We invented the word “cremationism,” however…
(You heard it here first.)
What do we, or others, do with our bodies after we die?
(1) For most, it’s into a box that goes in a hole in the ground.
(2) For others it’s into a furnace to get burned up.
But that’s not the end of the “matter.” ; )……….. For more there’s the DOOR.
Let’s look quickly at cremationism. First, it’s hard to convince your computer that this is a real word. It keeps wanting to change it. Second, please realize that here’s one time that your technology is behind the times. Third, isn’t it clever this posted on Halloween?
Fourth, let’s recognize some recognized standard terms¹:
cremationist — one who burns up dead bodies, or feels that’s an acceptable thing to do.
crematory — the furnace where cremations take place.
cremains — the ash that’s left after a cremation (“remains”–just add a “c”)
cremation without fire — At Stillwater, MN, bodies are broken down with water and chemicals in a stainless-steel chamber.
CANA — Cremation Association of North America. One of few organizations that keeps more than local records of this sort of thing,
Tri-State Crematory Incident in Noble, GA, in 2002 — A cremation horror story (Google it).
What’s the history of all this? Well, 4 things to note: (1) Cremation has been around for a long time in most cultures and societies. (2) Most, however, at least in the U.S, bury the dead instead. (3) The Catholic church allows it and as of 1997 permits cremains to be part of a funeral mass. Even Billy Graham says there’s nothing in the Bible to forbid it. (4) Cremains still have to go somewhere: to urns or boxes on a shelf, under a bed, or in the ground; up in the air to the “4 winds”; to a favorite place to hunt, or walk, or jog; or they can be exploded as fireworks; used as paint in artwork, stored inside jewelry, pressed into vinyl records; put into a reef; or stuffed into an urn shaped like a TV remote for a couch potato. Obviously, the materials to do this with aren’t going to hurt you.
Now some numbers–just a few:
$7,755 Cost of a typical funeral with burial: Casket, Vault, Viewing, Embalming, Hearse, Services, etc.
$2,570 Cost of typical cremation: Crematory, Transport, Urn, Casket, Storage, Services, etc.
Other costs (for either) would include (if needed) burial site and marker.
Percent of cremations in U.S.:
the “1960s” 3%
2008 (pre-recession) 36%
2017 (projected) 50%
Big changes are in the wind with the percent of cremations increasing in every state. Families as well as end-of-life service providers do well to consider their options well ahead of time, when arguing over how to finish things up at a death can unnecessarily add to sorrow and guilt.
“To survive, we need to adapt,” says one funeral director interviewed by Time. But according to Josh Sanburn, who put this story together, “Many mortuaries are proving to be as stiff as their clients.”
In our next post, we’ll look at both sides, and discuss what–at the moment–we think we would have done for ourselves after our bodies stop.
¹ Nearly every detail cited here is from Josh Sanburn’s article, “The New American Way of Death,” that appeared in Time Magazine (June 24, 2013).