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Death Masks, Caskets and Cremation

Statue of Patrician With Death MasksThe first time I ever saw a “death mask” was at a junior youth camp in southern California where, after the youngsters were in bed, some of the the faculty were having a bit of fun. A person would stretch out on a table, and some kind of preparation was applied to the “candidate’s” face, which material was then allowed to dry and to harden. I believe holes were poked in the nose and mouth area, so that the youth camp worker would continue breathing–a desirable trait, seeing this was a “death mask” demonstration in fun only.
I began thinking of such a subject earlier today, when I read an extremely captivating and informative article about 10 exotic burial places. My interest was piqued to such degree that this actually became the basis for my devotional today.
Credit for Clipart and more material about Roman burials here.
My study about this subject today prompts me to ask how you feel about burial methods? Would you consider being cremated? Why? Why not? Do you know of any scripture that would preclude such a burial? Does it bother you to consider being buried under the earth? Is a mausoleum more to your liking?…or does it matter at all? What about casket style and expense? My feeling is that I really don’t personally care, for I don’t believe I will know a thing about it. It’s okay with me that my family’s thoughts should be the determining factor for my funeral.
I really don’t care about seeing casket stores in strip malls, though. Although I acknowledge there to be nothing wrong with the idea, and I’ve heard you can get caskets cheaper there than at funeral homes, it’s just a bit disconcerting to see them. Get Your Bargain Casket Here!
This is an interesting chart–a little outdated, but you can check the state where you live and see the percentage of people who choose to be cremated. In my personal experience it seems to me that more people are choosing cremation than ever before. Has the fact that funeral expenses have been so exorbitantly priced caused this trend?

Map of US Cremation Rates

Don’t worry. I’m feeling quite healthy…just found all this interesting today!

Edit: There may be some “spooky” spirits lurking here. Something–or someone– has changed my font style, and I absolutely cannot get the paragraphs right. When I view the post on my screen it looks perfect. (Halloween may be early!) Another thing. I’ve posted tags twice and they always are stripped out. I’ll try again now. Hope it’s not contagious…else all WordPress will shudder.

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My devotional blog is here.

By Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 83 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She was married to Jerry for 63 years, and grieves yet at his death in August of 2019. They have 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)

35 replies on “Death Masks, Caskets and Cremation”

Thanks, Linda, for the scientific angle to this discussion.

The introduction of organ donations was bound to arise from such a column. My thoughts are that this is a practical and worthy use of one’s body once life has gone. To consider the possibility of giving vision to a blinded person, or to extend the years or quality of a young person’s life is appealing to me, although I must confess to not have documented these wishes.

Again, though, as I mentioned early on, I wouldn’t want to do something that would bring grief to my family. If I find that Jerry is uncomfortable with my donating my eyes, say, I probably would respect his wishes…if he outlives me. As you can tell, this is something I have merely thought about, but have not acted on…may be a moot point now or soon…my bod may be getting too old to be of any benefit to anyone. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Thanks for coming by…it’s always a treat.

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Hi Shirley! I haven’t had the time yet to read all of these comments thoroughly, but I have briefly scanned them. I am a Christian with a fairly scientific mind. Here’s my perhaps overly scientific take on the intact burial vs. cremation discussion. The process of the body disintigrating is called oxidation whether it takes hundreds of years or a few moments. The end result is the same. Were I to die today and be buried in a box or in the ground or in a box above the ground, my body would slowly “burn” into dust. Cremation simply accelerates the process. I want to be cremated. I’m getting a new body. I don’t need the old one. This discussion does bring to mind another! What about organ donation? As always, your posts are thought provoking! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Sis. Buxton,

I would have to say that I do believe that Hitler was either insane or as you said, completely possessed by the devil. He did not think with the normal conscience of an emotionally balanced individual. Maybe things in his childhood created his eccentricities (if something so wicked could be called such) or maybe as he became an adult he just took pleasure in the feelings of power he received when intimidating or tormenting something smaller than himself and turned himself over to that evil. Somehow he had himself convinced that his way was the only right way.

