Dear Abby: Woman’s final wishes create angst and argument in family

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I planned our final wishes for cremation because I have a fear of being buried underground. My children are Jewish and against cremation. They attacked me with negatives about cremation, so I changed my plans. My husband and I purchased side-by-side crypts.

They have continued to push me to change to a regular burial. I finally told them to respect my choices and never discuss this with me again. Now, no contact except an occasional text from grandchildren. — UNHAPPY IN FLORIDA

DEAR UNHAPPY: I ran your question by the most brilliant rabbi I know, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, who teaches at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

Rabbi Dorff said your children need to know there's a disagreement among rabbis as to whether interment in a mausoleum is equivalent to burial in the ground. So, cremation may be "out" for you, but you can be laid to rest next to your husband in a crypt. What is of utmost importance is that your relationship with your children be restored. In the precious time you are on this side of the sod, you and your children need to be able to love and enjoy each other. Weapons like threats and blackmail should not be used.

In part, this is what he had to say:

"The prohibition against cremation comes from the belief that your body belongs to God, not to you personally. It's not unlike renting an apartment. Part of the lease agreement is that you will not destroy or harm the property before you cease residency. (There is no restriction on piercing, which was practiced by Jewish women and men from the time of the exodus from Egypt. As for tattooing, the restriction against it goes back to the days when the Jews were fighting with the Canaanites, who used tattooing in their religious rites.)

"The restriction regarding cremation came about because of the belief that it is actively destroying God's property. According to the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, cremation is prohibited, but if people do that their cremains may be buried in a Jewish cemetery — but, unlike what your children are threatening, it has nothing to do with what happens after death. There are differences on this subject. Nobody knows what happens after death, not even rabbis. Jewish people have a positive commandment to save a life. Organ donation would be an example of this. Although it might be considered 'damaging a body,' saving a life takes precedence."

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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