Once the decision has been made to cremate, other important decisions lie ahead.
At Martin Oaks Cemetery and Crematory in Lewisville, Texas, we have observed this process endless numbers of times. So we thought it might be helpful to provide a general review of the decisions consumers will face.
Obviously, the funeral home/crematory choices are personal: relationship with the funeral personnel, previous experience, financial situation, geographic considerations for family members not located in the immediate community — these are among the factors to be considered.
A licensed funeral director will be there to assist in planning; this professional deals with deathcare situations on a daily basis and will help a client in a step-by-step manner. Directors are the go to resource.
Remember, you only have one chance to do this for a special loved one — future regrets can be avoided with the help of a director. It’s not possible to undo some or all of it.
Planning ahead is certainly something we suggest: decisions made when a family is “at need” are not always the soundest choices.
Once a loved one is cremated, more options present themselves.
Where the cremains go, how they will be distributed among family members, and how best to memorialize the loved one are all up in the air.
Distribution among family members is a highly personal choice (also, we have learned, best made in advance). It is not a problem to split the cremains up; often it is preferable.
Again, family choices are varied on this subject — funeral homes and crematories will do as directed.
As to the final destination, Martin Oaks, through the years, has literally seen it all.
The cremains can be placed in an appropriate urn and stored about the home — we have seen them on fireplace mantles, in offices, even in areas that essentially appear to be meditative altars.
Burial is, of course, a viable possibility. Especially in light of the social changes we have experienced in this country in the last 50 years — families are mobile, leaving ones hometown is common, geographic centers that are fixed for families are disappearing.
Some of our saddest moments at Martin Oaks have occurred when cremains which bear our identifying materials (tags, numbers, our logo or nameplate) turn up unattached to anyone — discovered in a hotel room, storage locker and worst of all, discarded as refuse. When this happens, we obviously attempt to return the cremains to the appropriate family members.
Keep in mind, after a generation or so passes, family members may not remember a loved one at all — so the cremains are not as meaningful. Often when a generation passes, the cremains end up in the hands of one family member: when that member passes, there may not be anyone left in the family unit to care for the cremains.
This is precisely why, if asked, we recommend either a burial or placement in a columbarium. This guarantees an appropriate final resolution.
Scattering, of course, has become one of the most popular ways to deal with cremains. Choosing a “happy place” the loved one was attracted to appears to be the top choice for families.
In choosing that spot, it is important to know the laws that pertain. For example, in our home state of Texas, getting permission from those who own the land and who govern the land is important. One of the funeral directors we know allows for scattering on farmland he owns.
Similarly, scattering at sea is an EPA matter which needs to be explored before the scattering is completed.
There are three methods that are used to scatter cremains: casting, trenching and raking.
Casting, which is essentially the act of propelling the ashes by hand, goes back to the ancient civilizations of Rome and Greece. Today casting is often accompanied by a memorial service or music of an appropriate nature.
Trenching refers to burying the ashes in a shallow pit in the ground. This practice dates back to ancient Greece, where it was the exclusive manner of final disposition.
Raking is a process where the cremains are raked lightly into the soil, a sort of topsoil burial.
Remember, consult legal authorities before using any of these methods — also to bring a camera so that you will able to memorialize the ceremony, as well as its exact location.