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Sis Buxton,

Very interesting post. Personally, I could never be cremated. I would much rather be buried. The reason is I would want want be buried is because when you are cremated the family never really gets closure from the deceased passing on.

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Anna, I hope someday to go to Dachau or one of the other concentration camps, although, I recognize that it must be a harrowing experience.

Do you believe Hitler was insane? I struggle with thinking there could be men evil enough to commit such atrocities unless they were insane, or totally possessed by the devil.

How touching that the elderly are so concerned about their youth and the neo-nazism that is such a threat there. How often I have said–as do many others–our world is so troubled–so desperately in need of God.

What a job we have–yet what opportunity. We must keep praying for each other. (By the way, please answer the questions I have set out on today’s devotional blog. It’s important to me.)

Love and respect you.

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Regarding the trip to Dachau and if I would advise a visit there Sis. Buxton, Absolutely!

I believe that anyone who desires to be a leader in any way should visit such a place and feel/see the results of a leadership misused. Tyranny is a horrible thing and justice and mercy go hand in hand. When a leader places themselves in the role of God they commit perversions beyond a sane mind’s comprehension.

The crazy thing about Hitler, that always comes back to me is that although he wanted a supreme race he, himself, did not fit his own criteria. He must have truly abhored the circumstances of his birth. An interesting thing to note about his atrocities though is that he was not typically the mastermind behind the insane experiments that were committed on the prisoners. His second in command was (I cannot remember his name, would have to look it up in my book on the concentration camp). What an evil, evil mind!

While we were in Germany, the elderly German citizens who lived during that era or who had parents who were in that era pleaded with us to help their youth. Neo-nazism has been on the rise the last few years and that is a terrifying concept to those who endured true Nazism.

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Tena, your post is important and encourages me. I think those of us who write articles, books, and blogs; who teach lessons, preach sermons, sing songs etc. hope that in some way the medium we use will be of some help to society, and, certainly those of us who are Christians possess the desire for our work to make a positive contribution to the work of God. For you to say that on such an important subject as this, your mind has been changed by what Brenda wrote–this bears notice.

A compelling lesson is here and I hope we don’t let it pass without due regard. Someone listens to every word we speak, every thought we develop, every lesson we write or every song we sing. Think about it.

Love you and always appreciate your sweet compliments.

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This post and it’s comments have changed my mind. When I first began reading the comments I had already planned what I was going to say here. But, as I kept reading, I’ve changed my mind.

I was going to say, just cremate me and save money. But, after reading Brenda’s post, I don’t want my body to be burned. It makes perfect sense. Our bodies should be laid in the ground to turn back to dust from whence we were formed.

I still want to be buried in just an inexpensive pine box. No need to waste money on one that just looks a little nicer – no one will see it once it’s buried anyway.

But, I will be very strong on one thing – I don’t want an “open casket” ceremony! Since my brother’s funeral – 28 years ago, every funeral I’ve gone to, I canNOT go up and see the body. I try and I just can’t – can’t explain it. I don’t want anyone seeing me dead. I want them to remember me how I was and looked when I was alive.

But, having said all that…I agree with my Mom (Esther) – whatever makes the ones left behind feel better is what I want more than what I want. Make sense? ๐Ÿ™‚

You are so talented, Sis. Buxton, with coming up with interesting topics. Or…maybe it’s a very active imagination. I bet that fantastic brain of your never stops for a moment! ๐Ÿ˜€ Love you!

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Good morning, BRENDA.

Thank you for this informative post about cremation. Thought provoking.

I’m sorry about your dad and the decisions you will be making, and I know none of this is easy. What a great brother you must have who has pitched in to this degree.

Did you read Esther’s comments? Her son-in-law, Mike English, a young, brilliant attorney, was killed in a boating accident. For his funeral, they chose a plain pine casket. It did not look crass or tawdry. Maybe if you ask at the funeral home, something like that is available for your father.

Thanks ANNA for the dates of the conference.
Your trip to Dachau–Would you advise a visit there?

