Times are constantly changing, and so does some traditional funeral customs. More people are now choosing to be cremated instead of being buried in a traditional coffin. Statistics show that Japan has the highest rate of cremation. The numbers in Canada, the United States of America and in Europe are moving up.
I was raised in the belief that cremation was not an acceptable choice for burial, not twenty years ago. My father passed away in 1976, my mother followed him in 1991. Some of my siblings and I live in North America. We all went home to the Philippines to pay our last respects. In times of grief and pain, it is a practice in most cultures for family members and friends to open up their hearts and pocketbooks. We wanted to give our parents the best funeral service we could afford, in a coffin, then the traditional way.
Fast forward to 2000, my oldest brother passed away, there was no second-guessing. The whole family chose cremation. I was amazed at this choice, apparently, with the approval of the Catholic Church. Again, the funeral was in my home country. Expense was not the issue. My late brother’s cremains were buried in the family burial plot.
Things are not much different in Canada. In my late husband’s family, they have all chosen to be cremated. When the time came for my husband to discuss funeral service, he made it clear that he would like to be cremated, like his brother and stepmother before him.
I had no problem with his choice of cremation. However, it was my family’s wish to have a viewing, in a rented coffin, to allow family and friends to pay their last respects to him. My husband and I were lucky to have discussed this matter. He had it written in his will.
However, I had to discourage him from scattering his ashes in the lake or in our garden. I firmly believe that to honor the physical part of the person, the cremains need a proper burial, in an urn and in the ground, or a vault. I consider this a way to honor the sanctity of the physical self.
Why is cremation fast becoming a popular choice? Finances tops the list. Yes, funeral services can be expensive, having gone through my late husband’s funeral service. Others who choose cremation believe it is kinder to Mother Earth. Cremation eases the congestion in many cemeteries. Still others believe the departed goes to the otherworld faster. There are those who prefer to bury the ashes instead of imagining the body as it decays over the years.
It is the other costs that can make the service expensive. The coffin is a major expense, depending on how much a family is willing to spend. Most funeral parlors offer a wide range of pricing. Add to this other trimmings- announcement in newspapers, bouquet spray ,mementos, hand-out for the church service, choir, a Minister or Priest to conduct the service and the refreshments after the service. Not included in this list is the cost of a burial plot.
Pre-planning one’s funeral service is now a popular trend. Death is one of the most painful events to deal with. Arranging the funeral service can be confusing, fortunately, most funeral directors are very helpful. Many choose to be cremated. There is no funeral parade. Cremation makes the process less painful. Visitors are led directly to the parlor for refreshments after the funeral service. Creating an upbeat social atmosphere minimizes the depth of the pain for the moment.
With cremation, I was able to give my late husband the best service my daughters and I can give. That was in the winter of 2008. After the service, the cremains were kept in the vault till I was able to arrange for the internment last Spring 2008. I realized how much easier it was for me to transport the ashes 300 miles away where the family burial plot is located.
It is customary to keep the remains in the Winter for Spring burial, when the ground thaws. Had I followed the funeral coach for that distance it would have meant the start of my grief and bereavement all over.