Showing posts with label Funeral. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Funeral. Show all posts

March 25, 2019

He Died and Within Hours He Was Released to us "washed, dressed, Laid on a Table" Overlooking The Garden

Rich Stewart, 77, and wife Sharon, 78. Rich died last month and his funeral was held at their home, a practice that turns out to be an old American tradition. (Ann Wasserman)
 Washington Post
My wife’s brother Rich died the last week in February. They were very close. Shortly after he passed, in the emergency room of a hospital in Washington state, his body came home. There it was wrapped in a Stewart tartan blanket (his family name) and placed on a table in a window alcove facing Mount Baker. He remained there for the next three days clad in a favorite red plaid Pendleton shirt, jeans, moccasins, and a much-worn woolen cap, On the second day, his wife, Sharon, put binoculars around his neck, a reminder of his many hours watching the snow geese, hawks, trumpeter swans and bald eagles surrounding his beloved farm.
Sharon was connecting to a movement that had arisen in the 1990s for families to take back responsibility from hired professionals for the caring and mourning of loved ones in the privacy of their homes. It turns out to be an old American tradition.
Before the Civil War, funerals were a family affair. With help from their church and community, family members would wash, display the body and dig the grave for their dead. But, as Civil War historian Drew Gilpin Faust writes in her book “This Republic of Suffering,” the huge numbers of young men dying in the war far from home overwhelmed the personal home funeral. Instead, there was embalming, mass-marketed coffins and transporting bodies long distances. President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, followed by the public display of his embalmed body, became a major moment in the national marketing of this new death trade. 
By the 20th century, undertakers were elevated to a professional class of funeral directors, bodies were seen as a risk to public health and the false narrative spread that families no longer had the right to care for their own. The practice of dying at home and family caring for the dead remained common only in rural areas.
Like most of us, Rich and Sharon hadn’t planned their funeral. Unlike us, they had talked and read about death and attended a class on alternatives to standard funerals. These included arrangements for green burials, where bodies in the ground decompose in compostable caskets. Sharon also had talked with a friend who, with the help of a local home funeral group, had kept her husband’s body at home for three days for visits and prayers.
Rich’s death had been unexpected. A retired ophthalmologist, he had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had his first chemotherapy treatment the week before. He developed sepsis, which can happen after chemo, and died the following day. He was 77. Sepsis is fast-moving and deadly. Here are the symptoms to recognize
At the hospital’s ER, Sharon explained to two chaplains who sat with her that she wanted to bring Rich home. They put her in touch with A Sacred Moment, a local funeral home that is part of a national network reviving and supporting family-managed funerals.
A “very kind” man, as Sharon put it, from the group took the body to the house in a van. He gave Sharon information on keeping it cold with packs of dry ice and instructions to replace them every 12 to 18 hours. Sharon and her daughter washed and clothed the body.
Rich had passed away at 11 a.m. and by 1 p.m. his body was home.
For the next three days, family and friends came by to see Rich. Some talked to him; one shared the beat of an ancient drum; some read poems. Sharon thought that many friends wouldn’t have attended a funeral parlor for a restrained viewing in a limited time. Here they could arrive individually or as a family, whenever they wanted, stay as long or little as they could bring photos or food or prayers or babies or guitars. 
Our son Daniel arrived in the middle of the night to sit alone with the uncle who helped raise him.
Sharon found it all incredibly comforting. Rich’s men’s support group of 30 years gathered for a morning of stories of kayaking in Alaska and tales of salmon fishing, hiking, and climbing in the North Cascades. The second morning the couple’s Buddhist Sangha meditation group chanted prayed together and held Sharon as they wept.
Many of the visitors seemed shocked that this was possible, that a body could be brought home for people to mourn however they wanted.
For the family, it provided the last chance to talk with Rich, to be with him in a place he loved. Sharon remarked that so many people worried that they “never had a chance to say goodbye.” Now they could, and they didn’t have to look back and regret not saying the right thing. 
In their own unplanned way, people could grieve.
At times there was a crowd, at others a solitary friend. A family member lit a vaporizer full of essential oils. Others placed flowers on his body. A table nearby had his notes written when he couldn’t talk because of mouth sores from the chemo and a guest book that soon filled with photos and letters and mementos.
Not everyone showed up — there were no solemn strangers in dark suits timing the starched formalities of yet another ceremony. Rich’s death was wrapped in the life that continued around it. Often there were kids playing, dogs wrestling, women cooking.
At 2 p.m. of the third day, the kindly man from A Sacred Moment returned to take the body. As they carried it out, Sharon played on the piano “It Had To Be You,” which she and Rich had often sung together. This time, she sang it with her daughter, Jo.
Washington state does not allow bodies to be buried outside a cemetery, so he was cremated and his ashes were scattered in his garden. A memorial service will be held when the tulips bloom in early spring.
Gary Wasserman is a former professor of government at Georgetown University and author of The Doha Experiment.

