Marissa Kendall, The (Fort Myers, Fla. ) News Press
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Fewer Florida families are entombing their loved
ones' bodies underground - opting instead to send the remains into the
Gulf of Mexico, shoot them into the sky or wear them in a locket.
The traditional burial, once so important in the grieving process, is becoming a thing of the past.
More than half of Floridians who die are cremated instead of buried.
interesting is cremation seems to be becoming the new tradition for
many families," said Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation
Association of North America.
Florida cremated 59 percent of its
dead in 2011 - the second highest percentage in the U.S., according to
the most recent Cremation Association statistics.
Memorial Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Cape Coral, about 85
percent of clients choose cremation, according to owner Shannon Mullins.
A major reason is cost. A basic cremation costs an average of about
$2,250, according to the Cremation Association. That's compared with
about $8,350 for the average burial.
Cremation is also a practical
option for Florida's seasonal and transplant residents, as cremated
remains are cheaper and easier to transport, Mullins said.
and gives families more options, Kemmis said. There are a handful of
cemeteries in Southwest Florida, but unlimited ways to lay cremated
remains to rest.
Mullins dedicates one wall of his funeral home
showroom to casket options, and three to urns. There are urns that
display pictures, are disguised as lamps, worn as lockets or are
biodegradable. Mullins sells a Florida Gators urn, and a $695 urn
hand-made by an artist from Sarasota. Families can encase their loved
one's remains in concrete and send them to the bottom of the ocean to
create a reef. They can put the remains into a blown-glass work of art,
or extract the carbon from the remains to create a diamond.
Cremated remains also can be interred at traditional cemeteries, such as Fort Myers Memorial Gardens.
"Probably our most beautiful area is our cremation area," General Manager Donnell Sullivan said.
The cremation area has been open four years, and it's so popular Memorial Gardens is looking into an expansion.
the most unique way to lay a loved one to rest - shoot the remains up
in a rocket over the Gulf of Mexico. At 3,000 feet a parachute deploys
and floats the remains down to the water.
Mullins has conducted the rocket launch twice in his career - once was for a deceased fireworks fanatic.
"No two people grieve the same way," Kemmis said, "so I think this personalization is just so important."
Plans for final rest
Krumrey, 69, of Cape Coral, had his mother buried in August. It's what
she wanted - to be next to her husband in the family's Chicago cemetery,
he said. But Krumrey plans to be cremated.
"(It) makes life simpler," he said.
of Bob Bastuba's family have always been buried, but the 68-year-old
Fort Myers resident thinks he will break tradition and choose cremation.
His wife likes the idea because it's cheaper. They're considering
internment in a veterans cemetery in Michigan, where he's originally
Anthony Loehle, 21, of Fort Myers, wants to be cremated and have his ashes planted with a tree.
"That would be kind of awesome because it would help the environment a lot," he said.
But cremation isn't for everyone.
people because of religious beliefs, or because of natural fears of
flame or fire, want nothing to do with that," Mullins said.
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Myers, about 2 percent of
members choose cremation, according to Pastor James Bing. Five years
ago, no one did.
But the church doesn't dictate how its members lay their loved ones
to rest, Bing said. While he's not sure he would want to be cremated,
the practice doesn't bother him.
"In the Old Testament," Bing said, "bodies were often burned. So cremation really is not a new phenomenon."
The Catholic Church once banned cremation, but now allows the practice as long as the remains are interred instead of scattered.
To watch or not to watch
faith also dictates not just whether, but how some families approach
cremation. Hindu and Sikh families are more likely to ask to watch the
process, Mullins said.
He allows families to watch, but most have no desire.
Many families don't want to know how the process works, and also decline to read the cremation authorization form.
"Half the families want to know all you can tell them," Mullins said, "and the other half want to know nothing."
that's changing, according to Kemmis. As more people begin to
understand cremation, more people want to see it and be involved.
"There's no taboo about it," Kemmis said.
Mullins wants to cater to that trend by installing a larger window in
his crematory from which family members can watch their loved one enter
the machine, and putting in a room where the family can relax and
reminisce during the roughly two-hour cremation process.
hasn't kept pace as cremation has become more popular, according to
Jessica Koth, public relations manager of the National Funeral Directors
State governments oversee the cremation industry -
in Florida it falls under jurisdiction of the Department of Financial
Services' Board of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services.
the Funeral Rule provides oversight for crematories operated by funeral
homes. But it does not cover independent crematories, Koth said.
"They're not required to adhere to the same standards that funeral homes do," she said.
The Funeral Rule helps protect consumers, Koth said. Her association advocates for a similar law to cover all crematories.
the meantime, the National Funeral Directors Association offers
voluntary certification to crematory operators. Started in September,
it's the first program the association has developed exclusively for
cremation. As of mid-December, the association had certified 131
operators through training covering ethics, safety, liability and
"I think as cremation has become more popular," Koth said, "we've
certainly stepped up our efforts to help our members, funeral directors,
better understand the needs of families that are choosing cremation."
The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News Press