Whereas it has been important to preserve a body in many parts of the world, whether in a form of a mummy inside a pyramid or just the common embalming in today’s America, others have desired to get rid of the remains as soon as possible, usually through cremation. In times of pandemics such as the plague or even the Spanish Flu, cremation has been acceptable to people whose belief system normally doesn’t allow for it, as even the primitive man knew that it helped to prevent the spread of the disease: a decomposing body in the ground can easily contaminate the water supply. In places like
The Zoroastrians, or Parsis as they are called in India, came up with a different solution: as the dead body must not be in contact with earth, water or even fire, their deceased were placed on high towers for a sky burial, where birds of prey would soon strip off everything edible and leave nothing but bones behind. These were then thrown into a deep pit by their own ‘untouchables’, the only people allowed contact with the remains. Now comes the quiz of today: what does this all have to do with the arthritis drug Voltaren©, also known as diclofenac? During the last 10 years there has been a catastrophic 99% decrease in the number of vultures which normally do the mortician services in a Tower of Silence in Mumbai. The reason: sick cattle in India have been given this drug to help them stay in working shape. Once the animals die, the white-backed vultures dine on their carcasses as well, but cannot tolerate the drug present in the flesh and suffer fatal kidney failure. Probably many of the human bodies have high amounts of the drug as well, as we are what we eat, after all. This has become a real problem for the Parsis as now the bodies just rot. Elsewhere in the world this culture has had to come up with different solutions, such as cremating the dead in electric ovens where no actual fire is presents.
Where the Jews and Muslims want to bury their dead as soon as possible, the other extreme can be found in
Whatever method is used for the burial, most families want some kind of gravestone or marker for the remains, unless the urn is kept at home or the ashes have been spread. This will serve as a permanent reminder of the deceased for future generations. It can be fascinating and even important to wander through cemeteries looking for the graves of ancestors, beloved ones, and friends from the past, or to just see history unfold in front of one's eyes. Although not common in my home country, I like the Eastern European tradition of showing a picture of the person. It adds a personal image to just seeing the name, and makes the memory more real. I love to visit cemeteries if they are well taken care of and park-like. Whereas an endless graveyard with just stones in
My heart goes out to all the families of soldiers who gave their lives for freedom and in defending their country, here and wherever they are. The sad, often unspoken truth is that not all of them died for an understandable or acceptable cause, but rather because of a political mistake, such as was the case in Vietnam. Time will tell how we will view our present crisis and the many fallen ones. - My mother lost five cousins who were fighting Stalin’s Red Army. How grief-stricken that family must have been, losing every son they had. But the only daughter took over and became the farmer, continuing the parents’ work. That is Finnish sisu for you: never give up.