have visited the dead in the Catacombs, though Christians were known to have visited the Christian dead, and sometimes leave flowers.

   In 380 AD, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. At first, many still desired to be buried in chambers alongside the martyrs. However, the practice of catacomb burial declined slowly, and the dead were increasingly buried in church cemeteries. They got tired of all the tunnel digging. In the 6th century catacombs were used only for martyrs’ memorial services, though some paintings were added as late as the 7th century. Apparently, Ostrogoths, Vandals, and Lombards (a Germanic people who ruled most of the Italian Peninsula from 568 to 774 AD), when they sacked Rome also violated the catacombs, presumably looking for valuables. By the 10th century the catacombs were practically abandoned, and holy relics were transferred to above-ground basilicas.

   Nine days after the disposal of the body, whether by burial or cremation, a feast was given and a libation poured over the grave or the ashes. Since most of the early Romans were cremated, the ashes were typically collected in an urn and placed in a niche in a collective tomb called a columbarium. During this nine-day period, the house where the person had died was considered unclean, and was hung with Cypress branches to warn passersby. At the end of the period, the house was swept clean in order to symbolically purge it of the taint of death.

   A growing number of families choose to hold a 'life celebration', or 'celebration of life' event for the deceased in addition to, or instead of, a traditional funeral. Such ceremonies may be held outside the funeral home, a place of worship, even a restaurant conference room, parks, or pubs. Celebrations of life focus on a life that was lived, including the person's best qualities, interests, achievements, and impact on the community, rather than mourning a death. Some events are portrayed as joyous parties, instead of a traditional somber funeral. Taking on happy and hopeful tones. Celebrations of life discourage wearing black, and may even include a fully stocked open bar, catered food, and party favors.

and 20th centuries. The jazz funeral is a traditionally African-American funeral ceremony, and celebration of life, unique to New Orleans. The traditional jazz funeral is a processional led by the funeral director, family, friends, and brass band, which constitute the 'main line'. These march from the funeral service to the burial site while the band plays slow dirges, and Christian hymns. After the body is interred, or 'cut loose', the band begins to play up-tempo, joyful jazz numbers. Then the main line parades through the streets, and crowds of 'second liners'  join in and begin dancing and marching along, transforming the funeral into a street festival.


    It's tough being human. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Life is a struggle from beginning to end, only interspersed periodically with brief and fleeting moments of happiness and joy. Worrying over what comes next is the

   One might think the use of professional mourners sounds distasteful, but in fact, this had been a widespread practice among earth people encompassing many cultures, dating back to days of antiquity. Who borrowed the idea from whom is a question lost to the ages. The professional mourner, generally a woman, or several women were paid to follow the funeral procession, while shrieking and wailing, often clawing their faces, and hair, and tearing at their clothing. This was to encourage others to weep or feel sorrow. Forms of professional mourning are recorded from the days of ancient Greece, and were commonly employed throughout Europe until the beginning of the nineteenth century. The practice is also known to have been employed in ancient China. The use of 'crying ladies' have been thought to expedite the entry of a deceased loved one's soul into heaven by giving the impression (tricking God) that he or she was a good person, well-loved by many, who grieve openly and uncontrollably at the loss.

   Today the most common methods for the disposal of human remains haven't really changed that much. Burial of the entire body in the earth, normally within a coffin or casket (also referred to as inhumation) is still the most common practice. Cremation, which burns soft tissue and renders much of the skeleton to ash is gaining in popularity. The fact is, that in the United States, the preference for cremation has risen dramatically in recent decades. In 2016, just over half (50.2 percent) of Americans chose cremation, while 43.5 percent opted for burial, according to a report from the National Funeral Directors Association. The trend is projected to continue as more and more are choosing cremation. The cremated remains may contain larger pieces of bone which are usually ground in a machine to the consistency of ash. The ashes are then commonly stored in an urn, which can be buried, placed in a columbarium, or scattered over land or water.

