Mark’s family asked that I, with three other men, clothe him in his burial garments at the mortuary. I accepted with a sense of duty and honor.
There are a number of cultures and religions that bury their dead in ceremonial and/or ritual clothing, including members of our church who have attended our temple. I think it unfortunate that this seems less common in Christian religions, as this can provide some comfort to those left behind, and it can remind us of the eternal nature of our beings and faith. It is a way of further honoring and respecting those who pass on, and can be a precious and tender experience for close family and friends to do this service.
Mark’s wife had carefully and lovingly cleaned, pressed, and folded his burial clothing in a small suitcase for me to take. I almost felt like I was intruding into sacred space when I opened it to confirm everything was included.
I did feel some trepidation at the prospect of viewing and handling the body of a deceased, especially of someone I knew and loved. The discomfort and sadness at viewing the lifeless body of someone who only days before was so warm and alive were overshadowed by the tender feelings of doing one final service for someone so deserving.
While we treat with respect the mortal remains of our loved ones, we can rejoice and find solace in our faith in the afterlife, and knowing that Mark’s eternal spirit and very being live on, freed from the body’s sufferings and limitations.
We miss you, Mark. But we also rejoice for you.