One of the things that I've never done as a priest is officiate religiously (or in any other way) at an exhumation. I'm not entirely sure what one might do, or what prayers one might say. The other day I was reading a detective novel by a writer who is reputed to research his work very well (told me by one who was consulted by the same writer on a certain issue). There was an exhumation in the course of the novel, and the writer recorded that the police chaplain was present and said some prayers about the person 'returning to us'.
Well, I'm not sure that the person was returning to us in any meaningful sense, but more interesting is the fact of the prayers themselves, and the sense that they might in some way be necessary or appropriate.
What I mean is this. I am a great fan of the archeological programme called Time Team; they are digging up skeletons all the time, but these are treated with no special reverence. In fact, I think that in most cases a bit of interesting pottery would get more attention.
And yet these skeletons are the remains of someone's son or daughter; they were presumably loved and valued in this life, but once those who did so have also died, then the necessity of treating their loved ones' remains with reverence also vanishes.
It's a bit like the unborn, isn't it? An unborn child with loving and expectant parents is a baby. One without loved ones is merely a fœtus.
A skeleton with loved ones is in some sense human. One without is an archeological exhibit.
Which is why, when I watch Time Team and similar programmes, I say a quick prayer for the souls of those whose bodies they dig up. Maybe one day I'll be glad of somebody doing the same for me.