On Funerals

In the last weeks, two of my friends have lost pets. One of my friends took in a sick kitten from the Tamayuran and gave her a joyful final week. The other lost her beloved Pekinese dog of 12 years to cancer. It’s always painful when a pet dies, they are a part of the family and often best friends on top of that.

In my family, we have always had cats and it was hard to lose them, especially when I was a child. Since we then had a very large garden next to a big forest, our dead cats were buried somewhere on our property. Not that this is officially allowed in Austria, mind you, but I guess many people in the countryside do that nevertheless.

In Japan, customs are a bit different, obviously. What happens is that there are special crematoriums where you can bring your dead pet and you will receive an urn in the end. Then you can choose to keep the urn in your home or bury it in your garden if you have one, and there are even special pet cemeteries.

Mondrian painting of red amaryllisBoth of my friends made a point to explain that the funeral of a pet is very similar to the funeral of a human loved one. One of them showed me photos of her dead dog covered with fresh flowers before the cremation, and afterwards the urn wrapped in cloth next to a photo, some toys and dog food. This is exactly what happens in a Buddhist funeral, and once the urn is placed in the tomb, the descendants will place flowers, food, and water or alcohol on the tomb at special days like Obon.

What I found extremely interesting is that the urn for the dog did not seem much smaller than the urn was that contained the remains of my grandmother. In Japan, cremation for humans is not usually complete. There are bones left that are picked out by the relatives to be placed in the urn, one of the main parts of a funeral. Apparently, also for pets you receive bones and ashes, although you don’t pick them out, and you can choose which you prefer.

I’m sorry for the morbidity here, but I do find these things interesting. Probably part of my Austrian heritage?