Naturally, as is our wont here on the Front Porch, I applied the tried and true formula suitable for any ethical dilemma: WWWD or What Would Wendell Do? Berry, however, does not mention cremation anywhere that I recall. Burial on the other hand figures prominently in some of his fiction. In his greatest novel Jayber Crow the eponymous narrator, as many of you remember, becomes Port William’s gravedigger as well as its barber, and it is a job and a duty of increasing significance to him. The long short story or novella, Fidelity, has as its climax the death and burial of Burley Coulter. Perhaps it is enough to say that since burial is conventional, traditional, the-way-its-always-been-done then the burden of proof is on the proposed innovation, in this case cremation. Certainly a proper accounting of cremation’s pros and cons is in order. But the way Berry dramatizes the significance of burial reveals a greater network of virtues than a mere reflexive balk against a new trend.
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