Ashes to ashes: Why more Islanders are choosing cremation
'Who wants to lie in the dirt and become worm food?'
When it comes to the end of the line, will you be "ashes to ashes," food for worms or something else?
Many more Islanders are choosing to be cremated rather than placed in a casket and buried — according to the Cremation Association of North America 33 per cent of Islanders now ask for cremation, compared to eight per cent a decade ago.
I asked people on Facebook and Twitter if they've chosen to be cremated, and why.
CREMATION: More people than ever R choosing to be cremated. Doing a story on this for ppl who've decided this & why? Tks! Enjoy each day!—@SaraFrasercbc
"For me, it's a more environmentally-friendly alternative, especially in contrast to all the chemicals used to prepare the body for viewing in the conventional Western tradition. I don't want any part of that," responded Ivy Wigmore.
"Who wants to lie in the dirt and become worm food? Cremation just seems the most logical way to handle a body post-death — environmentally, spiritually and financially," commented Dave Stewart of Charlottetown.
<a href="https://twitter.com/SaraFrasercbc">@SaraFrasercbc</a> the ritual "box in the ground" doesn't appeal to me. Takes up space and costs WAY too much. I'd rather be spread across the 🌎—@timothydanielob
'Efficient way to dispose of the dead'
Don't want a funeral and didn't want my dead body on display made up to look nothing like me.— Ilona Berzins Batchelor
"Important issue as we boomers become seniors," noted Cheryl Wagner of Charlottetown.
"I want them to harvest any part of me that could be of value and burn the rest. No headstone or marker of any kind anywhere. Scatter me in Wales," added Pam Stevenson.
"Prepaid for our cremation years ago. Don't want a funeral and didn't want my dead body on display made up to look nothing like me," shared Ilona Berzins Batchelor of Emerald, P.E.I. "Cost was a factor, efficient way to dispose of the dead."
'Place to go to memorialize'
There are currently two crematoriums on P.E.I. — one in Kensington, and one at the Belvedere Funeral Home in Charlottetown. An application by Charlottetown Hennessey-Cutcliffe Funeral Home to add a crematorium led to city council this week considering whether to change a bylaw to allow all funeral homes in the city to do the same.
"The talk is out there that we are using up good ground, putting chemicals in the ground," said Belvedere Funeral Home owner and funeral director Faye Doucette.
While more people who use Belvedere are choosing cremation, Doucette said most families still choose to inter their loved one's cremated remains in a burial plot in a cemetery.
"They want a place to go to memoralize … to really remember" she said, adding most customers will have a visitation and viewing of the body, but are choosing cremation before burial.
"I think there's a lot more healing can take place with a funeral, with some kind of ceremony," Doucette said — she's shepherded thousands of families in her long career.
Doucette is not sure what she thinks of the trend, she said.
Cremation may be a less expensive option than burial in a plot, she said, but adds it is difficult to compare the two — some customers who choose to cremate a family member's body do so with no a wake or a funeral, whereas most who are dealing with a body will choose a wake and funeral, adding expense.
Families do see cremation as "being easier," she said, and as noted above, "more efficient," but Doucette believes it is a more complicated topic than most families realize.
"We have a whole lot of cremated remains that are unclaimed," Doucette revealed, as some families never pick up the ashes — something that can't happen with a body.
A handful of Islanders are also interred above ground in a mausoleum, or have their cremated remains interred in a crypt, Doucette said.
In some other provinces, there also funeral businesses that will dissolve your body in an alkaline solution in just a few hours, leaving only bones which are ground to a powder. It's described as a green option — artificial joints and other surgical hardware are recovered and donated to hospitals in developing countries.
- Smiths Falls, Ont., funeral business dissolves the dead, pours them into town sewers
- Green Party calls for natural burials as option to caskets, cremation
"I used to think cremation, but that's another big waste of energy. Perhaps vertical burials will be next? Less land, no fuel," tweeted Darcie Lanthier.
<a href="https://twitter.com/SaraFrasercbc">@SaraFrasercbc</a> Because I'd rather be part of a tree than take up space in the ground <a href="https://t.co/j6VIhn1TTV">https://t.co/j6VIhn1TTV</a>—@EdMurnaghan
<a href="https://twitter.com/SaraFrasercbc">@SaraFrasercbc</a> I used to think cremation but that's another big waste of energy. Perhaps vertical burials will be next? Less land, no fuel—@DarcieLanthier
"I want tree cemeteries to be more popular," commented Elyse Cottrell of Charlottetown on Facebook, who saw one in Buffalo, N.Y.
"You're cremated and they plant a tree with your ashes … People can visit something of you if they want — your tree. Forests and forests of protected trees."
The founder of P.E.I.'s Green Party, Sharon Labchuk, has what may be the most environmentally-friendly suggestion of all: bury her in her back yard woods. "Cremation contributes to climate change and air pollution," she said.
That is not possible, however: burial permits are issued only to funeral directors, and without a burial permit a body cannot be disposed of in any manner, according to the province.
"That means bodies must be interred in a legal cemetery or crematorium," said David Ferguson of P.E.I.'s Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association.
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