December 19, 2018

At 18 A Promising Football Player Kills Himself, Priest At The Funeral Goes After Him for Breaking The Suicide Rule

Image result for Maison Hullibarger
Maison Hullibarger 
On an average, there are 128 suicides in the U.S every day. 

Maison Hullibarger took his own life, and his parents say their grief was made worse by a homily at his funeral that repeatedly addressed the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on suicide.CreditCreditvia Jeffrey Hullibarger

By Mihir Zaveri and Jacey Fortin/ Adam Gonzalez Introduction


I know the feeling when you give a religious leader the responsibility to say some words or to give a eulogy on the loved that's passed away. My mom's kids (old people but I'll just be nice and called them kids) took care of the eulogy at the funeral home. We all said something about mom and celebrated her life and how she was. I did not want it to be a religious funeral and even though I had three religious sisters they went along with my feelings. After all, I was the only that never got married, the youngest, so the care of my mom as she got older fell on my hands. The pastor of someone in the family was there and I assumed he was there like everybody else to say goodbye.

 He was not invited to say anything at the funeral home but at the cemetery, I and my sisters were too distraught that we did not want to say anything else being so close to the internment time. It was a  military burial because we were a national cemetery since my dad was a veteran and had already passed on but the wife has the right to be buried with him or where ever she lives.  My mom loved New York and was a lot closer to New York city than where my dad was buried in Puerto Rico. 
Besides the last thing, I would do to my mom was to bury her with the man she fought so much for 3 or 4 decades. In the end, they gave us 5 or 10 minutes in which we had nothing prepared so I asked someone if the pastor wanted to say something as long as it was about my mom and not to have a Billy Graham moment inviting those presents to repent. It was awful.  It was just what he did but his words were all about sins and redemption. I did not stop this preacher because I did not want to make it about me but I was offended that he went on with his call to repent and invite any sinner to come to the front so he could pray for them. 

I know this behavior because I'm a seminarian who does not believe in religions. I've studied enough to know how they started and their dogma and the add-on rules which are just that is just their words obviously not God's words. I understand their religion call for us to go by faith and I agree But faith is supposed to be built on a strong foundation. Jesus in the bible compared to building on a rock instead of the sand which when the wind comes it blows it down and is washed away by the waters.

 Faith needs to be built on something solid not word of mouth from people who have not experienced things that happened thousands of years ago. The Catholic Church has their dogma about suicide that goes beyond anything that the bible mentions. They treat the family of the person who has killed themselves as the family of someone who cannot be buried in a church cemetery (unless the family is wealthy and powerful) or any blessed soil. The bible does mention that god can be made to change his mind and it says no man knows the mind of God. Who is the pastor on my mom's funeral or this Catholic Priest on Maison Hullibarger funeral who knows the mind of Maison and knows the mind of God? How does God feel for the reasons Maison felt that suicide was the only road.  This is a teaching moment but it has nothing to do with heaven or hell. or a Church's own rules.