   The thing that has changed in the matter of cremation, is the religious stigma of hellfire, or the imminent return of the Messiah. It is better understood today, that God can reconstitute a person bodily at the time of the resurrection whether their remains have decomposed to dust in a grave, or been rendered to ash in a crematorium. God can reconstitute any of us from thin air, purely by memory.

   A memorial service is an event given for the deceased when the body is not present. The service takes place after cremation, burial at sea, after donation of the body to an academic or research institution, or after the ashes have been scattered. It is also highly significant when the person is missing and presumed dead, or known to be deceased though the body is not recoverable. Wars can produce the need for such memorials on a large scale. These services often take place at a funeral home; however, they can be held in a residence, school, place of worship, or other location of some significance. A memorial service may include speeches (eulogies), prayers, poems, or songs to commemorate the deceased. Pictures of the deceased and flowers are usually placed where the coffin would normally be placed.

   Death has always filled the unusual earth creatures known as humans, with a sense of fascination and wonder. The care and treatment of dead humans may well distinguish the origins of what we call human 'civilization', given that it's one of the things that separates humans from all other creatures of earth.

   For as long as there have been humans, this unique species of earth creature, with whom we share common ancestry, have instinctively and ritualistically disposed of their deceased relatives and friends. Even before the advent of organized religion, pagan or otherwise, there is evidence of ritualistic burials among some of the earliest of primitive tribal cultures, and peoples of proto-civilizations.

   The remains were placed in crude coffins along with various items, such as garments, trinkets, and food for the journey to the afterlife. The coffins were stacked rather high inside the limited space of the caves with the older ones being crushed under the weight of newer ones. Residue suggests that the remains were often painted ceremonially before being placed in the container.

   The oldest known prehistoric site of intentional burials is located at a place called Qafzeh in what is today called, Israel. Believed to date back almost 10,000 years, these early humans buried their dead very deliberately in caves as a means of protecting the bodies from scavengers, or the ravages of the elements.

   Ancient Greeks placed a high value on immortality and believed that the preservation of a dead person's memory served the immortal soul in some mystical way. After all, another of the several related primal imperatives, is simply that nobody wants to be forgotten after they're gone. Great works of Greek art have resulted from the desire to preserve the memory of dead loved ones. Greeks believed that the spirit left the body as a breath of air, and as Roman practices were often derived from the Greek, in ancient Rome, the eldest surviving male of the household would be summoned to the death-bed, where he would attempt to catch and inhale the last breath of the decedent.

   The body would then be anointed in oil, wrapped in a shroud, and a coin was customarily placed under the tongue to be given to Charon, the ferryman of the mythical river Styx. A day or two after the death, a funeral procession would take place, carrying the remains either to their final resting place for burial, or a funeral pyre for release to the Olympian gods.

   Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her, Then Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, "I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. . . Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. And he spoke with them, saying, "If it is your wish that I bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and meet with Ephron the son of Zohar for me, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he has, which is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me at the full price, as property for a burial place among you. . .  And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place. - Genesis 23: 1-20

   Another of the great primal factors that guided the conventions of proper human burial, was 'fear'. The primal fear of being left on the ground, and having one's body exposed to the elements and made into food for birds and wild beasts to pick apart. A decent burial was regarded to be of great importance in ancient Israel, as well as the rest of the ancient Middle East. Not only the Egyptians, whose extravagant provisions for the dead have been well documented, but also the peoples of Mesopotamia, who dreaded above all else the thought of being left unburied. One of the most frequently used curses found in cuneiform texts reads something like, "May the earth not receive your corpse."

   In the same way one can measure the importance that Israelites attached to a decent burial by the frequency with which the Bible also refers to the fear of being left unburied. Thus, one of the many curses for breach of the covenant is, "Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away." (Deut. 28:26). Again and again the prophets use a similar threat, "Therefore this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: “They will not mourn for him: ‘Alas, my brother! Alas, my sister!’ They will not mourn for him: ‘Alas, my master! Alas, his splendor!’ He will have the burial of a donkey - dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem.”  (Jeremiah 22: 18,19).

