As cremation becomes more and more popular, the question of “How do I memorialize myself or a loved one if we choose to be cremated?” is increasingly common.
Taken alone, this simple question highlights our innate desire as human beings to remember our loved ones, even after they have passed. It also demonstrates the confusion many of us have regarding our options when it comes to memorializing our loved ones who have chosen cremation.
In this post, our goal is to demonstrate why memorializing our loved ones is just as important with cremation as it is with a traditional burial and, secondly, to walk through the memorialization options available for anyone who chooses cremation.
“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” – David Eagleman
This quote speaks to humanity's innate desire to remember and to be remembered by future generations.
Have you ever been in a cemetery and taken the time to look at a really old headstone? Have you read the names? Observed their birth and death dates? Noticed the date of their marriage and the names of their children? Wondered about their lives and what these people, formerly unknown to you, were like? What would it be like to sit down and have a conversation with them about their experiences?
A memorial, or headstone, allows our loved ones' legacies to continue to impact all that come in contact with their memorial for generations and millennia to come. They will continue to speak their name. To imagine their lives. To ponder their significance. To wonder what defined them. To consider their goals and passions. To remember the life they lived.
Without a memorial, the people whom we have lost, are stripped of the opportunity for their legacy to have untold impact on future generations. Even a simple marker with only a name and a date keeps that person alive whenever a fellow human being comes across their small memorial.
A memorial offers a permanent, physical space implanted on the surface of the earth for us to consider the lives of our loved ones. To grieve. To remember. To cry. To laugh. To speak. To wonder. To share. To celebrate.
Memorializing our loved ones with physical memorials has been an integral part in our human society for all of our history. Why should this change now? Even if we choose cremation, a physical memorial is just as important as ever!
Now that we've made the case that memorialization is just as important for someone who chooses cremation over more traditional burial methods, let's look at the options available.
Placing cremation ashes in a columbarium is an increasingly popular option. First of all, what is a columbarium? A columbarium is a building, room, or structure, specifically built by a cemetery to permanently store the ashes of our loved ones. It has many small “niches”, or rooms, for the ashes to be stored in. The outside of each niche has space for the person's names and dates and, when possible, some additional information such as marriage dates or children's names.
While this option doesn't allow for as much information to be displayed about the person's ashes inside the niche, it is, usually, significantly cheaper than buying a traditional cemetery plot and placing a larger, granite memorial on it. It is a common choice for those who are more budget conscious.
Many cemeteries are starting to build more and more columbaria to ensure they have enough niches available as cremation becomes increasingly popular.
At Samcro Memorials we work with many cemeteries and families to inscribe the granite plaques that cover each niche and have even installed some columbaria for our local cemeteries.
Many times a person will have other family members buried in a specific area, or family plot, in a cemetery. Or maybe they just want to be memorialized in a traditional cemetery plot. Either way, people who choose cremation are often memorialized in a traditional cemetery plot with a non-traditional memorial.
For example, some people choose to be memorialized with a granite bench, a cremation pillar, blocks, a personal columbarium, or even a traditional monument specifically designed to hold cremation ashes.
We also work with many people who have chosen cremation but desire everything else to be completely traditional. They'll purchase a cemetery plot and choose a traditional monument. In this case, when their memorial is viewed in the cemetery, it will look like all the rest of the memorials and no-one will have any idea that the person chose to be cremated.
At this point, you may be wondering: “Where do the ashes actually go, especially when a person chooses a traditional memorial?”
There are many answers to this and it really depends on the preferences of the family and any rules and regulations put in place by the cemetery.
Sometimes the ashes are placed in an urn and buried in the cemetery plot or buried beneath the memorial's concrete foundation when we set it. Other times we'll core holes into the bottom of the actual granite memorial to place the ashes in. Some memorials, specifically non-traditional ones, are specifically designed to hold the ashes inside of them before they are permanently sealed up.