For some of us, 100 years is not enough for others 10 years is too much. Life is something given without the ask and no one is gone to the other side to study and talk to god to clarify about rules and regulations every religion is added on whatever is written like any social club, which to me that is just what they are.

 I'm glad the family decided to come out with this experience. There is much to learn about suicide. But one thing I wish we knew is not to judge others by their experience because everyone roads are different from each other. 

Days before the funeral for their son, who at the age of 18 took his own life, Jeff and Linda Hullibarger met with their parish priest to discuss the homily to be given.

The Hullibargers wanted it to be about the life of their son, Maison, not the manner of his death. They wanted to focus on a teenager who was opinionated and passionate and who they knew was a source of comfort to friends dealing with their own adversity.

They recalled the priest, the Rev. Don LaCuesta, taking notes. They anticipated uplifting words for the friends and relatives attending the funeral at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, where all six of their children were baptized and confirmed.

The homily that Father LaCuesta delivered at the church in Temperance, Mich., about 10 miles north of Toledo, Ohio, on Dec. 8, four days after Maison died, did not resemble that conversation, the Hullibargers said on Sunday. Instead, the priest spoke about how suicide was “against God who made us and everyone who loves us” but how Maison would still have a chance of salvation. A copy of the remarks he prepared show the word “suicide” appeared six times. 

The family’s grief already seemed unbearable, but the homily’s focus on how he died made it worse. The episode, which gained widespread attention, prompted the Archdiocese of Detroit to say in a statement on Saturday that Father LaCuesta would not preside over funeral services for the foreseeable future and would get help to become a better minister in difficult situations.

The news of what happened also put a spotlight on the tensions between traditionalist stances in the Roman Catholic Church about suicides and more nuanced thinking that has evolved over time about the issue, experts said.

“Maison didn’t deserve this. He basically called him a sinner in front of everybody,” Ms. Hullibarger said. “We were just blindsided.”

The archdiocese apologized and said in its statement that the priest was trying to “offer a message of confidence in salvation.”

“The family wanted a homily based on how their loved one lived, not one addressing how he passed away,” the archdiocese said. “We also know the family was hurt further by Father’s choice to share Church teaching on suicide when the emphasis should have been placed more on God’s closeness to those who mourn.”
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, and editor-at-large at America magazine, which covers news relevant to Catholics, said the homily for Maison was a “pastoral disaster.”

“The purpose of the homily in the funeral rite is to speak about not only the person’s life but the resurrection and the promise of the new life of that person,” he said. “It’s to offer consolation and hope to the family of the deceased.”

Father LaCuesta, who was ordained in 2006 and who joined the parish in 2013, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday. The archdiocese shared the remarks he had prepared.

“If we Christians are right in believing that salvation belongs to Jesus Christ, that it does not come from us — and that our hand cannot stop what God allows for us, then yes, there is hope in eternity even for those who take their own lives,” the homily reads. “Having said that, I think that we must not call what is bad good, what is wrong right. Because we are Christians, we must say what we know is the truth — that taking your own life is against God who made us and against everyone who loves us. Our lives are not our own. They are not ours to do with as we please.”

The homily would go on to say, “Nothing — not even suicide — can separate us from the unconditional love of God.”

For the Roman Catholic Church and other religious institutions in the United States, self-harm is an increasingly pertinent issue. In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a steady rise in the national suicide rate, up 25 percent from 1999 to 2016. It is now the 10th-leading cause of death in the country.

Under historical Catholic doctrine, suicide was generally considered a mortal sin and those who took their own lives were denied salvation, experts said.

A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know. 
But interpretations have changed with time. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a doctrinal text approved by Pope John Paul II in 1992, suicide is an affront to God’s love.

But the document adds that “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide,” and “we should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives” because God may grant them the opportunity to repent.

The Rev. Ronald Rolheiser, president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, said the 1992 catechism essentially formalized changes in the Catholic Church’s thinking that had been occurring for 50 years.

Mathew Schmalz, professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., said that there is still a divide within the Catholic Church between traditionalists who take a hard line on suicide, and those with a more nuanced understanding. He said the traditionalist view is more common internationally, and that for example, in India, people have been denied Christian burials if they committed suicide.

