From a reader: “My mom passed away recently, and my brother and sister and I are fighting over how we should handle her remains. My brother has strong religious beliefs, that my mother did not share, so he wants her buried a certain way, but my mom’s wish was to be cremated. Do deceased people care where and how their remains are handled?”
The rituals that surround how our dearly departed loved ones are often deeply ingrained in religious or cultural norms. This goes back thousands of years.
But do our deceased loved ones care how their remains are handled?
Once you slough off your physical vessel and re-enter the spiritual realm, you generally don’t care how your vessel is handled. You are no longer in it.
To a deceased person, asking them how they want their physical remains handled is like asking what to do with the peanut shell after you’ve eaten the peanut. It’s like asking what to do with the wrapper after you’ve eaten the Twinkie.
When they were alive, they probably had some preference as to how their body would be handled after their death, so I would say if they expressed a specific desire, and it’s within your capacity to do it, honor that as best you can.
But there are times when wishes like those cannot be honored, for example if someone dies in a fiery plane crash in the ocean and their body is not recoverable, you will have nothing to bury.
Do what you feel will honor them the most. Try not to fight with your family about it. You are not hurting your loved one in any way if you end up choosing something different than they wanted for their burial. Don’t let that make you feel bad or like you dishonored their memory.
Your loved ones prefer that you think about them, remember them, and talk about them with other loved ones. That is more important to them than how you handled their vessel.