Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Urns & Outs - September, 2010

Even as an advocate of Cremation, I am constantly astounded at the ever-increasing number of families who are choosing Cremation for themselves or a loved one. Even those who have historically opposed the rite have come to terms with it being a rival form of disposition. Funeral homes everywhere are installing Cremation apparatus in their facilities; Catholic Diocesan-owned Cemeteries are opening Cremation Centers and Crematories on their properties – and local congregations are bringing Columbaria into their Church buildings.

Numerous families are requesting to put in writing their prearranged wishes for Cremation over burial, and many are even cancelling their previous burial arrangements (often taking a loss in monies), only to turn around and prepay their Cremations (and most of them with services).

The trend is clearly headed in that direction.

But what is it that is causing this sweeping trend? Is it that funerals with a loved one present in a casket is becoming “old fashioned” and archaic? Is the heaviness of burial being overtaken by the lightness of Cremation? Is the downbeat economy causing the upward swing in the torch over the spade? Is it that families everywhere appreciate and accept this method of preparation for final disposition? The Cremation Association of North America has cited numerous factors in Cremation’s domineering acceptance: from its mobility and flexibility, to environmental concerns and religious ties, the tradition is changing. No longer can funeral professionals use “traditional” as a synonym for burial.

For the church, I believe that Cremation is a means to keep parishioners involved in the church – even after death. Since the beginning of Cremation’s “modern history” many churches (especially the Episcopal Church) have embraced Cremation in order to bring all of life’s cycle back into the church. Around 1876, The Reverend George Hodges, Dean of the Episcopal Theological Seminary at Cambridge University, when asked his opinion of Cremation, made the statement, “Cremation will make possible a revival of the old custom of laying the dead away in churches. There would be no more removal of the relics of the dead out of our sight…” Now, all denominations are coming to this realization.

For funeral professionals, February 20, 2002, was a day of reckoning. Before this date in Cremation’s history, it was often easy for funeral directors to ignore and disparage the subject: send the decedent away to an out of sight and out of mind retort, collect for the services, and send the family on their way, with an urn under their arm. That sounds a bit harsh, but I remember hearing the grumbles and threats of funeral home owners in the 1990’s. But Tri-state Crematory was the day that funeral professionals (and people everywhere) stopped and paid close attention to Cremation. The debacle didn’t daunt Cremation’s advance, rather it took a surprising turn and opened the eyes of families and funeral professionals to the practice. Now, decedents are very rarely carried away to out of sight buildings – Crematories are becoming more aesthetic, viewing rooms are being added, and families are being invited in. Now, funeral practitioners can no longer ignore, tolerate, or even accept Cremation – the time has come for us to own it!

It’s about time! Welcome to the future!

That’s my perspective…