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Bro. Buxton,

The dates for “Passing the Torch” are Wed.-Fri., Oct. 10-12, 2007.

Brenda, that is a good explanation of your belief on cremation and it makes sense. I think that is the best explanation that I have heard why one would not be cremated.

I can agree with the lack of dignity, especially after visiting the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany and seeing how the Jews/Religious folks were baked in ovens during Hitler’s reign. Talk about eye opening and stomach turning, one could still smell the death in that place.

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My thoughts on cremation – 1. No one in the Bible was ever cremated. 2. The punishment God chose for the wicked is fire. 3. The dignity of a society or civilization is shown by how they treat their young and their aged. It just seems respectful to treat the body with honor. It is the enemy who destroys and tears down, and it is the Lord who creates and builds up. I would not want to destroy the earthly temple, but rather let it return to the earth. Just a few thoughts.
On a personal note, my dad is 92 and has been failing, and placed on hospice care at home. I had to go out to a funeral home, just to check on what we needed to do in case of his death. The mortician showed me a room of caskets, and they were quite expensive. Knowing how thrifty my dad has always been, I asked if they had anything cheaper. I was taken to another room where they had 5 less expensive caskets. They were displayed on shelves, the cheapest on the bottom. I could not believe my eyes! The cheapest one , on the bottom shelf, was a cardboard box!!! Can you believe that? Shocking. It was regular, brown cardboard with a lid, kind of like a shoe box lid.
That display was a little too crass for my liking!
Anyway, we would appreciate any prayers for my Dad, and for Mom and my brother, who quit his job to help Mom with the caregiving.

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Anna, the thing about death…is that it always…in some ways…brings about new life. We must keep that in mind.

“Passing the Torch” sounds great. Wish I were closer.

Love you back.

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Sis. Buxton,

Yes, I was at GC. I think that we could safely say that a death mask was placed on one of the key components of our separation. In addition to that, I am sure as we speak that there are many funerals being held and being prepared for ministerial licenses and affiliations. Time will tell the tale. Sad! Although, for some, the decisions made were cause for rejoicing and celebration.

My personal take, the small crowd told the tale and future crowds will more than likely tell the tale even more so. It all reminded me of a sermon preached once regarding how little tigers grow up to be big tigers and how it does not take long for a door slightly opened to be shoved open all the way. In addition to all of the other stuff, despite all of the jargon explaining the why’s and wherefore’s, it is a sad day when a body has to pay to attend church.

An era has ended, so some say, but hopefully somewhere/somehow a new one will begin with men still holding on to the things we hold so dear in this faith. Thank God that he never changes!

I would have loved having you there to explore with. It is always more fun to go with someone. ๐Ÿ™‚

“Passing the Torch” conference is a meeting sponsored by ministers in Colorado and elsewhere with the mission of planting and nurturing the burden and vision, along with love of the truth and this faith/doctrine, of the church in those to follow. It started local a few years back and is really taking off this year. The preaching line-up is consistently excellent. Speakers are Bro. Johnny Godair, Bro. Nate Wilson, Bro. Larry Booker, Bro. Rick Mayo and more…. It is hosted primarily by Christian Growth Center, which is pastored by my Brother, but is sponsored by numerous ministers. This year it has grown out of the church and will be held at the downtown Arts and Convention Center, which is not far from their lovely new riverwalk.

You always put up interesting subjects.:) Love you.

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Sis Buxton, I think that the funeral and burial should be up to the family that is still alive. They are the ones who are grieving. My soul will be gone. It is the ones who are left who must be allowed to do what will bring them the most comfort. I don’t believe that my family would want me cremated. However, if I did have any say-so on the matter I would want to just be put in a pine box and buried. I would not want an expensive casket and funeral. When Mike died, Jennifer honored his request. He always said he just wanted a plain pine casket and that is what she did. The funeral was wonderful and I’m so glad for the memories of that remarkable man that was honored that day. I think that is the key word “memories”. It will be the way my family and friends remember me. Also the visiting the cemetary brings forth those good memories and that is a good thing. Love ya’

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Good evening, Holly.

