Tag Archives: burial

A Proper Burial

From the Iliad – Book 22 –

With this, Achilles drew his bronze-tipped spear from the corpse and laid it down, and as he began to strip the blood-stained armour from Hector’s shoulders he was joined by others of the Greeks, who ran to gaze at Hector’s size and wondrous form. Yet all who approached struck the body a blow, and turning to a comrade, one said: ‘See, Hector’s easier to deal with now than when he set the ships ablaze.’ With that, he wounded the corpse.

When noble Achilles, the great runner, had stripped away the armour, he rose and made a speech to the Achaeans: ‘Friends, leaders, princes of the Argives, now the gods have let us kill this man, who harmed us more than all the rest together, let us make an armed reconnaissance of the city, while we see what the Trojans have in mind, whether they’ll abandon the city now their champion has fallen, or whether they’ll fight on, though Hector is no more. But why think of that? There is another corpse, unwept, unburied lying by the ships, that of Patroclus, my dear friend, whom I shall not forget as long as I walk the earth among the living. And though in the House of Hades men may forget their dead, even there I shall remember him. So, you sons of Achaea, raise the song of triumph, and drag this corpse back to the ships. We have won great glory, and killed the noble Hector, whom the Trojans prayed to like a god, in Troy.’

So saying, he found a way to defile the fallen prince. He pierced the tendons of both feet behind from heel to ankle, and through them threaded ox-hide thongs, tying them to his chariot, leaving the corpse’s head to trail along the ground. Then lifting the glorious armour aboard, he mounted and touched the horses with his whip, and they eagerly leapt forward. Dragged behind, Hector’s corpse raised a cloud of dust, while his outspread hair flowed, black, on either side. That head, once so fine, trailed in the dirt, now Zeus allowed his enemies to mutilate his corpse on his own native soil.

What do you do with the body – the remains – of a terrorist?

Do you follow Achilles? Do we mutilate it? Do we take what once was a “wondrous form” and “trail it in the dirt”? Do we dump it at sea as we did with Bin Laden? Burial at sea being proper for death at sea or for a man who spent his life at sea, but how is that different than lashing the body to our war chariots and dragging it around the walls of Troy?

Isn’t don’t do that Homer’s point? The civilized had been made barbarian. The body of Hector for the body of Patroclus?

Regardless of the deeds of the person, the remains are the remains of what might have been. They are the wondrous remains of what God once fashioned good in his own image but what we have twisted. If we want to degrade ourselves, drag the body. Dump it in the garbage heap. You are not making a statement about the departed. You are making a statement about what you think we are. A better people would quietly put the remains to the ground with a few words to our tragic corruption of what was once so fine. This is how a strong and civilized people act, not with the bombs of corruption, nor with the calls for mutilation, but with a simple respect for what we all share.

When the simple things fall through the cracks…

Full Article

Picture from the article…

In Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, state budget cuts have allowed the medical examiner’s office to bury only half the number of bodies that need to be buried each year, according to Albert Samuels, chief investigator for the office. Mr. Samuels said he has about 185 bodies in storage.

Once Mr. Samuels uses up his annual budget of $30,000, he has to stop burials. “Bodies are still coming in,” he said. “I get into a hole after a while.”

So Mr. Samuels struck a contract with a local crematorium allowing him to cremate an additional 50 bodies last year. The cremations cost $170 each, compared with $750 for a burial.

Meanwhile, he is working to submit the paperwork to the state for five corpses that have been in his morgue since 2008.

The article has several other cities mentioned. What does it say about society when the dead don’t get buried? What is the value of life, or the recognition of what being a human is, when the remains are treated in that manner? What is the old line about how you treat those who can’t stand up? Same week as this story at the other end of life about late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell (Grand Jury Report, Newspaper, Slate – William Saletan)?

Look, I’ve never been particularly romantic, but both of these stories about helpless folks are about how society encourages, condones, enables and turns a blind eye. That seems to be a change.

Even if society didn’t find value in a specific person in life, it usually found value in them as a human being – a carrier of the image of God. And that image would be respected. Can we really say that about our society today? Even Jefferson would write that famous phrase, “all men are created equal, endowed by their creator…” The equality there is not something that comes from ourselves, but outside ourselves; the image of God broken as it may be. When a society decides this is the way to treat the dead and the yet unborn, can we really believe those words; or do our actions tell more about us?