“There are all these kinds of clashes that you have in Catholicism now because it’s so ideologically divided,” he said.

The Hullibargers said they had not discussed with Father LaCuesta how Maison had died, and they do not know how he found out. Mr. Hullibarger said at one point he got up and futilely asked Father LaCuesta to stop partway through the homily.

The Hullibargers declined to discuss how Maison died. They said it was not necessarily the content of the Catholic teachings that offended them, but the priest’s actions. 

“Our purpose is to know that no other family, no other parent, nobody ever has to go through this again,” Ms. Hullibarger said.

[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at]

December 4, 2018

A One Term President Bush Teaches A OneTerm Pres.Trump (With High Character Flaws) The Minimum Decency For A President in Life and Death


(CNN)George H.W. Bush can perform one last, posthumous service to his country this week by orchestrating a rare moment of unity and a short-term truce in the rancorous politics swirling around the crisis-stricken Trump presidency.
The remains of the former president, who died at home in Texas on Friday night at 94, will be brought to Washington on Monday to allow the nation to bid farewell to a man whose one-term presidency looks better with each year that passes.
The ex-commander-in-chief will lie in state at the US Capitol ahead of a state funeral service in Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday that will see a meeting of the world's most exclusive club — that of former presidents.
For a few days, a building showdown over a possible partial government shutdown may ease, and the increasing threat posed to the Trump presidency by special counsel Robert Mueller could fade into the background.
    Despite antipathy between the Bush family and President Donald Trump, the 41st president made clear he wanted America's current leader to be at the funeral, putting the institution of the presidency above personal animosities.
    Trump has confirmed he will attend the event, which follows a series of national disasters and tragedies and moments of public mourning that have caused critics to fault his behavior as short of that expected of a president.
    To his credit, Trump canceled what was certain to be a contentious news conference at the G20 summit in Argentina on Saturday out of respect for Bush. He also sent one of the iconic blue-and-white 747 jets that serves as Air Force One when a president is aboard to Texas to carry Bush's casket.
    "We'll be spending three days of mourning and three days of celebrating a really great man's life," Trump said in Argentina in a gracious tribute.
    "So we look forward to doing that, and he certainly deserves it. He really does. He was a very special person."
    But Wednesday's ceremony still promises to be an awkward moment of political theater for Trump, since he will come face-to-face with former presidents and other top officials whom he has attacked in recent days.
    Just last week for instance, Trump retweeted an image that pictures former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, along with former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, behind bars. Trump often beams at rallies as his crowds chant "lock her up!" about the former Democratic nominee. And Michelle Obama wrote in her new autobiography that she will "never forgive" Trump for his conspiracy theory about Obama's birthplace that launched the real estate mogul and reality TV star's political career.
    Trump is likely to come face to face with all four in the National Cathedral before a huge television audience. The encounter will highlight how several of the former leaders, including Obama and Clinton, forged close relationships with their Republican predecessor as well as the friendly relations between them and Bush's son, former President George W. Bush. No such ties exist between that trio and the current President, who often criticizes his predecessors and has given no sign of taking advantage of their advice and experience of doing one of the toughest and loneliest jobs in global politics.
    The President also belittled another of the elder Bush's sons, former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, during the 2016 campaign, and in July, mocked a signature quote by the 41st president about a "thousand points of light," which was later used as the name of his charity.

    Unavoidable comparisons

    Wednesday's state funeral will offer similarities and contrasts to the final farewell for John McCain in September, to which Trump was not invited after mocking the Arizona senator during the 2016 campaign for being shot down and imprisoned in Vietnam nearly 50 years before.
    Such analogies are likely to be perceived again in the tributes to Bush, who was almost universally regarded as a gentleman and a throwback to a more civil and magnanimous era of politics.
    Still, with Trump attending, and if he desists from his trademark inflammatory politics, the nation's divides could be papered over, at least for a few days.
    Bush's passing also looks set to postpone one of the final political showdowns of the year — a funding controversy entangled in Trump's demands for $5 billion in funding for his border wall.
    A source briefed on the talks told CNN that lawmakers are considering taking up a one-week spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown by a Friday deadline, since Congress will be out of session at the beginning of the week ahead of Bush's ceremonies.
    Trump told reporters on Air Force One on Saturday night that he would be open to such a solution.
    "I would absolutely consider it and probably give it," Trump said.

