I live in a part of the UK that is a popular holiday destination. Along with benches or seats given in memory of people, it is not uncommon to see other memorials, such as floral decorations, around the countryside. At this time of year I suspect that many of the clumps of spring bulbs I see that are obviously not wild have been planted in memory of someone.

 

These set me pondering on how we remember those we have loved. Historically in the UK, as a Christian country, memorials to the dead would have been graves in the local churchyard, although I would guess that the majority of the population was always too poor to afford a headstone in a churchyard. From the Industrial Revolution onwards, cemeteries offered alternative, often non-religious, burial places and cremation offered the possibility of more affordable memorials in gardens of remembrance.

 

I suspect that there have always been people for whom these traditional forms of remembrance have simply not ‘worked’ and during my lifetime, perhaps as the UK has become a nation of a much wider range of beliefs, I have seen a significant rise in the number of additions or alternatives, such as flowers placed close to where a person died particularly when their death was the result of an accident, or the ashes of a loved one being scattered in a place that was special to them.

 

How we remember our dead has historically been linked with belief in what happens after death. In biblical times, the ancient Jews gathered the bones of their dead together in family tombs, and scattering the bones of defeated enemies was seen as a final sealing of their defeat. In many places, family tombs have continued into modern times. Until recently, the Christian Church traditionally favoured burial over cremation, linked to belief in the resurrection of the dead with a physical body. The pope did not permit cremation for Roman Catholics until 1963. In Christian churchyards, ashes are still buried, rather than scattered. Yet increasingly in the modern UK, I think that the places and methods we use to remember our dead are becoming separated from what we believe happens after death. For some, the dead are simply gone, and a memorial is simply a place to remember shared lives and memories. But for others, whilst belief in life after death may be strong and clearly defined, the memorial is linked with the earthly remains but not with any belief in an eternal destination.

 

  • How would you like to be remembered?

  • If you have a memorial or special place of remembrance for someone who has died, what purpose does this serve for you?

  • Do you think that having a memorial of some kind is connected to what we believe happens after death?

 

Prayer for the week - 23rd March 2017

 

The United Nations and aid agencies are warning of a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and parts of Nigeria that is worse than any since the second world war. They warn that over 20 million people are facing starvation in the next 6 months, whilst ongoing conflicts still prevent humanitarian and medical aid from reaching the people in most need.

One of my delights is watching my dog playing. He is capable of being totally absorbed in squeaking a favourite toy or gnawing a bone, apparently completely oblivious to everyone around him. I like playing too, but I’m nowhere near as good at it as my dog is!

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