TIME Magazine’s ‘Cremation: The New American Way of Death‘ highlights a very real issue that is a growing concern as more Americans choose cremation as a preferred disposition choice. What do you do with the ashes?
The cremation rate is now at 42% and it is predicted that by 2017, one in every two Americans will be cremated. A cremation service offers a simple and much more affordable funeral alternative. A basic direct cremation service can be conducted in some cities in America for as little as $399*. For those Americans choosing a cremation service instead of burial, the decision about what to do with the cremated remains is now proving a growing dilemma.
There are basically 4 main options of what to do with your loved ones’ ashes –
- Inter the ashes in a niche, columbarium or existing grave site.
- Store the cremated remains in a cremation urn at home
- Scatter the ashes in a ‘special’ place
- Have something personalized done – cremation diamonds, cremation ammunition, or send the ashes to space or to the bottom of the ocean
Interring the ashes is not necessarily a cost friendly option. It is widely accepted that many Americans are choosing cremation because it is so much cheaper than a traditional burial. A cremation can cost a quarter of the cost of a traditional funeral. By opting for cremation you eliminate the need for the expensive cemetery elements – such as a casket, grave liner, cemetery plot and headstone. The cost to inter cremated remains can still seem expensive though, when it can run to a few hundred dollars, for that budget cremation service that only cost a few hundred dollars itself!
The funeral industry reports that they have a growing issue with families NOT collecting cremated remains [especially after that quick and low cost direct cremation], and some funeral homes are storing hundreds of unclaimed cremated remains.
Cemeteries are also now dealing with the issue of families scattering remains over an existing grave, rather than pay the large cost to open the grave and inter the remains.
Keeping mortal remains on the mantle can seems gruesome for some!
There have been plenty of spoof movie scenes featuring some catastrophe happening with that ceramic cremation urn over the fireplace holding grandma’s remains. Meet the Fockers always sticks in my mind – and quite clearly highlights how, culturally, we still find the idea of having the mortal remains of a dearly departed ‘invade’ our living space somewhat macabre.
I have heard stories from families where cremation urns have ended up as door-stops, or been stored away in the back of a cupboard for generations. Cremation can detach us from the fixed notion of a ‘final resting place’ in the way that a traditional burial ritual did.
It seems that scattering ashes is becoming more popular alongside the trend towards cremation.
Permits, prohibitions and ‘ash scattering’ police
The legalities of scattering cremated remains are a somewhat complex and as of yet relatively ‘un-policed’ matter. Interestingly the TIME feature mentions ‘wildcat scattering’ – an activity where relatives scatter the remains of a loved one at a site of their choosing, without gaining any consent. Apparently Disneyland has an issue with this.
I am quite sure we will see more ‘wildcat scattering’ as more folks choose cremation and decide to opt for a special final resting place for their cremated remains.
Personalized cremation artifacts
If money is no object, and you want something quirky and unusual, there are a whole host of possibilities today of what you can do with cremated remains. With a spare $4,000 you can be turned into a memorial reef at the bottom of the ocean, or with around $3,000 you can be made into a cremation diamond. If you want something less expensive, you can maybe opt for being made into a birdbath, glass goblets or tattoo! This article on ash scattering explores quite a few possibilities.
There future of final resting places is certainly changing alongside the trend towards cremation. In some ways it heralds a complete reinvention of what the notion of a cemetery is in the future.
* Direct cremation prices vary but a basic direct cremation can cost under $500 in areas such as Nevada, Florida and Washington.