You may be thinking....
MY FAMILY KNOWS I WANT TO BE CREMATED, AND THAT'S ALL THE PRENEED ARRANGEMENT I HAVE TO MAKE
No, it's not! Though you may have told your family you want to be cremated, and you may even have included that information in your will, there's no guarantee that your wishes will be carried out. Wills aren't read until long after a funeral has taken place, and family members have been known to ignore verbal instructions.
The only way to guarantee that your wishes will be carried out is to make pre-need cremation arrangements now, before there is a need. When something is bought and paid for, survivors have a strong tendency to use it.
I DON'T CARE WHAT THEY DO WITH ME AFTER I'M DEAD
You may not, but your family will have to. And you'll be making your family's job much harder than it has to be if you don't pre-arrange your cremation. And much more expensive. Because when there's a death in the family, decisions tend to be colored by grief, not governed by reason. Your family could choose ground burial or mausoleum entombment - and that's not what you want, is it?
I DON'T WANT ANY KIND OF A FUNERAL. THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS I WANT TO BE CREMATED
Cremation is gaining popularity all over the world. It can be simpler, less emotional, and more economical than a traditional burial. But when a person chooses cremation, he or she hasn't eliminated the need for a funeral. Your family and friends will still want to mark the occasion of a death in the family, to share, together, their loss and their love. Psychologists, clergy and people who have lost loved ones agree that funerals are for the living, and are a necessary step in the mourning process. Yes, you may choose cremation, but you're only fooling yourself if you think that means that there are no plans to make.
OKAY. I'll PRE-ARRANGE THE CREMATION. AFTER THAT. I'VE TAKEN CARE OF EVERYTHING
No, you haven't. What kind of service would you prefer? And what do you want done with the cremated remains after cremation? Only you can answer those questions. You should make those decisions yourself. In funeral homes and crematories around the country, there are countless boxes of cremated remains which the family never claimed. There are just as many small boxes in closets at home. They can be overlooked when a move is made, or tossed out during spring cleaning, because nobody can decide what to do with Uncle John's cremated remains. And that's a decision he should have made!
I HOPE THEY SCATTER MY ASHES ON THE GOLF COURSE/AT MY BEACH HOUSE/IN MY ROSE GARDEN
It may surprise you to learn that human remains after cremation are not really ashes, but dried bone fragments, and many of those bone fragments are quite large. Not exactly an asset to your rose garden! You can decide to have your remains scattered at a spot you've always loved. Many people do. But that kind of anonymous scattering can create problems for the living. Here's a true story to illustrate that point. A widow followed her husband's wishes that his remains be scattered on the 18th hole of their country club golf course. Later, she found she could no longer participate in the social life of the country club. "Every-time I look out the window," she said, "and see a foursome on the 18th hole, I cringe. They're walking on my husband's remains." Even the most practical, rational people turn emotional when they lose a loved one.
MY FAMILY WOULD NEVER COME TO VISIT ME
You may feel that way now, but you don't know how future generations will feel. Even your own children may surprise you and wish for a place that they can associate with your memory. People gain comfort from visiting a specific spot dedicated to a loved one's memory. Family members visit cemetery graves because, in some intangible way, it brings them closer to the memory of the loved one. We may not fully understand this urge to remember, to memorialize, but we all know it's there.
I THINK LAND SHOULD BE USED FOR THE LIVING
Cemeteries have responded to the need to conserve land, and the equally important need to memorialize a loved one, by offering urn gardens, columbariums, and scattering areas. None of these take much land, but they treat human remains with the dignity that is due them. An urn garden is a small area set aside within a cemetery for the burial of cremated remains. You need only purchase about a square foot of space ( at a lower cost than the normal-size cemetery lot), and a space in the urn garden can be permanently marked with a memorial which contains your name. A columbarium is a building which houses cremated remains. Like a high-rise office building, it uses very little land. There are also outdoor columbariums. A family can memorialize a final resting place by inscribing their loved one's name on the urn which is placed in a niche in the columbarium. Another choice is to use one existing family lot for a traditional burial and cremated remains. This is especially important if your spouse doesn't want to be cremated, and you do. You don't have to compromise your ideals in order to choose a permanent resting place within a cemetery.
I REALLY WANT MY ASHES SCATTERED
Within the cemetery, there may be a scattering garden, which is a more appropriate place for human remains than a golf course or back yard. The scattering garden is a well-landscaped section set aside for those people who prefer the anonymous "going back to nature" that scattering signifies. Yet, at the same time, it allows the family to visit a consecrated spot that they can associate with a loved one.