Monday, December 28, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
What type of behavior and speech is appropriate in a cemetery?
Out of respect and reverence, should we only allow the quiet prayers of the grieving punctuated by the reassuring whir of the weed-whacker and the cautionary beeping of excavators backing up? Should we allow picnics and dog walkers? Do joggers or smokers disrupt the peace of those who have shuffled off their mortal coils?
Many cemeteries are private property, most others belong to the city, state or nation, and they all have rules. In national cemeteries, jogging and picnics are not allowed. In many cemeteries, dogs and evening visitors are prohibited. However, these rules are seldom an issue because in most cemeteries, most days of the year, the cemetery is a very quiet place. And for many, that's just the way the cemetery should be, quiet and peaceful.
Certainly a cemetery needs to be a safe, peaceful and attractive place that allows mourners to commune with their loved ones. A cemetery is different from any other place, it demands respectful behavior on the level of a house of worship, and many times cemeteries are indeed hallowed ground.
At the same time, in order to remain a relevant part of the community and the life of it's citizens, a cemetery must be more than just a place for the dead. The living must also have an interest in the cemetery. It is through the interest and involvement of the community that the value of the cemetery is realized. If the living are not there to enjoy the gardens, to picnic and jog, to fill the place with purpose and meaning, cemeteries come to be viewed as a waste of land, and an unwanted impediment to progress and real estate values.
But how far should the involvement of the living go within the sanctuary of the cemetery?
Should the freedom of speech be regulated in a cemetery? Should political speech such as war protesters be allowed to disrupt a funeral? Should unions be allowed to picket cemeteries for unfair labor practices?
In the news today, Union protesters in Long Island picketed and installed a giant inflatable rat outside Holy Rood Cemetery. Perhaps the protest would not have generated much notice, but falling as is did, during the Christmas season, when many people visit and decorate the graves of their loved ones, the protest drew some strong reactions. Here is an excerpt from the NBC NYC article, and accompanying video:
Protesters waved signs, passersby honked their horns in support, and a huge inflatable "rat" stood by, signaling that this was a union demonstration. All pretty standard, except for one thing -- this protest was being staged outside the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury,
Long Island. "I don't think the way we are handling this is inappropriate," said laborers' local 66 organizer John O'Brien. For much of the past week, O'Brien and his men have picketed the cemetery, claiming it is using non-union workers for the installation of pre-fabricated crypts. -NBC NYC
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The crematorium has been built as a chamber with special scheffler reflector developed specifically for this concept. The reflectors are designed to heat a two meter long crematorium chamber to above 700 degrees centigrade. "The facility was made operational on an experimental basis recently. It will be commissioned within two months and shall be free of cost for everyone using it," said trustee Uday Dalal. The traditional system of cremating people on woodpile consumes over 300 kilogram of wood. Many trees are felled to meet the requirement. The old method the woodpile was then to some extent replaced with electric and gas fired chambers. Times of India
Contrary to popular perception, electric crematoriums also lead to more pollution than the traditional Hindu style of cremation, involving burning the body on a pyre. The UNDP report informs that electric cremation is nearly seven times more intensive in terms of emission of green house gases as compared to the traditional Hindu style. Solar crematorium also appears to be a viable option, suggests V Ramesh of Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited.
Indiais the front runner in this regard, with Baroda, a city in Gujaratequipped with the world’s first solar crematorium. It was developed by Wolfgang Sheffler, a Swiss national and Ronnie Sabbawala of Rashron Energy and Auto limited. The body is burned exclusively using solar energy. The second solar crematorium is to be erected in Patna, Bihar, by 2009. But this method also has certain disadvantages. Solar crematoriums are impossible in many parts of during the winters and monsoons. Also, they can be used only during the day as long as the sun shines. Meri News India
Important questions remain on how well this method will work, and how widely it will be accepted in India, let alone elsewhere. It is important to keep in mind that the traditional cremation in India does not achieve the degree of combustion that is expected in North America and Europe. 700 degrees Centigrade is at the low end of incineration temperatures used in the West, so this method would be more time consuming and result in more recognizable remains. Adoption of this method may be difficult for families and operators unless the technology advances, and higher temperatures can be created in the chamber.
