Monthly Archives: December 2013

Final Disposition of Remains: Part I-Cremation

Something that most of us don’t like to think about is planning your own funeral. Often looked at as being a morbid subject, it is nonetheless an important thing to consider now so that your family doesn’t have to determine what you wanted after you’re gone. Use of a funeral planning list is a good way to approach the issue. It allows you to prepare a general estimate of anticipated funeral costs and funeral expenses and, more importantly, to designate the final disposition of your body.

While most Americans in the past have thought of in ground burial as the appropriate ending to their life, cremation services are becoming more popular these days for many reasons based upon economic and lifestyle changes today. Rapidly rising cost of burial at a time when many are facing tighter family budgets is one. Increasing concern for environmental issues and the limited availability of needed space is another. Let’s take a look at each of these separately.

At the time of death, the remaining family is faced with many expenses that they are often not prepared to deal with. While some have burial insurance to help, many do not and when you add this to the impact of a slow economy the situation can become quite dire. In such situations it is critical for the survivors to find a means less expensive than traditional burial which will both fully honor their loved on while showing the respect due.

Cremation services, wherein the body is reduced to ashes quickly under high heat and regulated conditions, are becoming commonplace today. The remaining ashes are usually placed in an urn which can be either simple or ornate and given to the next of kin for disposition as desired by the family. Some keep the urn intact as a permanent memorial while others scatter the ashes in a special place of remembrance. Others even have the urn placed in a mausoleum or even buried with a marker for the spot.

Cremation services allow for delay in final disposition of the body if needed, such as when gathering the family together is made difficult by distance and time constraints. The need to quickly hold the final ceremony can be deferred as long as needed since public health issues are eliminated once the cremation process is completed. In some cases, the next of kin may desire to retain the ashes intact and since the urn contents are not dangerous to the environment and are portable in weight and size they may even be retained during a family move. Many keep the ashes nearby as a lasting memory for sentimental and emotional comfort.

Environmental concerns involve another factor which brings favor to the cremation services concept. With burial space more limited and with concerns about the impact of embalming chemicals over time on the environment, particularly in times of large increases in population, cremation services offer an option more in tune with a “green earth” campaign, yet the potential for burial in a more traditional funeral remains available without the normal concerns. There are even “green designated” burial plots in many locales which bury remains in a manner which does not interfere with the natural landscape. One such facility exists here in North Florida in Paynes Prairie where to the naked eye it is hard to imagine that human remains have been interred.

The primary concerns voiced about cremation usually involve religious traditions and the dignity of the mourning process. With regard to the religious issues, it is necessary to inquire of the particular church or denomination to find out what church doctrine calls for. As far as the dignity of the mourning process, cremation can easily be applied to a traditional funeral. The principal difference would be the use of the urn, small and easy to handle in place of the bulky casket. The desire of the family is the only governing factor; there is no universal one size fits all guiding rule that applies.

In closing, following is a primary list of potential areas for saving by use of cremation. Savings can be maximized if funeral home activities are not needed. This also assumes that the traditional funeral and interment of the remains are not required. They are, however, in no ways precluded solely due to cremation. I would personally want a funeral ceremony, but many of the cost savings listed below would still be achieved.

Areas for potential savings:

Elimination of expensive casket
No embalming required
Funeral home staff charges eliminated
Funeral or church fees reduced
Visitation charges eliminated
Transportation fees reduced
No plot or mausoleum crypt
No vault or grave liner
No grave opening and closing costs
Headstone and/or marker not required

Here in North Florida the cost for a streamlined cremation can be found for as low as $895. Even with additional services but no casket or burial, the cost is usually found in the $1200 to $2000 range. Compare this with the current costs of a formal funeral and burial in the traditional sense where the cost can easily by in the $7000-$10000 cost range and up. But the bottom line: it’s entirely up to you.

Next week we will discuss the traditional funeral and its components and, then on the following week I have a big surprise. I’ll tell you more next week. Until then, God bless you all and God bless America.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
Author, Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark
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