Pondering Our Death

Editor’s note: this is the first in a series of posts co-written by Kent Burreson and Beth Hoeltke.

Most of us, at least on a regular basis, don’t spend our days considering our own death and burial. We might take the time to prepare our wills or perhaps consider our funeral rite, but how many of us stop to think about our actual death?

I suspect most of us think, “I will hire a funeral home and just leave it to them. That should take care of everything.” So you choose a funeral home and tell your spouse or family member to “just take it from there.” But that leaves a lot of decisions, hard decisions, up to your loved ones at a time when it is most difficult to think through these things. These may include decisions you have not even discussed with a loved one, including those that you haven’t finalized regarding the disposition of your own body. Things like: Do you want to have your body embalmed? Do you want to be buried in a casket? If yes, would you prefer an inexpensive or an ornate casket? Or maybe you’d rather have no casket at all? Maybe you’d rather not be buried at all? Then what are your options? Have you thought about cremation, cryonics, sea burial, or maybe natural burial, where no vaults are used and no embalming is done? Today there are more options available than you could even imagine.

Over the next few months we would like to take some time to think about dying and the decisions that pertain to our deaths. As you read this and future posts, we want you to consider these end-of-life decisions related to the care of your body, because as a Christian your body is not unimportant even after your death. Consider embalming: Did you know that the tradition of embalming began in the USA, during the Civil War, as a way to temporarily slow down decomposition in order to get the body home to the family for burial? Did you know the chemicals used in embalming, even today, only last about a week or so before they begin seeping from the body? Did you know the chemicals used in embalming are hazardous to the mortician and the ground into which it seeps? Did you know there is no law that states your body must be embalmed, unless it is being moved from one state to another? The cost, the damage done to both the body and the mortician, and the damage to the environment are all good reasons to consider not being embalmed. Whether to embalm or not is just one of the many decisions we will consider with you over the next few months.

In our next post, we will explore the spectrum of burial practices, especially those that would lead you into considering a more green, natural burial.






3 responses to “Pondering Our Death”

  1. Mary Betten Avatar
    Mary Betten

    As my husband faces certain death with his cancer, we found the article very interesting. It’s very sad to think that our society has been practicing embalming this long. We personally plan to donate our bodies to medical science (hopefully we’ll go to Concordia Seward). When finished with our bodies, they will be cremated and returned to the family. I believe this is a good way to continue serving. Thanks for the enlightenment!! God’s blessing to you.

  2. Rick Strickert Avatar
    Rick Strickert

    Among the options is donating one’s body to science.

  3. Ben Avatar

    I spoke with my brother, who is a former mortician, and he says the chemicals remain in the body; they do not seep out. Can you post a reference to your claim that they seep out of the body? Much appreciated. Good article!

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