This is certainly a promising first step, though, and many of us will watch closely as solar cremation is tested in India.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
"Mad Mike" and Fay Vercoe (photo from Dartford Messenger)
"It was an amazing day." How often do you hear a funeral described this way? Actually, I hear this kind of sentiment quite a lot after funerals. No one looks forward to attending a funeral, but when it is an appropriate tribute to the person we have lost, when friends and family participate in ritual and remembrance, the results are moving and uplifting. No service or expression of sympathy can take away the pain and grief of loss, but the presence and participation of friends and family demonstrate to us that our loved one is missed by others too. Their support acknowledges that this life had meaning, and its departure is a serious and important loss felt by many.
The rituals we follow can be old, newly made, or a combination of the two, like a motorcycle procession. In any case, participating in them is a public expression of the importance of this event and helps us to accept and work through our grief.
The acknowledgement of our situation, the remembrance and tribute to the unique personality of our loved one, and participation in rituals that are relevant to us and the spirit of the deceased,can all have a wonderful and meaningful effect on us. That is what funerals are all about.
Here is a wonderful example from an article fr0m The Dartford Messenger / KM Group, by senior reporter, Danny Boyle:
Just days after battling out of hospital, Fay Vercoe, of
West Kingsdown, paid tribute to husband Mike as she laid him to rest on Friday, following the smash in . About 250 bikers from across Italy Europefollowed his coffin, carried in a motorbike sidecar, from a Farningham pub to the funeral of the well-loved 66-year-old, known affectionately as Mad Mike. In her first interview, 62-year-old Mrs Vercoe, who only left last Tuesday, said: “Going to Mike’s funeral was a goal I was determined to hit, it was the least I could do for him. Darent Valley Hospital
“We were all dreading it, but it was an amazing day. It was absolutely incredible to see the sheer number of people that turned up. Talk about lifting the spirits.”
Mrs Vercoe was riding on the back of her husband’s new Triumph Thunderbird when tragedy struck near
, on September 22, just one week into a trip with the Motorcycle Touring Club of Europe. She paid tribute to her husband: "Mike was the life and soul of everybody’s party. He loved to dance, which we would do whenever we could, and he was a talented artist. “But bikes were his true love, he’s been riding since he was 16 and very experienced. He was a happy guy who lived for the moment.” for the full article, visit The Dartford Messenger Trento, Italy
Monday, November 9, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
From the Latin American Herald Tribune obituary. For the full text, visit http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=346985&CategoryId=13003
Friday, November 6, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Close to the junction with
Union Street, you'll see a vacant plot of land, enclosed by London Underground boards on which someone has chalked a skull and crossbones and the words: "Touch For Love". The rusty iron gate is adorned with a bronze plaque, ivy, ribbons, flowers, feathers and other curious totems. This is Cross Bones, an unconsecrated graveyard going back to medieval times. The Tudor historian John Stow refers to it as a burial ground for 'single women' - a euphemism for the prostitutes who worked in Bankside's legalised brothels or 'stews'.Such women were condemned to be buried in unhallowed ground. Yet many were actually licensed by the church. For some 500 years, the Bishop of Winchester exercised sole authority within Bankside's ' of The Clink', including the right to licence prostitutes under a Royal Ordinance dating back to 1161. These women became known as 'Winchester Geese'. Liberty
Excavations carried out in 1992 on the site of
, recorded part of a post-medieval cemetery to the west of Cross Bones Cemetery Redcross Wayin Southwark. 148 inhumations were recorded and are thought to date to the last 50 years of use of the cemetery approximately from 1800 to 1853 when the cemetery was closed.The Cross Bones burial ground served the poor of the parish of St. Saviour’s, Southwark, but the ground is thought to have originally been established at least as early as the 17th century, as a single women’s (prostitutes’) cemetery. By 1769, it had become a paupers cemetery and remained so until its closure in 1853.
