Ask Pastor Adrienne column: I’m keeping the ashes
My mother was cremated and I want to keep her ashes. Is this okay?
A: I’m so sorry for your loss. In the natural order of things, we will all be burying our parents one day. Often our first reaction when we experience this terrible grief - and we’re never truly prepared for it - is to cling to them like we did as children. It’s perfectly understandable that you would respond to your mother’s death in this way.
Yet perhaps you are writing to me because you are unsettled about it?
Christians are guided by the Holy Spirit; God living with and inside us as wisdom, affirmation, conviction and accountability. When something isn’t settling in our gut (and I don’t mean digestion), we are experiencing a nudge from the Holy Spirit. He often speaks out loud to us or through the Bible’s counsel, but most of the time he nudges. Our thoughts, our emotions, our dreams may all be affected by the soft impression of his hand; a nudge. A prod. He wants us to discover his opinion of our situation for ourselves - by seeking him and finding out what he thinks; listening to what he wants to say. I believe you’ve experienced a nudge regarding the business of hanging onto your mother’s ashes. The question is why. Why are you keeping them?
You know that your mother has gone to her heavenly home. If she died in Christ Jesus, she is no longer here and is now a member of the “great cloud of witnesses” cheering you on from above (Hebrews 12:1-3). She is involved in a new and very different life than the one she lived on earth. You are simply holding onto the dust of her; the literal ash; the residue no longer representing who she was and who she is right now. When you are able to accept that her current life is now enjoyed in another, glorious realm, it may help you let her go. You see, life is truly a cycle. When we refuse to let go of one thing along our circular route, we then hinder the next thing God wants to bring to us. When we are hindered in our progress, both in life and in the spirit, we miss out on all kinds of things. Some may even miss their destiny or calling because they refuse to accept change. Letting go of something immediately brings change: we receive the new thing. A new reality, perhaps?
There is also great, spiritual danger in keeping the body of the deceased around. (Certainly, the cremated ashes are a condensed version of a body.) Folks’ final wishes upon cremation often include the dispersing of the ashes for a reason. It is an important signal to our spirits, minds and emotions that the deceased has flown away to God. It frees them and it frees us, psychologically speaking. When we cling to something dead, we cling to death. We then invite the agent of death into our lives. “God’s children all have a body. That is why Jesus himself had the same. But because Jesus also had a body, he was able to die and stop the devil. The devil has power to make people die. But Jesus, by his own death, was able to stop the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14, WE). Satan looks for opportunities to bring death. It’s his sole intent to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Life and death are opposites. We cannot focus on the one and expect to fully enjoy the other. We handicap our lives and the devil accomplishes his mission.
“But I’m honoring my mother,” we cry. “I’m respecting her by keeping her ashes with me ... keeping them sacred.” Yes, we want to honor our dead, and that is what a funeral is for. However, making the ash urn a component of our home’s décor is not honoring our loved one’s present condition. They have gone on, and they want us to do the same.
Jesus called us to become pro-life in more ways than one. Darkness and death will always oppress the living. We honor Christ by choosing the abundance of life he died to give. Choose life!
Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Send your inquiries to: email@example.com or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030. For more information, please visit www.adriennewgreene.com or tune into the “Ask Pastor Adrienne” YouTube channel.