“Hands On” Cremation

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I recently read an article from the Post Register of Idaho Falls, Idaho that pertained to the Wood Funeral Home of Idaho Falls and Ammon, Idaho building a 4,000 square foot facility to cater to cremation choice families.  You can read the article here. 

My original intent after looking at the article very briefly was to write an article on the financial aspects of owing your own crematory as compared to serving cremation families by sending your cremations to a trade cremation location.  I could go into a lot of specifics about how, as your cremations rise, there is a tremendous financial advantage in operating your own crematory.

As I read the article a second time though, I realized Brian Wood was not putting in this retort to simply do his own cremations.  He was installing the crematory and related facility in Ammon to get his cremation families “more involved”.   The facility contains a gathering facility for services as well as the actual crematory.  Wood comments in the article that it used to be, “Come in a few days and we’ll have your urn.”  He argues that the lack of services and family participation does not serve them emotionally.  The new facility will try to get them more involved, including having the family watch the remains loaded into the crematory and having them push the button to start the process.

Because of that, the crematory is in a modern finished room with a drop down ceiling that is inviting to the family.  Most crematories are in an “industrial” part of a funeral home such as a garage and do not lend themselves easily to that format.  I think his “hands on” approach is interesting.  It reminded me of what I said to families over my career in funeral services.  When, during arrangements, families would ask if it would be appropriate for a relative to give a eulogy or sing at the service, my standard comment was, “The more you put into the service, the more you will take out of the service.”  It hit me that is what Wood is doing with cremation.

The data shows that Idaho will reach an 81% cremation point in the next decade and that about 33% of those cremations will be direct cremations where there is no family involvement.  The article points out that NextGen people are really investigating their options for death care as compared to Baby Boomers who simply moved from traditional burial to cremation.  The NextGen really wants to know all of the options available to them.  It is my opinion, that most, when offered a hands on approach, will choose some portion of it.

The article quotes funeral director Kurt Soffe as saying, “In other words, many have thought, I can’t have a celebration or funeral service with cremation.  They certainly can.”  It is that thought, and what it can mean, that will move people from direct cremation to cremation with services.

Woods move with his cremation center, and the knowledge of its purpose in his community,  is a move to capitalize on that thought.

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One Comment

  1. In many ways, this is not a new idea, but rather a “re-discovery” of how cremations were often performed in the US beginning in the late 1800s. We should remember that many of the earliest crematoria in American were exquisite buildings – one need only look to the Gardner Earl Chapel and crematory in Troy, NY (c.1890) as a prime example of crematory architecture at its most opulent: These places were intentionally designed to be beautiful for the comfort of families who chose cremation, at a time when interment was the norm and cremation will still considered taboo.

    To note, many of these early buildings were designed to have witness areas, and as Prothero notes in “Purified by Fire” early retorts often had “peep / viewing” holes to allow for witnessing of the actual cremation. It was not until the second half of the 20th century that greater separation of survivors from the cremation process became more normative as part of then-contemporary funeral rites.

    That we are once again constructing crematoria that allow for greater participation in rites of disposition by family and friends is, I think, a positive move forward in how funeral directors are able to serve their families.

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