The shrine at the Cross Bones Memorial Gates in
Redcross Waydates back to the first Halloween of Cross Bones in 1998. As the Halloween of Cross Bones evolved as an annual event, a succession of home-made plaques regularly appeared on the wall around the gate. Each was eventually vandalised, or perhaps removed by the site-owners, to be replaced by a new plaque until, in 2005, Southwark’s ‘Cleaner Greener Safer’ fund paid for the official bronze plaque and the ivy planters which now adorn the gates. Meanwhile, the spontaneous shrine at the gates was continually renewed and transformed as a living artwork and memorial to the outcast dead. In 2004, the community self-help Green Angels rededicated the shrine, introducing new elements into the remembrance ceremonies performed there. This marked the beginning of monthly vigils at the site.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Look carefully at the obituary page of your local newspaper and you'll notice that the photos of the deceased often show them to be much younger that they were at the time of death. If the age difference is significant, it can be confusing for readers because they will often pass by the obituary thinking that the familiar name belongs to someone else. This is especially true with military service photos because today's dress uniforms and portraits are often very similar to the ones used in earlier conflicts. I understand the desire to use a meaningful photo, and love to see the old ones, but as a funeral director, I counsel families to use one that friends will recognize in the obit, or to use two photos to show both ages.
A recent study at
Ohio State Universitythat looked at photographs published in The Plain Dealer of found that the number of obituary photographs showing the deceased at a much younger age more than doubled between 1967 and 1997. And women were more than twice as likely as men to have a youthful obituary photo, said OSU social work Prof. Keith Anderson, who coauthored the study. Cleveland said either spouses or adult children of the deceased chose the photographs. They understandably wanted a photo that they thought represented their spouse or parent at his or her peak, he said. But what is remarkable is how we as a society define these peak years. AndersonIn 1967, about 17 percent of the obituary photographs surveyed in the daily newspaper were "age-inappropriate" - meaning they showed the deceased at least 15 years younger than when they died. By 1997, the rate (among 400 obit photos) had increased to 36%. "Obituaries and their photographs are one reflection of our society," wrote in the study published in Omega: Journal of Death and Dying. "Our findings suggest that we were less accepting of aging in the 1990s than we were back in the 1960s." for the full article, visit the Jerusalem Post Anderson
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Foreign Cemeteries and special foreign sections of cemeteries can be found all over the world. Due to economic circumstances, logistics or a stated preference, foreigners are buried where they die rather than return home for burial. Some died in a military campaign, some are ex patriots who consider the new land to be their home, and some died on their journey to the new place and have never known life there.
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th'inevitable hour,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Thomas Gray (1716-1777)
In the mid 1800's the city of
was only a small fishing village with a small population. Yokohama's road in the becoming a modern day metropolis began in the 1850's when this country was still bound by a strict isolation policy, which was enforced by the Tokugawa Shogun-ate, literally making Japan an off-limits area for the rest of the world. When Commodore Perry arrived with his black ships (Kurofune), they demanded that Yokohama renounce the national isolation and open up its ports to the world. Consequently soon after the Japan-America Friendship Treaty was signed at the Japan village. Yokohama Japanwas no longer a sanctuary for the Tokugawa Shogun-ate, with the isolation policy shattered it was the sign of the beginning of the fall of the Tokugawa-Bakufu (government by the shogun-ate) and the introduction of the Western industrialization in . It was around this time that the Japanese government had allocated in the Japan Yokohama's Yamate area (Bluff) a sizeable area of land to be used as a cemetery for the foreign nationals who were living in . Yokohama
With the news of
officially being opened up as a port, the city became in a manner of speaking a melting pot of the nations. Citizens from a multitude of nations came to the city, many consulates were opened and foreigners flocked to the city in the hope of establishing new business ventures, there were teachers engineers and merchants, people from all walks of life came to the city. It is not an exaggerated remark to state that these people were in a manner of speaking the Founding Fathers of the City of Japan Yokohamaand perhaps the pioneers of making the country of what it is now today. As the influx of foreigners continued, the population of the city began to increase exponentially and in just a manner of 20 years the city of Japan Yokohamabecame a major trading port of the world
As time passed, history witnessed two World Wars and the Great Kanto Earthquake also devastated the city of
. From around this time the number of available plots in the cemetery slowly dwindled and today regrettably there is only a extremely limited number of plots left. YokohamaFrom the late 1800's the cemetery was operated and maintained by the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery Executive Committee. The committee, which is comprised by an all-volunteer staff, is responsible for the finance, maintenance, upkeep, and the daily operations of the cemetery.