   One of the earliest Biblical accounts of a most respectful burial tradition involves Abraham, when the time came to bury his beloved wife, Sarah. Being a semi-nomadic stranger in the land, he needed permission. 

He could hold coats, umbrellas., and make a great conversation piece.

   Another aspect of what one would consider a decent human burial, found throughout the Old Testament, is the desire to be buried close to one's family. Preferably in one's hometown, next to the gravesites of one's mother and father or other family members. Though not always practical, this is a common human inclination, the desire to continue a closeness with family and friends, even after death.

   Embalming was not practiced by the ancient Hebrews, neither was cremation. Although there are a few mentions of such practices in scripture, these were never the common practice. More and more ordinances and rules would come to dictate Jewish burial rites over time, provided by the scholarly rabbis. 

   In Talmudic times, Rabbinical ordinances dictated that the righteous and the sinners, as well as those who were enemies in life, should not be buried side by side. Also that burials and funerals should not take place on the Sabbath, or Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). In rabbinic times, funeral processions began to be led by barefooted, wailing female mourners, often paid professionals, and often accompanied by musicians with flutes. The rabbis ruled that even a poor man should be given, at least the minimum of such respect in passing. 

THE JEWISH TRADITIONS

   Among the many ordinances of Talmudic times in Israel, there included the idea that the dressing of the corpse in expensive clothing was forbidden, even for the bodies of wealthy noblemen. Male infants who would die before reaching the age of seven days, are circumcised and given a Hebrew name at the cemetery. Only two men and one woman are allowed to participate at the funeral of an infant child who dies before they reach the age of 30 days, after that, the bodies of children are escorted as adults. The coffin is then carried on the shoulders of pallbearers to the prayer hall at the cemetery. As far as concerns of the afterlife go, in the period known as the "late Second Temple" the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, the Essenes believed in the immortality of the soul, and the Sadducees didn't believe in either.

CHRISTIAN PRACTICES FOLLOWED IN THE FOOTSEPS OF JEWISH TRADITIONS

   One of the primary features of burial rites in the early Christian community revolved around the concept of resurrection, and the imminent return of the Messiah. Some sects of Judaism had been teaching the concept of the resurrection long before the days of Yeshua. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, but the Sadducees did not. However, the Christian community made the resurrection a primary tenet of the faith. They wanted to be ready to rise from the grave, dressed and ready to meet whoever would be waiting for them at the graveside. They wanted to be laid to rest as if 'asleep', believing they would be awakened as in the twinkling of an eye. Thus, burial was the order of the day, and cremation was considered something akin to damnation, as if it would mirror the hellfire of judgment. It's also true, that due to these same beliefs, Christian communities would become well known for the attention they gave to their cemeteries, shaming the pagan Romans who typically allowed their cemeteries to become overgrown with weeds and brush.

   In the intervening centuries these tunnel structures remained forgotten until they were accidentally rediscovered in 1578, after which Antonio Bosio spent decades exploring and researching them for his Roma Sotterranea (1632). Archeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822–1894) published the first extensive professional studies of the catacombs. In 1956 and 1959 Italian authorities found more catacombs near Rome. The catacombs have become an important memorial remembrance of the early Christian and Jewish communities.

TIMES CHANGE, BUT FUNERARY PRACTICES - NOT SO MUCH - NOT REALLY

   The human creatures of earth continue to be filled with a sense of fascination and wonder as they ponder the idea of  'death'. What's on the other side? Hinduism has developed a complex system of afterlife beliefs. Most Hindus believe that humans are in a cycle of death and rebirth called samsara. When a person dies, their 'atman' is reborn in a different body. The atman is analogous to the soul, or the spirit of a person, which survives the physical body. Some believe rebirth happens directly at death, others believe that an atman may exist in other realms, perhaps waiting for rebirth. 

