"Just Cremate me when I'm gone." - There is a right way and a wrong way
by Bryan A. Crain
Just Cremate Me When I’m Gone --- a common statement made when the cost or details of a funeral are discussed. It is easy to say "I don't want a funeral for myself, as we try to make our passing as easy and painless as possible for the family. The following questions posed and answers given are from our vast experience in handling more cremations than any other provider in the area and is offered in the spirit of love and compassion for the long term well being of the families being served by Crain.
Is it less expensive?
Sometimes, perhaps. Most families choose to have some type of viewing, whether private or public, prior to cremation. The only difference with cremation is at the conclusion of services, there is not a procession on to the cemetery that day. Usually, the cremated remains are ready for proper interment within a few days, allowing burial or entombment to proceed in a timely manner.
The above photo is our own crematory. You never leave our care during this process.
Only the most basic, direct cremation, is truly less expensive than a funeral. But this form of disposition is the one that triggers the most problems for the family long term, so one would need to weigh the cost savings now verses the possible emotional and counseling costs later.
This building is where our on-site crematory is located.
A viewing prior to cremation?
There is good reason why we have open casket viewings. Contrary to popular belief it is not for the people to come by the casket and say how good the person looks. They do look dead, but the final appearance at the funeral home is certainly more acceptable than it was at the moment of expiration. The memory picture from the minutes immediately after death are seldom ones we would want to hang onto, but are hard to not visualize unless you have a more pleasant scene at the funeral home. In addition, there is the important opportunity for family and friends to say goodbye. Most people are visual, and need the opportunity for a proper farewell, for closure. We don’t just go “poof” when we die, so we should be careful not to deny survivors and friends this closure.
Why have a final resting place?
Since cremation is not an end, but merely the preparation for final disposition, there is a definite need for a final resting place. No, it is not appropriate much less respectful to have cremated remains stored at home in a closet or on the fireplace mantel. Although now inert, they are still human remains. Many options exist for final disposition, from traditional burial in a cemetery with an appropriate monument, to mausoleum entombment in a crypt or columbarium, all the way to a cremorial bench or monument, where the cremated remains are placed in the granite marker or bench.
(photo above )This is why we don’t recommend at home storage of cremated remains.
Can we scatter the cremated remains?
While done for sentimental reasons, the physical scattering has been known to be a very traumatic, soul shaking experience for the one charged with such a responsibility. You wouldn’t think of asking a loved one or friend to dig your grave, so why impose such a traumatic responsibility as scattering on them?
Is scattering legal?
Some cemeteries have areas set aside where scattering is permitted, with the supervision of the cemetery. Also, scattering on private property with the consent of the property owner is currently legal. Such action though is subject to future interpretation of the law. Most real estate contracts contain a little known clause whereby the seller signs off that there are no human remains, to their knowledge, on the property. Given the prevailing climate of litigation, this could very well be a new arena for lawsuits after future real estate transactions. 50 years from now who knows how the law could be interpreted, and who would want to leave future generation with a chance of such liability.
Why is timeliness important?
As humans, our grieving process takes place in stages. It is for this reason that funerals and the placement of the remains, whether a full body or cremated remains, should take place during that first step of the grieving process, normally within 7-10 days. Our experience has shown that a delay for convenience sake has had adverse affects on the survivors, disrupting the grieving process. Delay of the final committal of the cremated remains for 6 months just reopens the fresh wounds of grief. Closure needs to take place before healing can begin. Death is never convenient, but it must be dealt with in a timely manner.
Red tape - and is a Funeral Director needed?
Since cremation is an irreversible process, more paperwork, permits, and legal requirements must be met by the funeral director handling a cremation than is required for a funeral with traditional burial. Beware of cremation societies, alliances, associations, and cut rate operators advertising low cost cremation. One should question the motives and the legitimacy of any operator who is charging less than $2000 for the most basic of cremations. One of our seminar attendees stated it best when he said "that company, wherever they are and whoever they are, appeared overnight, and they could disappear overnight. It's not just about cost - I know my plans are secure and I have someone local who I see out in the community, who has a reputable track record."
Pre-plan Cremation or Not?
In regard to such a statement of wishes, whether verbal or actually pre-arranged, we urge you to consider your survivors at the time of your death. Since we don’t know how we are going to die, when, or where, the family may very well need some type of participation in the final decision before a body is just removed from the place of death and cremated without ceremony. If you only retain one truth from this writing, may it be to leave some flexibility for your family at the time of death.
What you think might be the easy way now could be a bitter legacy for the family to live with at the time. After all, they likely will not alter your wishes, whether they are comfortable with them or not.
But what if I just want to be remembered as I was?
Again, since we don’t know the circumstances of our final hours and the postmortem appearance, or who may or may not have an opportunity to be present, give the family some flexibility on this matter.
Whatever you might call it---paying your respects, honoring the deceased, giving condolences to the family---death is an ackward enough experience without making it a strange situation for those wishing to pay respects. The friends and family, however large or small in numbers, may need some time to have a viewing, regardless of how little is said, at the time.