When I read sometime back about the the 9/11 rubble being sifted so that bits of flesh could be given to the families, I had the same response that you have. I don’t want to seem hard or uncaring, for I realize these people suffered a tragic, unthinkable loss, and they surely have dealt with deep grief. But I agree with your assessment of the purpose of the body. That’s why I said early on in this post that it wouldn’t bother me to be cremated after my death.

Our bodies truly are not us. No matter what we do, they will decay and return to dirt.

On the other hand, perhaps because of our culture, most people feel better about having the body of their loved one to either cremate or bury, and most people have some sort of a burial ceremony.

My sister did not want any kind of a service, but wanted to be cremated and buried at sea. I followed her wishes, but that was hard–not the cremation part, but the non-service part. I was left with a hollow, empty feeling.

Appreciate your comments…and love you.

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Ahhh – what a very interesting topic. Let me bring up another angle which I’ve been thinking about lately.

Why do people put so much focus on the body left behind? More specifically, why are so many families of the World Trade Center tragedy demanding that some fragment of their loved one be located and identified before they can have closure? I read this story recently and I can’t understand the thinking behind this demand.

How would a shred of flesh or a fingernail sliver bring peace to those left behind? What is the rationale?

The story told how all of the rubbish from the site was sifted through a fine mesh, and every human fragment was tested for DNA so that the missing people could be identified. After 1500 people sifting for many many months, there’s still about 200 people for which no matter has been found. Some of the families are demanding that the tons and tons of rubbish be moved to a different site and sifted again with a finer mesh in an attempt to locate a shred of their loved one. (I don’t see how anything could still exist 6 years later.)

Can somebody help me understand their thinking? Their loved one is gone, and I don’t understand how locating a minute portion of their remains is going to bring comfort.

In my opinion, the body served a purpose while I was alive but once I’m dead, it serves no purpose anymore. Why is so much focus put on the remains and how they’re handled? Why not put the focus on the person, not the body.

Love You !!

HG

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HELEN, yes of course. Once we are with Jesus, we need no more comfort, for He is the Prince of Peace. Do you remember that old song:
“Won’t it be wonderful there.
Having no burdens to bear.
Joyously singing with heart bells all ringing.
Oh, won’t it be wonderful there!”

CAROL, my heart’s desire, too, is to go to Heaven by way of the rapture. Ever think how that will be? Do you suppose we will see each other as we all rise? It will be so fast though–“in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” What a day!

KAREN, I think what you have indicated is one problem with cremation. Some people are just not comfortable with it. Although I don’t care one way or the other, I don’t think Jerry would want me cremated.

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Since the apostle Paul stated that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, I supposed it wouldn’t matter much to me as I will no longer be in that body. When my grandmother died 4 years ago, my aunt was going to have her cremated because it would be cheaper. But she changed her mind because she felt that would not have been what her mom wanted. Even though it was more of an expense for her, she went ahead and gave her a casket and the works. I think she felt better about that. Interesting article about death masks. Didn’t know they did such things. I always thought the mask of death was the way a person looked when they were near death….gray and ashen in the face and skin. I learned something new.

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Wow Sister Buxton! You certainly come up with some interesting topics. If I go by way of death, I really wouldn’t be concerned if I were cremated or buried. My hope though is to be alive when the Rapture takes place.

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What? My will states that I prefer to be cremated (it’s cheaper. Live people will pay for my burial arrangements. I’d rather they have more money left to spend on something more important for themselves or other living folk.) but my will can be overridden by living people. It is the living who will grieve and need comfort, not me. I’ll be with Jesus.

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Hi Virginia,

Henry Moore was one of the first people we met when we came to California. My husband was hired by Edgar Langford to teach in their school in Pasadena. Henry Moore was the assistant at the church, so we became quite close. They’re wonderful people. His face no doubt made a striking mask. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Bro. Henry Moore was our mask man at Fraizer Park about 1961 or mabe 1962. They did his mask on the counter of the snack shack.