   Hinduism does not have a founder and has no common doctrine. Consequently, Hindu beliefs and practices vary widely from one religious sect to another and from one geographic region to another. There is no ecclesiastical standard, and this holds true to funeral rites as well, although some traditions are more or less universal. The six orthodox schools of Hinduism believe that there is atman in every living creature. This is a major point of difference with the Buddhist doctrine of 'anatta', which holds that there is no soul or self. Hindus believe in karma or 'deliberate action'. Many believe a person's good or bad actions in life, will lead to positive or negative merit, and it is this that will determine the atman's rebirth.

   Some Hindus believe that humans may be reborn, or reincarnated in animal form, and that rebirth from human to animal form only occurs if an atman has repeatedly failed to learn the lessons in human form. Living life according to teachings in the Hindu scriptures will eventually lead to moksha (liberation), but for some, it may take many lives to achieve moksha. Some Hindu scriptures describe moksha as the atman becoming absorbed with Brahman, from where each atman is believed to have originated. Other Hindu scriptures describe moksha as living in the realm of a personal god. It is stated, "Even as water becomes one with water, fire with fire, and air with air, so the atman becomes one with the Infinite Atman (Brahman) and thus attains final freedom.

   In the Hindu religion, a person will usually pass away at home, surrounded by family. The body remains at the home after death until cremation, which normally takes place within 24 hours. When death is near, a Hindu priest is typically contacted to gather with the family. Mantras will be chanted, and the dying person would ideally be laid out on a grass mat on the ground, ready for the transition.

   The funeral takes place as soon as possible, and a priest will lead the ceremony, which includes the chanting of mantras and hymns. Guests are welcome, but mourners are supposed to wear white to the funeral, it is considered inappropriate to wear black. Gifts can include flowers, but bringing food to the ceremony is considered inappropriate. 

HINDU - THE WORLD'S THIRD LARGEST RELIGION

MOHAMMEDISM - THE WORLD'S SECOND LARGEST RELIGION FOLLOWED AFTER JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY

   The rites of an Islamic burial are not embodied in the Qur'an, and while they follow fairly explicit rites as dictated by Shariah Law, these can vary somewhat from region to region. Shariah universally calls for burial of the body as soon as possible, preceded by a simple ritual which involves bathing and shrouding the body, followed by salah (prayer). Burial is usually within 24 hours of death to protect the living from any sanitary issues. There are exceptions to these practices in the case of a person killed in battle. Exceptions are also allowed in cases where foul play may be suspected, where it is important to determine the cause of death before burial. Cremation of the body is strictly forbidden in Islam.

   Bathing should occur as soon as possible after death, preferably within hours. The washing is a task commonly performed by adult members of the immediate family, who are of the same gender as the deceased. In cases of violent deaths or accidents, where the deceased has suffered trauma or mutilation, morgue facilities mend the body and wrap it in a shroud to minimize fluid leakage prior to handing it over to mourners for washing.

   The corpse is then typically wrapped in a modest, simple cloth called the kafan, to respect the dignity and privacy of the deceased. The body may be kept in this state for several hours, allowing well-wishers to pay their respects and condolences. Prayers are recited for forgiveness of the dead, as well as supplications for mankind. In times of war, the prayers may be postponed until a later time.

   Burial customs and manners may vary somewhat from region to region. However, the regular practice is to lay the body in such a way, so that as it is placed in the grave without a coffin, lying on its right side, it faces Mecca. A relative of the deceased is normally tasked with positioning the body in the grave. Orthodoxy expects those present to symbolically pour three handfuls of soil into the grave while reciting a verse meaning, "We created you from it, and return you into it, and from it we will raise you a second time". More prayers are then said, asking for forgiveness of the deceased, and

   Simple grave markers are allowed, so that the grave will neither be walked nor sat upon. Grave markers are simple, because outwardly lavish displays are discouraged in Islam. Wailing at funerals is not permitted. Women are allowed to attend or be present if they do not wail or cry or hit themselves in grief, especially in an exaggerated excessive manner as in pre-Islamic Arabia. The reason for this is that in pre-Islamic Arabia it was customary for grieving women to wail loudly. Wealthy families would hire professional 'crying women' to attend the funerals of their deceased relative, as practiced in many other cultures, but this was a practice banned by Shariah. 

