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I recently went for a memorial service; it was for an old man who was about 85years old. He had lived a full life, so it was really not so sad but more of a celebration of his life.

It was outdoors in the woods, there were some musicians playing the violin, guitar and harp. And his friends and family spoke about the deceased. They talked about actual events that happened with him, they gave a true account and visual image of the old man. They said both the good and the bad about him and it felt so intimate and real. They had a preacher but it wasn’t too religious, they had beer cans of his favorite beer hidden all over and people were drinking, and laughing and remembering and there was some tears too. His wife’s urn was present at the table at the front, and some of his and his wife’s ashes were scattered around that area.

For me and a few other Kenyans who had attended the memorial, this was very weird. There were a few older Kenyans and after the ceremony they came up to me and said I don’t believe this, what kind of funeral was this. This ‘wazungu’s’’ (white people) are very strange, can you believe I was going to get some water and I found that it was beer, OMG, God forgive them.

In Kenya we are used to very elaborate funerals, including church service and digging 6 feet deep by young men who are hired to do the job, and somehow most funerals I have gone to involve a lot of rain and mud. It is usually a whole day affair, and the end of it people will go drink some tea and bread or eat some rice. To us this is the true way of sending off a loved one, we need to have a head stone and flowers and to see the body descend into the ground, for people to actually believe their loved one is gone. But is this the only way?

Death is final and all that people have to hold on to after are the memories, so why do we need to spend thousands and thousands on it?? An average funeral cost about $5,000 and let us not discuss when a Kenyan dies in the US and the body needs to be shipped to Kenya. Which usually involves a fund raising because majority of Kenyans don’t have death insurance. People spend so much money ensuring the deceased corpse stays intact for as long as possible, you get a casket that is water proof and one that will ensure no bugs can eat through. To add on to this cemeteries in Kenya are packed and burying people on private properties has its downfalls including making the land un-sellable.

I think a lot of people fear cremation because they view it as evil and mean, but I think we need to educate ourselves more about it. Cremation is not an alternative to a funeral, but rather an alternative to burial. Meaning we can still have a funeral, we can still have a service; we can still have a ceremony, just without having the burial.

cremation_retortThe cremation occurs in a crematory that is housed within a crematorium and comprises one or more furnaces. A cremator is an industrial furnace that is able to generate temperatures of 870–980 °C (1,600–1,800 °F) to ensure disintegration of the corpse. A crematorium may be part of a chapel or a funeral home or may be an independent facility or a service offered by a cemetery.

The time required for cremation varies from body to body, the process may be as fast as one hour per 45 kg (100 lb) of body weight. Contrary to popular belief, the cremated remains are not ashes in the usual sense. After cremation is complete, the dry bone fragments are swept out and put in a machine called a Cremulator which is like a high-capacity, high-speed blender that processes them into ashes. This leaves the bone fine with sand like texture and color, able to be scattered. The grinding process typically takes about 20 minutes.

In comparison, cremations involve less cost. For one you don’t need a casket, or to embalm a body. You don’t need land or the cost to actually bury. You don’t have cost of transportation or a head stone.

This off course is a very sensitive and personal discussion, each person and family have a right to decide how they would prefer to rest in peace; my aim was just to enlighten someone on options that do exist.