    Russia cloud darkens over Trump

    Washington's period of mourning come at a fraught moment in Trump's presidency, after a week in which it became clear that Mueller is narrowing in on the President as his investigation gathers pace.
    On Thursday, Mueller unveiled a cooperation agreement with Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen admitted to lying to Congress to cover up the fact that he was negotiating a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow right up until June 2016 during the presidential campaign.
    He had previously said talks about the Moscow project ended in January 2016 and said he lied out of a sense of obligation to Trump.
    A pair of developments on Friday night appeared to bring the probe even closer to the White House. CNN reported that Cohen believed that Trump would offer him a pardon in exchange for staying on message in in talks with federal prosecutors.
    Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Trump never indicated any such possibility to Cohen. But the report immediately sparked speculation about communications between the two men. Any proof that Trump had offered a pardon in return for Cohen's testimony would be an abuse of power and possibly an impeachable offense.
    Then, in a filing later on Friday, Cohen's lawyers offered the clearest sign yet that he kept Trump informed of his efforts to close the deal in Moscow in 2016.
    A political hiatus over the next few days might give Trump some brief relief from Russia questions but could also complicate his effort to celebrate an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to stave off an escalation in the trade war between the world's two largest economies.
      In exchange, China will buy a "very substantial" amount of agricultural, energy and other goods from the United States to help reduce the trade imbalance, according to a White House statement.
      "If it happens it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made," Trump said, though trade experts saw the agreement, while welcome, as more a temporary truce than a permanent peace deal to ease rising US-China tensions.

      April 27, 2018

      Same Sex Lawsuit in Japan After Man is Kept From Attending Partners Funeral

      A 69-year-old man from Osaka Prefecture filed a lawsuit Thursday against his deceased same-sex partner’s sister, seeking assets left behind by his late partner and damages for being barred from attending his cremation.
      The rare case involving inheritance from a same-sex partner highlights the problems faced by such couples upon the death of their partners, as legal protection is only currently provided to married couples.
      The man sued his partner’s sister at the Osaka District Court, seeking to win back the assets held by her following her brother’s death in March 2016.
      The man is also seeking ¥7 million ($64,000) in damages from the woman, saying he was robbed of the chance to arrange the funeral for his long-time partner due to discrimination against sexual minorities.
      “I am dissatisfied that I am not legally protected on the grounds that we were a same-sex couple,” said the man, adding that he hopes such discrimination will be eliminated soon.
      While there have been cases of same-sex couples filing lawsuits to seek the same rights granted to opposite-sex married couples, a lawsuit over inheritance rights is rare, according to the man’s lawyer.
      So far Japan’s top court has not recognized inheritance rights of same-sex couples, or heterosexual couples considered to have been in common law marriages.
      Seven municipalities in the country recognize the partnerships of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples, though the recognition does not extend to legal rights or obligations as is the case with marriage under civil law.
      The Osaka man said he started to live with his partner from around 1971 and they lived mostly off the money the plaintiff made through his work.
      The woman knew they were living together, and the man had attended weddings and other ceremonial events involving his partner’s relatives, he said.
      But all of that changed when the partner died at 75. The woman did not allow the man to attend his partner’s cremation and only allowed him to attend the funeral as a visitor rather than as a family member.
      The woman also closed the business managed by the partner and terminated an office lease contract without the plaintiff’s consent, while the assets held by the partner automatically went to the woman.
      The man claims he and his partner had agreed they would inherit one another’s assets but said he was told by the lawyer representing the woman that he had “absolutely no rights.”
      “There seems to be discrimination against gay people even before the legal hurdles,” said Kazuyuki Minami, the man’s lawyer.
      “If a same-sex marriage system is established, it would not only ensure the rights of partners but also help resolve irrational discrimination,” he said.

