Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why We Memorialize

by Dan Applegate
President, The Arlington Memorial Gardens

When, on October 25, the Catholic Church clarified its position on cremation through the new guidelines, Ad Resurgendum Cum Christo (or, To Rise With Christ), it reaffirmed its preference for ground burial but explained when, how and why cremation is acceptable. 

But, while the Church has now unequivocally accepted cremation provided that the motive is based on “sanitary, economic or social considerations,” it has also unambiguously provided guidelines on how cremated remains are to be treated. 

Scattering is prohibited, as is fabricating jewelry or incorporating cremated remains into jewelry. Separating cremated remains is also prohibited. And, finally, the guidelines mandate that cremated remains must not sit on a shelf at home but are to be either buried or placed in a columbarium “in a sacred place” such as a cemetery. 

Ad Resurgendum’s guidelines confirm, validate and add weight to something that we at Arlington have long advocated: memorializing the life of someone who has died. One of our deeply held beliefs is that life is a gift and that noting that a person lived through the act of memorialization merely sanctifies that life. 

While it may indeed be true that after a generation or two the grave will no longer be visited, it is still unarguable that all lives are meaningful and worthy of remembrance. After all, remembering is one of the primary attributes separating the human species from all other living, and dying, creatures.

Perhaps Sir William Gladstone’s observation makes the best case: “Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.”

Dan Applegate became part of The Arlington Memorial Gardens organization in 2001 and has worked in the cemetery industry since 1981, including serving as Secretary/Treasurer and then as President of the Ohio state cemetery association.  He was appointed by Ohio Governor George Voinovich and served two terms on the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission, Ohio's cemetery oversight agency. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University holding a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science.