In a recent conversation in which I was involved, the topic of burial practices came up. I mentioned that it was only fair to your loved ones to be able to afford your own funeral or opt for cremation. Well, that opened a can of worms!

Now, I’m Nigerian by heritage, Ghanaian by birth and British by nationality- if that makes any sense. Anyhow, I’ve observed burial practices over the years and noticed that Africans and Afro-carribeans (in general) , find the idea of cremation anathema.

Factors influencing cremation rates globally include  religion and culture. For example, the cremation rate in Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic majority countries is much lower due to religious sanctions on cremation, whereas for Hindu or Buddhist majority countries the cremation rate is much higher. (Wikipedia)

So, in this debate, it came to light that a funeral home in St Kitts and Naevis were experiencing problems with slow traffic for their cremation services. Nobody was buying the idea.

Christians, I felt, were hesitant because of the following bible verse:

1 Thessalonians 4:16
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”

Ergo, no one wanted that trumpet to go off and find that they were molecules scattered over a field – or long-since eaten by fish! This religious image is seared into the consciousness of Christians against the idea.

I argued that the facts were simple; cremation was cheaper  and besides, wouldn’t God be powerful enough to put you together? Anyway, I further reasoned, it would be your spirit – otherwise the ghoulish image wouldn’t bear thinking about!

I was quick to point out – to the proponents of the burial argument- that African burials always left loved ones with a heavy financial burden.
I can only speak for Nigeria, where burials can reach 6-figure sums. Here, it is considered an ‘honour’ to be able to send your loved one off ‘well’.            From the wake to the funeral, bills for drink and food can easily spiral out of control, with different family, extended family and the  town’s-folk expecting to partake of this ‘celebration of life’. It would be considered a ‘disgrace’ to have a low-budget funeral. And yet, it’s uncommon for the deceased to have left enough-if any money to foot the bill.
In the UK, burials can also cost thousands of pounds compared to the far cheaper practice of cremation.

If I asked my older relatives to invest in a funeral plan, they’d balk at the idea. Death is simply not a topic anyone wants to think of.
So here I am, shopping around for the best funeral plan in the UK. I can’t imagine why I would want to burden my kids with such a bill.

On the idea of cremation, I’m afraid I’ve chickened out – I’ve been swayed! I may not be the best Christian in town, but come the blowing of ANY trumpet, I’d like to be able to high-tail it out of my grave- worms, bones and all!

©Vivian Zems

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