      October 24, 2017

      "A Catholic Funeral may be Denied to LGBT People to avoid public scandal"

      This page is part of a confidential directive to the Madison priests in regards to LGBT funerals. When I read it had to recheck the date to make sure this was not from the 1980's in which not only the church abandoned the LGBT community and denied them even a funeral but even funeral homes were doing it too. When someone died at home many times the friends would wrap the body and put in the trunk of a car and take it somewhere to have buried if they could not find a crematorium that would accept the body.

      A Catholic funeral may be denied to LGBT people to avoid "public scandal of the faithful," according to new directives in the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin.

      The communication from vicar general Fr. James Bartylla regarding "Consideration of Funeral Rites for a Person in a Homosexual Civil or Notorious Union" was sent to priests of the diocese as part of a weekly email. It was made public on the Pray Tell blog Oct. 22.

      Early reporting on the directives attributed the communication to Madison Bishop Robert Morlino. The diocese issued a statement clarifying that "the communication attributed to Bishop Morlino was not an official diocesan policy, though it does conform to the mind of the bishop and meet his approval."

      The document encourages pastors to "think through the issue thoroughly and prudently" and to contact the bishop for guidance.

      "The main issue centers around scandal and confusion (leading others into the occasion of sin or confusing or weakening people regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church in regards to sacred doctrine and the natural law)," the document said, "and thereby the pastoral task is to minimize the risk of scandal and confusion to others amidst the solicitude for the deceased and family." 

      Several of the suggestions in the letter concerned the surviving partner, who should "not have any public or prominent role" at a funeral rite or service or be mentioned in any liturgical booklet, prayer card or homily, the document said.

      In addition, the name of a celebrating priest or parish should not be listed in any public obituary that also lists the predeceased or surviving partner. "This can't happen for obvious reasons," the document said.

      The statement released by Brent King, director of communications for the Madison Diocese, said Bartylla's communication "was a result of pastoral questions asked by the priests themselves, and was to serve as a tool to provide some framework and considerations, in this confidential setting."

      "No such policy could adequately cover every case, and it has always been the 'policy' of the Diocese of Madison, on the matter of public funerals in general, that pastors are charged with addressing the particular situations of their people — whom they ideally know well and whom they have accompanied, even until their death," the statement said.

      An advocate for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual Catholics criticized the directives, calling them "heartless," "cruel" and "unchristian in the extreme."

      "This document is the very antithesis of pastoral care," Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, which works for LGBT equality in church and society, said in an Oct. 22 statement.

      "It shows that this bishop believes that lesbian and gay people who have lived a deep commitment to a spouse or partner should be demeaned even in death," she said. "Our families could be refused the sacraments of our faith at the moment of their greatest grief." 

      The directives are similar to those released over the summer by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, which included restricting funerals and even reception of the Eucharist by LGBT Catholics in same-gender marriages.

      Both sets of directives cite Canon 1184 from the Code of Canon Law, which says that "manifest sinners" whose funeral would cause "public scandal of the faithful" should be denied ecclesiastical funerals "unless they gave some signs of repentance before death."

      The Madison Diocese's directives included considering whether the deceased gave signs of repentance, or whether the deceased and/or the partner was a "promoter of the 'gay' lifestyle." It also asks, "What is the attitude of the deceased's family members, especially towards the Church?"

      Duddy-Burke said such "unjust and mean-spirited pronouncements" only serve to distance LGBT people, their families and many young people from the church, referencing earlier refusal of Catholic funerals to those who died of HIV/AIDS, which "only served to devastate families in need of comfort."

      "Church officials see they have lost in the civic arena, on the issues of marriage equality, military service, and adoption, so they are lashing out again," Duddy-Burke said in the statement.