   According to Sunni Islam, loved ones and relatives are to observe a three-day mourning period. Islamic mourning is observed by increased devotion, receiving visitors and condolences, and avoiding decorative clothing and jewelry. Widows observe an extended mourning period of four months and 10 days. During that time, the widow is not to remarry or to interact with eligible men. This rule is to confirm that the woman is not pregnant with her deceased husband's child prior to remarrying. 

   Islamic practices and characteristics of burial and funeral rites, do not stray very far from those of Jewish and Christian custom. Only differing in a few minor details. As the living provide for the dignity and last respects of their dead friends and family members, certain primal, universal principles of humanity, govern the observances.  

   What happens to our remains after we pass away is such a personal matter, it can only be left to our immediate and closest family and friends. Those who knew us best in life, and know our deepest wishes, beliefs, and confidences. We all must ultimately trust in the living, to care for a dignified disposition of whatever remains of a life lost and gone. Hopefully, we will find something better on the other side. God bless the human creatures of this earth who bear up as best they can, under the weight of life - and the sure certainty of death.

Amen. Hallelujah. 

   The Book of Ecclesiastes is often thought of as rather depressing. The author is understood to be King Solomon, the son of King David, though he doesn't actually identify himself by name in the text. He considers life as he has experienced and observed it, between the horizons of birth and death - life within the boundaries of this visible world. His wisdom cannot penetrate beyond that last horizon, and he can only observe the phenomenon of death and perceive the limits it places on human beings.

    Solomon sees a busy human ant colony in mad pursuit of many things, trying now this, now that, laboring away as if by the strength of effort, and will, humans could master the world, lay bare its deepest secrets, change it, rearrange it, and somehow burst through the bounds of human limitations. Humans believing they could build for themselves enduring monuments, or control their common destiny, achieving a state of lasting happiness and contentment -- people laboring at life with an overblown notion of human powers and consequently pursuing unrealistic hopes and aspirations. He takes a hard look and concludes that human life, as it is lived by humans, is "meaningless," and all the efforts of man are futile. Therein lies the depressing message. All is vanity, and there is nothing new under the sun.

   Solomon makes some astute observations, and clear statements concerning life and death;

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, "I have no pleasure in them": While the sun and the light, The moon and the stars, Are not darkened, And the clouds do not return after the rain; In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, And the strong men bow down; When the grinders cease because they are few, And those that look through the windows grow dim; When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises up at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low; Also they are afraid of height, And of terrors in the way; When the almond tree blossoms, The grasshopper is a burden, And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, And the mourners go about the streets. Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. - Ecclesiastes 12:1-7

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.

   Then he wraps up the cheerful lesson with the words found in verses 13 and 14 of chapter 12;

It isn't clear how the custom originated of placing stones on a Jewish 

DEATH - it comes for all the creatures of earth

   At one time, burial was always the one and only choice for Christians, as with the Jewish people, and cremation was always shunned as an option. However, maturing perceptions have gradually seen an acceptance of cremation, largely due to the issue of cost. Burials are expensive, compared to cremation, and it's difficult to justify the cost laid upon the survivors, once one has come to grips with the irrelevance of religious taboos. 

   Along with this change, the questions of spreading ashes on land or at sea, have also become inconsequential. Some prefer the use of an urn, which can be kept in a columbarium at a funeral home, for the simple reason that it gives family members a specific place to come for a visit when they feel the need, much like visiting a traditional grave site. The choices are very personal.

reminding the dead of their profession of faith. The corpse is then fully buried by the gravediggers, under the supervision of the eldest male.

