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The Last Goodbye

Mortality is the undeniable truth associated with life. Every beginning has an ending and he who takes birth has to die someday. Death is peaceful, says those who have had a narrow escape. Then what is it that makes death traumatic? The life that is taken away. We all have valuables in our possession. Even the thought of losing them can frighten us. Life, indeed, is such a valuable thing. Only the living can understand this and it is the loved ones of the deceased who feel the pain of losing. Many ways to share their gratitude, a thousand ways to remember but maybe, only a single way to say their ‘last goodbye’- a funeral.

The Hindus cremate in funeral pyres while Christians inhumane in cemeteries. Every religion and even those having no religion believes that the dead should have their last rites with dignity.

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Countries form when such different communities come together and live as one. Singapore, one of the fastest growing nations witnessing development at the speed of light,harbors a diverse population. Malay, Chinese, Indians and British who came as slaves or colonials have shaped the Singaporean culture in the way it is today. For an island nation exhibiting such a diversity and rapid development, growing population is a major concern. The challenge to provide living space comes at the cost of cemeteries being buried under development projects. Not all favor such an outcome and the government often has to deal with a massive outcry. The dilemma between development and individual and communal dignity is not easy to balance yet strategies and schemes have been planned to ensure an intermediate solution.

Burial, cremation and columbaria are most common funeral practices in Singapore. The Choa Chu Kang Cemetery complex is the only one which facilitates burial. The cost of a niche ranging from $140 for a child to $315 for an adult and $ 940 for religions other than Muslim, Ahmadiyya Jama’at, Jewish, Parsi and Bahai. With effect from 1 November 1998, the burial period for all graves has been limited to a period of fifteen years after which the graves will be exhumed and for those religions which permits cremation, the remains will be cremated and the ashes given to the relatives for burial or to be kept in columbaria. For those religions in which cremation is not permitted, smaller individual plots will be provided to the deceased.

Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium complex is a government owned crematoria center while Kong Meng San PhorKark and TseTohAum Temple are private crematories. The price being $100 for adults and $50 for children below the age of five to $700 -900 in private crematoria along with urns. Cremated ashes can be stored at home or scattered in sea about 1.5 nautical miles south of PulauSemakau. The ashes of the deceased can also be stored at columbaria niches. Mandai Columbaria and Choa Chu Kang Columbaria supported by the government are the only two columbaria in Singapore. It doesn’t seem aesthetical to book a niche in columbaria or cemetery but ensuring a place for the loved ones after their death and to avoid future hikes in rates, it does seem reasonable. A number of funeral Singapore service providers could be found over the net to organize funerals including wreaths, coffins and everything else that is required.

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Another burial site in Singapore named after the English ship-owner George Henry Brown, the Burkit Brown is one of the oldest cemeteries which face disappearance owing to construction projects for residential area. The concerned citizens are outraged to protect this heritage whose preservation seems inevitable seeing the scarcity of land. A sacrifice of history to benefit the nation’s assets may seem indispensable but should not be completely destroyed so as to deprive the country of its cultural wealth.

Heading towards a substantial development, every nation aims to provide its citizens the ‘ideal’ life. To cope up with the problems of burying the dead is not confined to Singapore alone. Large countries with densely populated regions also has to face such circumstances, solutions to which scientifically and technically could be more than one can count on its fingers but may not please the religious soul or individuals morals. Strategies can only work out if they are properly planned and receive support from the people.

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