Thursday, March 26, 2009
Sister, I have a question. On Palm Sunday, besides going to Mass, I have been invited to a non-funeral/non-memorial service for a deceased relative. (He was adamant about not wanting a memorial or funeral, so that's not what we're calling it.)
Why Palm Sunday? I'm getting to that. The man's wife has chartered a boat to sail out a mile into the ocean so that his cremated remains can be scattered at sea. The boat is rented for this specific purpose, and it's really hard to reserve, which is why she's left with Palm Sunday, a day she wouldn't ordinarily choose. Anyway, when the ashes are sprinkled overboard, the attendees on the boat will probably throw down some flowers, too.
Here is my question. Would it be appropriate for me to include some blessed palm leaves along with my tossed flowers?
Way to get around a man's last wishes! Have a funeral and just don't call it one! Retention award, anyone?
I'm kidding. We like everyone to have a proper send off. I've always wondered why anyone would object to those of us who remain behind doing something to honor them. What's up with that? "Please everyone, just forget about me. " I understand why someone wouldn't want anyone to be saddled with the unbelievable expense of a funeral. But if I want to get together with your friends and toast you after you've gone on to where the woodbine twineth (or in this case, Davey Jones' locker), what do you care? Afraid of what we'll say about you?
You needn't worry. We all have the good manners not to speak ill of the dead. Well. Some of us do.
What was the question? Oh yes, the palm fronds. No. Don't be tossing them out in the water.
Really, you shouldn't throw him out there either. He should have a lovely funeral Mass and then his ashes have to be buried or entombed. Scattering of ashes from a boat or a plane or a blimp or a mountain top, or wearing them in little charms around your neck or shooting them into space is not allowed. Is he not Catholic? Poor thing.
But back to the fronds. Palm fronds from Palm Sunday are considered to be sacramentals. I've talked about sacramentals before. Go take a look. I'll wait.
So throwing Palm fronds out to sea with ashes that should actually be getting buried is a doubly bad plan. St. Joseph is the patron saint of a happy death. Why not throw a statue of St. Joseph into the briny deep? ( A statue of a saint is also a sacramental. ) Then again, if we run around burying St. Joseph every time we move, maybe we might just as well fling him in the ocean as well.
Your palm fronds, unlike your statue of St. Joseph, have been blessed, which gives them a little extra sacramental juice (unless, of course, you've had your statute of St. Joseph blessed, in which case, don't go burying him in the front yard upside down). We don't say 'juice', though. We say 'grace'. I was just being colloquial, as people seem to be able to get their brains around the idea a little better that way. At any rate, we don't throw blessed objects in the ocean (on purpose).
Find someone who knows how to braid your palm fronds and stick them behind your Crucifix. Next year, we'll burn them and use them for the Ash Wednesday ashes.