An increasing number of Americans, over 50 percent in fact, are choosing cremation over a burial. But what happens to the cremated remains? A few options include keeping the remains in a beautiful urn or scattering them in a meaningful place.
If you are unsure of what you want to do, talk with your funeral home about what might be best for you and your family. Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Schedule the memorial service
Dana Holtvoigt, director of marketing at McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation, says too often families tell her, “We’ll do something at a later date.” Either their emotions are overwhelming, they haven't pre-arranged anything or other relatives live far away.
One of the benefits of cremation is that families don’t have to rush. They can take their time and plan something for a later date, but they should set a date – even if it’s a few months down the road. This gives you something to work toward and an incentive to make sure you plan something, Holtvoigt says.
Her own family chose to have a memorial service for her father a year after his death. “His death was sudden and un-expected, and our family was scattered,” Holtvoigt says. “Planning a date a year out gave us time to make it a time to remember. We were able to book a really nice place to stay and plan for grandchildren to be there.
“We spent three days reliving our favorite memories – ordering doughnuts from his favorite bakery every morning; taking a bike ride like he used to do with us; and going to dinner together,” she says. “It wasn't just a quick scattering of the ashes, we took our time and reminisced about his life.”
Organizing a truly memorable experience like this wouldn’t have been possible immediately after the cremation, Holtvoigt says. “Having a special, planned event can provide healing to those who experience the loss,” she adds. “Before you leave the funeral home, look at your calendar and schedule a future date for your event.”
2. Create printed materials
This is something you can do on your own or ask your funeral home for assistance. Items can include a brochure or a bookmark with the person's picture and obituary. It could also feature favorite photographs, a line of scripture or poetry that reflect their personality. You can use these items to communicate the future date of the memorial service or as handouts at the event. They also make nice mementos for a scrapbook or treasure box.
3. Order keepsakes
These pieces do just what the name says: keep the memory alive. While it is easiest to purchase keepsakes from the funeral home, you can purchase them on your own and at any time. Plus, you have a wide array of options and you’re not rushed into making a decision.
“My brother held onto a portion of Dad's ashes for years,” Holtvoigt says. “One day he decided it was time to give them a more meaningful and permanent location so he ordered a memory glass in red, white, and blue.”
4. Keep a small amount of cremated remains
Some families find it difficult to make an immediate decision about what to do with the cremated remains. If you plan to scatter them at some point, consider keeping a small portion. This gives you the option of doing something more in the future if you so choose.
Holtvoigt says, “I got married six years after my Dad was cremated. It really hurt that he couldn't be a part of this special day. Because I still had a small amount of his ashes, I ordered a necklace that I could wear on my wedding day so I could feel like he was a part of it.”
5. Consider placement in a cemetery, niche or cremation garden
Many communities have embraced the rise in popularity of cremation. Churches, cemeteries, and private entities are creating beautiful spaces for permanent placement of cremated remains.
Locally, locations like Mepkin Abbey and St. Joseph Catholic Church have created beautiful grounds where people can permanently place cremated remains. These two places offer maintained gardens, private places to reflect, and are open to the public. If your loved one is a Veteran, the cremated remains can be placed in a national cemetery for no charge and include a grave marker.
6. Choose an urn that you will display in your home
Keeping the urn in your closet immediately following the death is OK, especially because it’s difficult to have the constant reminder of your loss. However, if you find yourself cleaning out a closet and blowing dust off an old box, the urn may have been in there too long.
Most funeral homes offer a variety of urn styles to choose from, or you can bring in your own urn. The main point is to choose an urn that you will display. The purpose of an urn is not only to hold the cremated remains, but also to provide an opportunity for people to have a conversation about the life that urn represents. If the urn is present in your home, guests or family members will feel free to ask questions or share memories – and that can be healing to everyone.
McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation has been a local and trusted name for funeral and cremation services for more than 130 years. The team at McAlister-Smith has the expertise and resources to help you through every step of planning a memorial and beyond.
Visit one of their four convenient locations in Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, James Island and Goose Creek to see what a modern funeral home can provide.
For more information about services and resources, go to McAlister-Smith.com or call (843) 722-8371.
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