   After death, the body is washed - by the family or, if that is not possible, then by the funeral home. The traditional wash consists of a mixture of yogurt, milk, ghee, and honey, or the body may be washed in purified water. All bodies are cremated except for babies, very young children, and saints, who are buried. After the funeral, typically only men that are close family members will accompany the body to the cremation site. Traditionally, ashes are to be scattered in the Ganges River, and there are organizations that will provide transport of ashes if the person dies too far away from the sacred waterway.

sepulcher, or grave, sometimes referred to as 'visitation stones'. One 

explanation is that it is a simple way to honor the deceased as an enduring

physical reminder that the deceased has not been forgotten by loved ones.

    Humans of the earth continue to find unique ways to honor their dead. The jazz funeral is another. This approach to the funerary send-off originated in New Orleans, Louisiana, alongside the emergence of jazz music in late 19th 

universal province of humanity, which has led to the development of many different and unique religious traditions which promise rewards later, for payments in advance. The brotherhood of man, as he stands to the certainty of death, is under the authority of traditions as old as mankind itself, holding his ancient, primal, primitive doubts and fears in his hands.

    It isn't the purpose of this brief article to recommend a particular tradition to anyone, or to recommend a particular manner for the disposition of the body or soul. The purpose is only to provide a little insight, and to kindle some provocative thought on the matter.

   There is no explicit objection to the practice of cremation in scripture, though it is something the Jewish people never practiced. As it is considered these days, even in the case of burial, the body decomposes and so when the Lord Yeshua returns in power and glory, God is able to reassemble the body at the time of resurrection regardless of what condition the corpse is in, or what might have happened to that person over time. Scripture tells us, the sea will give up its dead, and people who have been ripped to pieces and eaten by lions will be resurrected whole when that blessed day arrives.

Stones last longer than flowers.

   We also find among the Christian scriptures, an expression of the 'curse' a man would fear of an improper burial, or conversely, the importance attached to a proper grave;

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces. “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” - Luke 11:43,44

"But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 9:4-6

"Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going".- Ecclesiastes 9:9,10

   In chapter 12 of Solomon's ecclesiastical observations, he gives a poetic description of a man in his old age, with failing eyes, waning strength, fewer teeth for grinding, and losing the the silver cord of the central nervous system, or the golden bowl of the skull. The physical body will return to the dust, and the spirit to God who gave it.

   His relationship with God, notwithstanding, Solomon sees only meaninglessness in the labor and efforts of men, because in the end, we're all going to grow weak, die, and go to judgment. That's it. However, there is one aspect of life and death that he's overlooking. Another primal instinct of meaningfulness that might suggest a slightly more optimistic outlook for the pathetic human creatures of earth. That is, the desire of a man to leave the earth a better place for his children and his children's children, than the lot he endured in his own life. The desire to, at least in some small way, leave behind some measure of improvement for the next generation. To perhaps make the labors and hardships of life, a little less difficult for those that follow. Through this instinctive, if meaningless desire, the human family advances through the efforts of betterment, progression, and invention, all bequeathed to us by the labors and efforts of our forebears. God won't forget them, and neither should we.

"A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart." - Ecclesiastes 7:1,2

   The expiration date comes for every living thing, sooner or later. Even the giant sequoia trees of the North American west, which live for thousands of years, will someday fall over. Any of us could kick the bucket unexpectedly at any time, whether we're ready or not. The more fortunate of us, are those who have the time to prepare themselves for that last breath. To ready their estates (if they have anything), a last will and testament, or to ready themselves spiritually, and their loved ones for the inevitable sunset.

   Not all of us, though, are that fortunate. For many, death comes in an intrusive, untimely manner. It can sneak up suddenly, unforeseen, by accident, acts of violence, acts of somebody's foolish negligence, or perhaps a disease infection, or some other medical malady. There are many, many ways to die. Being human, we know it's coming, we just don't know when or how. Death is always lurking around, waiting for the moment to strike. But know this. The material things we leave behind will take care of themselves. When we close our eyes for the last time, that stuff won't matter anymore, but we should always be ready spiritually, in case we're overtaken without warning. It's the stuff we will become acquainted with on the other side, the spiritual side, that's what turns an ending into a beginning.

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greetings mortals,