      Such a pronouncement "breaks the Body of Christ," she said. "It shows that these bishops are unwilling to do the real work of pastoral leadership, which is to engage their flocks in honest dialogue."

      The diocese's statement called "lamentable" those who spread "gossip, rumor and sadly even calumny ... without asking the diocese for any clarification whatsoever."

      The diocese also decried those who leaked the communication. "Those who place at risk the ability of the bishop to communicate with his priests confidentially do a grave harm to the Church and perform, indeed, what Sacred Scripture calls 'a work of darkness,' " King said.

      [Heidi Schlumpf is NCR national correspondent. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter @HeidiSchlumpf.]

      July 31, 2017

      Rushing The After Death Process and Dissolving The Body of The Dead

      Special Edition

      Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center is a long bungalow, surrounded by meadows and groves of slender trees. 
      Described as “prairie-style”, the building was designed by a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright. 
      The alkaline hydrolysis machine is located in the basement. It was installed five years ago at a cost - together with the viewing rooms - of about $750,000 (£580,000). 
      “We could have done it for less,” says Jason Bradshaw, who manages the centre. 
      Jason Bradshaw
      Jason Bradshaw
      “We just felt being that we were the first in this area - and one of the first in the country - we needed to put in that larger investment. 
      “Because we have tour groups that come through all the time, we have hospices, we have church groups. We have people who just want to see it, because it’s so new.” 
      He leads me down to the basement and into a circular room with a tinkling waterfall.  
      The ochre-coloured wall contains a floor-to-ceiling window looking on to another room, with wooden sliding doors on the other side of the glass. 
      Jason disappears, switches on the lights in the next room, and pulls open the doors. 
      And there is the alkaline hydrolysis machine - a rectangular steel box, 6ft high, 4ft wide, and 10ft deep. 
      It has a huge circular door covering almost its entire width, that wouldn’t look out of place on a bank vault or submarine. 
      (In fact, the same doors are used on submarines, although the manufacturer points out a crucial difference - submarine hatches are designed to open from the inside too.) 
      The industrial appearance of the machine jars with the sombre intensity of the viewing room. 
      I wonder what sort of person would choose to watch their relative or friend being placed into this machine, which is known as a “tissue digester”. 
      I watch Jason and his colleague, David Haroldsen, wheel a corpse through the door. 
      The body is not identified to me and is completely covered by a black woollen cloth, which Jason and David, wearing blue surgical gloves, delicately tuck into the edges of a steel tray. 
      Then they open the big door, raise the tray to the level of the black cavity inside the machine, and slide it in. 
      On the side of the machine is a computer screen with four buttons labelled “unlock”, “test”, “cycle” and “lock”. 
      Jason closes the door, presses the “lock” button, and with a pneumatic hiss and a whirr, the door locks shut. 
      Then he presses the “cycle” button. The machine beeps twice, there is another hiss and it begins to fill with water. 
      Jason, who has a degree in Biology and Chemistry, explains that the machine weighs each body and calculates how much water and potassium hydroxide to add. 
      He says it’s roughly 65lb per 600lb of water. 
      The powerfully alkaline solution, with a pH of about 14, is heated to 152C (306F), but because the digester is pressurised it does not boil. 

      Alkaline hydrolysis is the natural process your body goes through if you’re buried. Here we’ve created ideal conditions for it to happen much, much faster.” 