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Sis. Buxton:
I could not agree with your comments more,”Iโ€™ve often considered the moment of death, and wondered about it. What does one see, hear, feel? Does the spirit of man feel itself leaving, is there a sense of movement?”

And as the Lord allows me to add one day upon an other these very questions ring lowder and are of more interest each day.

But I have this hope that He shall meet me on that day!!

Mervin

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Mervin, I think both…at least to me.

Even though I’ve read about death, have observed death, and reckon with it being a natural part of life, to me it is still mysterious. I’m a curious person by nature, and I’ve often considered the moment of death, and wondered about it. What does one see, hear, feel? Does the spirit of man feel itself leaving, is there a sense of movement? Does God talk to the dying/living soul? Exactly what is paradise? Exactly what is a “dead” soul doing as it waits the resurrection?

Curious.

Must be pleasant to the godly, though, for there is a scripture that says “blessed is the death of the righteous.” (paraphrase–didn’t look it up.)

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Thank you for your good wishes, Mervin.

I suppose we all agree that death is mysterious. No ordinary human has ever returned to give a report.

I’ll be glad to have the hand of Jesus to guide me at my crossing.

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Sis. Buxton:

In the course of my life and with the counseling studies I have been doing to get my Masters. I have been in the situation several times to be standing at the bed side as a person departs this โ€œveil of tears.โ€ One that I will never forget went out with hands raised conversing in a language that I did not understand. Some have gone fighting with all they could muster to keep from going. Some have just taken that last breath and never exhaled on this side. Others just like they have gone to sleep and went through the veil of time almost unnoticed.

Yes, I have many times and each one has made a deep impression on me as I left the bed side. Some with tears of joy others with tears of sadness.

The best Jesus has for your and Bro. Buxton;

Mervin

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Good afternoon, Mervin.

The “death mask” I saw created was at Camp Seeley in the San Bernardino mountains, and now that you have jogged my memory, I believe they did use straws for nose breathing. Quite a sight.

I suppose the reason you don’t care what is done with your dead body is that after death we have no more need for such. Isn’t it our spirit that goes back to God which gave it? Won’t we be changed? Have a heavenly body? Happier days are coming!

Have you ever watched anyone die? I have seen a couple of people die. One was my brother who died with cancer at age 18. At the moment of his death, there was an almost palpable sense of his leaving–a knowing that he was no longer there. I watched someone else die–a child of God also–but I did not have that definite sense of them leaving. Have you had such an experience?

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Good afternoon Sis. Buxton:

My, what a topic for a quite mondaneTuesday afternoon. Burial mask. Going back more years than I care to WONDERFUL Frazier Park youth camp. One of the counselors gave permission to have a โ€œPlaster pairsโ€ cast made of his face, death mask. Gunk made and two drinking straws inserted into his nose and the mask was made. OH! He did panic once, causing the procedure to be started all over. Later that night before Bro. Black preached they had painted the casting and gave it to him.

Where is Mervin Clark to be buried? How Mervin Clark is to be buried? I will not be there so by your leisure. Cremation? Is a question that I have seen raised and commented on over and over. Once more I will not be present at the B-B-Que. I have no objection to cremation; the main reason is that I would prefer my family to have the extra dollars as the undertaker. Should you plan on being there than I could grasp some very good reasons not to do it? In repeating myself, I have no plan to be present. Whatever is done I will have no knowledge of until โ€œthat great geten up morning.โ€ And then I will not care. I have no concern of Jesus finding me on that morning. The reason He will bring those from the sea. That is a lot more humans over a lot larger area and some who have been scattered inadvertently.

Mervin Clark

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Sis. Buxton,

I’ve always been curious as to why so many Pent. ministers are adverse to cremation. One minister made the statement that people cremate sometimes because they feel that if they destroy the body, they will not be held accountable to God. I may not be saying that quite right, but nevertheless it is still quite confusing to me.

I do believe that sometimes people cremate simply because it is more cost effective. Hopefully the rapture will take place before it’s my time to pass on and I won’t have to worry either way. ๐Ÿ™‚

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