During difficult times, it is always comforting to know that you are not alone, that others have stood where you stand, have gone through what you’re going through and come out the other side. Regardless of how adventurous we feel when first we board the plane that takes us from home, the route that is new for us is nonetheless well traveled. While it is sad to say there is nothing new under the sun, there is often safety in numbers. This feeling, this understanding of the part we play in the unfolding of history, returned to me with increased clarity recently when I visited the
Foreign Cemeteryin . YokohamaThese men, and the hundreds of others here, came to to seek fortunes, knowledge, adventure, and never left. As I stand and read the names, dates, hometowns, my imagination is filled with daydreams of men my own age stepping from their ships into an amazing new world, full of hopes and fears, confronted by many of the issues I have dealt with in making Japan my home. Language, culture, the daily struggle to get by, to learn, to fit in. Some things never change. JapanIt is rare that we can step outside our subjective bubble and locate ourselves in some kind of context. For me, is a special place because the peace and tranquility, as well as the reality of the bodies fading to nothing beneath the grass, allow me that privilege. Between the gravestones and monuments I can read the continuity of existence. I can see bonds between me and the generations that have gone before. I can glimpse for a moment my station in humanity. Yokohama Foreign Cemetery
Friday, October 23, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Born in Cleveland in 1926, Ms. Spero studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and there met her husband, the painter Leon Golub, to whom she was married for 53 years until his death, in 2004.
The couple moved to Paris in 1959, where Ms. Spero steeped herself in European existentialism and produced a series of oil paintings she had begun in Chicago on the themes of night, motherhood and eroticism. When they settled in New York City, which became their permanent home, in 1964, the Vietnam War and the social changes it was creating in the United States affected Ms. Spero profoundly.To come to grips with these realities, Ms. Spero, who always viewed art as inseparable from life, developed a distinctive kind of political work. Polemical but symbolic, it combined drawing and painting as well as craft-based techniques like collage and printmaking seldom associated with traditional Western notions of high art and mastery.
Nancy Spero's death on Sunday took a great artistic conscience from the world. ……Spero's work was determined and unerring. During the 1960s she focused on the Vietnam War: helicopters whined overhead, bombers emptied their loads on an undefeated populace. She developed a cast of characters and a repertoire of images which she repeated and recombined in different ways every time they were shown. … Her figures danced and raved around the walls of galleries and museums worldwide, swarming in a cacophonous, mischievous, floor-to-ceiling choreography.
…. Her art could also be riotously funny and sexy as well as macabre, and she made many works which dealt with female jouissance and eroticism, pleasure and pain. Spero was a spearhead of feminist art in the 1960s, calling for greater recognition of women artists and women in the
art world. New York
Spero was a vital, energetic artist. She never lost her curiosity in the world, nor her sense of anger at its injustices, and she found a way of making work which combined the graphic with installation, relevance and timelessness.
So, can an artist make a significant contribution to society? I would say so.
- Patrick McNally
- Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization. email@example.com
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