      In a cemetery this may take decades, depending on the conditions and the method of burial. 
      In the alkaline hydrolysis machine it takes 90 minutes, though the ensuing rinse cycle takes at least as long again. 
      After three to four hours, the door unlocks and the funeral director sees wet bones scattered across the metal tray, together with any medical implants the dead person had in their body. 
      Metal hip and knee joints come out in perfect condition. 
      The manufacturers of the tissue digester have even proposed that, when more machines are in service, they could be collected and donated to the developing world. 
      By the end, all tissue has dissolved into the solution, which has drained into a separate tank, hidden from view. 
      “It resembles either a tea or an ale,” says Jason. 
      “You can actually see through it - and is really made up of salts and sugars. It has a bit of a soapy smell, which is not off-putting, but it is distinct.” 
      The room in which the machine stands has a smell similar to a dry cleaner’s. 
      The pH level of the effluent is tested, and if necessary adjusted. Then the liquid is released down the drain. 
      It is a sterile mix of amino acids and peptides, with no human DNA. 
      Nevertheless, this disposal of dissolved tissue as a waste by-product, and its progress through the water treatment system, is the part of alkaline hydrolysis that troubles people the most. 
      Bradshaw’s dry the bones - either slowly, in a special cabinet - or quickly, in a tray placed inside a domestic tumble drier. 
      “It works the best,” says David, with a shrug. 
      Then they are put through a machine called a cremulator, which pulverises them into a coarse powder.  
      This is exactly the same machine that is used after a regular cremation, and as with a regular cremation, the word “ashes” is a misnomer. 
      The difference is that the resulting powder is finer and whiter, closely resembling flour - and there is about 30% more of it. 
      So far, the Bradshaw’s tissue digester has processed about 1,100 bodies, roughly one every day. 
      It was manufactured in the UK by a company called Resomation Ltd, which plans to install an identical machine in Sandwell, near Birmingham in the British midlands, at the end of this year. 
      Sometimes families want to help operate the tissue digester, Jason says. 

      We do have families that want to assist in placing the tray in - or to push the ‘cycle’ button to start the process itself. 

      “And some people would look at that and say, ‘Why would you ever want to be involved with that?’ Other people would say: ‘That was the last thing I could do for my mum or my dad.’ 
      “I’ve been here when we’ve had three siblings, all standing next to the machine, and together they have all pressed the button to start it. 
      “And I kind of think of it like, if we’re standing at that cemetery and everybody’s going to take that first scoop of earth and place it into the grave - it’s sort of that moment of letting go.” 

      Death’s footprint

      Around the world, 150,000 people die every day, and the number is rising as the world’s population increases. 
      Today there are 7.5 billion of us on Earth, but by the end of the century it’s thought there will be more than 11 billion. 
      In some countries, space for graves is running out. In the UK, it is estimated that half of cemeteries will be full in the next 20 years. 
      In parts of London, the council no longer offers a burial service, and the city has started re-using grave space, lowering bodies further into the ground and placing new ones on top. 
      The use of land for burial - and the constant upkeep of that land - has an environmental impact. Burial also typically calls for natural resources. 
      Campaigners say that in the US vaults for coffins use up more than 1.6m tons of concrete and 14,000 tons of steel every year. 
      As for cremation, it has been estimated that a typical cremation has a footprint equivalent to about 320kg of carbon dioxide. 
      Unless special measures are taken, dangerous toxins are released too, in particular mercury from dental fillings. This mercury returns to earth in rain and accumulates in the aquatic food chain. 
      How does alkaline hydrolysis compare, from an environmental point of view? 
      According to Dutch researcher Elisabeth Keijzer, who has carried out two studies for the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Research (work commissioned by a funeral chain, Yarden), it’s much better. 
      Her two reports published in 2011 and 2014 make for fascinating if macabre reading. 
      She breaks down burial, cremation and alkaline hydrolysis into dozens of steps, which she assesses against 18 environmental impact yardsticks - such as ozone depletion, marine eco-toxicity and climate change. 
      In 17 of these categories alkaline hydrolysis comes out best. Cremation is worst in the most categories (10), but burial is deemed to have the highest overall environmental impact. 
      Alkaline hydrolysis is found to result in the emission of seven times less CO2 than cremation. 
      To summarise the results, Keijzer and her fellow researchers calculated a “shadow price” for each method - the lowest amount of money it would theoretically cost to either compensate for the environmental impact, or avert it. 
      For burial, the net cost was 63.66 euros per body. For cremation, it was 48.47 euros. For alkaline hydrolysis, just 2.59 euros. 
      By William Kremer - BBC World Hacks

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