Here’s something for my fellow burial aficionados to ponder. The news item’s headline is overstated (“Woman Grieved for Seven Years at Empty Grave”), but the actual occurrence is kind of interesting.
A Gothenburg woman grieved for seven years at her mother’s grave, but the urn with the mother’s remains had never left the crematory.
“This shouldn’t be allowed to happen. That’s why you turn to an undertaker’s, otherwise I could have done the work myself”, says the woman to Swedish Radio Gothenburg.
An urn should by rights be buried within the year. At crematories, urns occasionally remain for longer periods. In such cases, the staff usually ask undertakers to contact the family and make sure the urn is buried. Sometimes there is no family. Then a communal grave for abandoned urns is used. In this case there was a family plot, but despite having been contacted by the crematorium, the undertakers did nothing.
Clearly, modern Swedish society cultivates an intricate practice regarding unclaimed corpses. First there may be forensic investigations and an autopsy, the corpse is refrigerated for weeks or months, then a brief funeral service is held, the corpse is cremated and the rough bone chunks-and-gravel ground to a fine powder, then the bone powder is urned and stored on a shelf for a year, and finally it’s buried in a communal grave. As I’m fond of saying: there is no natural way to handle a corpse. Everything we do with them is culturally contingent. A grave is a work of art.
(Via Dagens Nyheter.)