Category Archives: urns

Burial at Sea 4

Part 4

Famous Sea Burials

Probably the most famous sea burial in the history of the United States is a notorious one: that of slain terrorist Osama Bin Laden. It may be surprising to note that many articles about sea burials have noted that Bin Laden’s burial at sea – administered by United States Military personnel who wanted to be sure that a land burial site for the terrorist would not become a pilgrimage spot for future decades of followers – has not led to a decrease in the number of people who have been buried at sea. Other sea burials of note have been actor Robin Williams, film maker H.G. Wells, numerous victims of the sinking of the Titanic, Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, singer Janis Joplin, musician Stan Getz, actor Vincent Price, Astronaut Neil Armstrong, and Atholl McGregor, an internationally known justice from Hong Kong.

So, as we say, burials at sea have been a tradition for centuries, and they continue to be a popular form of disposal for a deceased person’s body. In this day in which many people automatically assume that a person who has died will either be buried or cremated, it is important to remember that there is another option, laden with patriotic tradition, in fact. It may seem, at first glance to be a tradition best suited for those few who have spent their lives on the water – and it is certainly well suited for that – but the land-lubbers of the world can rest assured that the sea has plenty of space for them too.

Burial at Sea 3

Part 3

Laws Regarding Burials at Sea

So long as burials are done well off of a coast, there are very few restrictions on how a burial at sea can be conducted. Generally speaking, law-making bodies want to assure that sea burial will not result in a body being washed ashore, and, other than concern, there is little to interest a local, state, or national government in sea burials. And, to top it off, once a cremation vessel is more than 12 miles away from land, it is considered to be in international waters where complex maritime law takes precedent and, sea burial having been a seagoing tradition for as long as man has been afloat on the seas, there is little chance that law made by sailors will ever prohibit the practice. There has certainly been no move toward that to date.

So make matters even more favorable for sea burial, there are very few laws that prohibit the scattering of cremation ashes over an inshore body of water. (Entire bodies are another matter in this case, of course.) Many people have been known to transfer the remains of their loved one’s cremation into a special, biodegradable, floating urn designed to float peacefully on the water’s surface for 10 to 15 minutes before gradually sinking to the bottom of a body of water where it breaks down relatively quickly allowing the remains to scatter to the four corners of the Earth. This is entirely legal in just about any body of water, provided the participants break no laws in their ceremony at the surface of the water (such as in trespassing over private property, for example).

Burial at Sea 2

Part 2

What Religions Say About Burial At Sea

Religions across the world generally express no major objection to burial at sea. Most that address the topic directly in their various official texts and teachings indicate that, while their preference is for burials to be done on solid ground, there is nothing inherently bad, either for the individual or humanity, about burial at sea. The reason ground burial is preferred has, mostly, to do with memorials. Having a permanent spot in which mourners can return for ceremonies every year (or just visit as the emotional need permits) can be an emotional boon for those who want to remember their friend or relative in style. While this may be a valid point, it is fortunate that the leaders of the world’s great religions – Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam – also recognize that a permanent memorial such as a headstone, monument, or even a simple plaque can be just as effective as a full grave site for the ceremonial purposes of memorializing a beloved friend, colleague or relative.

Burial at Sea

Part 1

Burials at sea are a tradition steeped in history. But it is also a tradition open to more than just sailors and those who have spent their lives on the water. Burial at sea is available to people of all walks of life , and it is done in a wide variety of ways. In some cases, the sea burial is done using cremation ashes and a specially made biodegradable urn; in others a weight is attached to the foot of a shrouded body which is then ceremonially dropped overboard from a ship; and still in others, a body is placed in a very heavy casket and lowered into the water from a boat. And, while famous celebrities such as Robin Williams and Dick Clark have indeed been buried at sea, the tradition is open to anyone. A special attraction to sea burial for many people is that a funeral director need not necessarily be involved and, in fact, so long as a certified ship captain is aboard, the burial need not meet any special requirements. In cases in which cremation ashes are scattered over a body of water, even the requirement of a captain is not necessary in most jurisdictions. The scattering can be based on a shoreline, even, making use of a boat unnecessary. We have assembled a brief list of topics that will be of interested in burial at sea.

funeral home urns

Are Funeral Directors too Pushy?

Are Funeral Directors too Pushy?

Funeral directors are often a maligned group, accused of greed, insensitivity and questionable ethics. Just type “pushy funeral director” into any search engine, and you will certainly be treated to dozens of stories written by funeral home clients who believe they have been cheated, lied to, misled or otherwise abused by a funeral director in charge of final arrangements for a loved one. In fact, many a funeral consumer group in the United States has been formed by disgruntled souls disenchanted by an experience with a funeral home their family hired. And entire laws have been pass by Congress (and many state legislatures) intended to protect consumers from abuses that funeral directors have shown themselves to be prone to in previous decades.
While it is certainly true that not all funeral directors practice questionable ethics and heavy pressure sales tactics, evidence is sufficient for consumers to beware. And funeral directors who are resistant to precautions of wary clients are probably best avoided. This article summarizes some of the problems customers have reported with funeral directors, offers a few tips for how to know when your funeral director is a bad one, and provides some advice for how to get help if your director comes across as being too pushy.

Stories Abound

More than one internet reviewer has said a trip to a funeral home feels much like going to a car lot. Funeral directors have been known to show their clients their most expensive caskets first and offer the least expensive varieties as an after thought, almost as if to say, “Oh, you might also consider this style too, but, actually, no one else ever buys those” even though consumer statistics regularly report that, when it comes to caskets, families tend to prefer the no-frills variety. Funeral directors, or other sales reprentatives working for funeral homes, will often argue against this trend by reminding a family member, “you want only the best in honor of your loved one, correct.”
Likewise, some funeral directors have been reported to be very suspicious of customers who insist on purchasing goods such as cremation urns, headstones and caskets from other retailers – often at a fraction of the cost the funeral home would charge. “We take our commitment to quality very seriously,” is a common line for funeral directors to use when trying to justify their higher prices. Careful consumers will often discover that the product they see on display (or advertises in a catalog) at a funeral home is the exact same product that a non-funeral home retailer offers for hundreds of dollars less. In other words, there is often no difference in quality. The only difference is the retail price. Customers would do well to remember that they always have a legal right to purchase their funeral goods from any source, and they may not be discouraged or charged a special service fee by their funeral director for doing so. Funeral directors have a vested interest in keeping customer ignorant about their legal rights on this matter, and families should be prepared for even the most congenial of them to do so.

What Funeral Directors are Supposed To Do

A funeral director is required by federal law to be very upfront about his or her charges for the services he provides and products he sells. All business activity in a funeral home centers around a federally mandated “General Price List” that shows exactly what services the funeral directors provide and the prices charged. Before any work can legally begin on a loved one’s arrangements, funeral directors are required by law to obtain a family member’s signature on a contract clearly stating what services are to be delivered and what payments will be made. Any funeral director who proceeds on a case (say, for example, after being called by an outside party such as a nursing home, hospital or even pastor) without this required contract may very well be breaking federal law and, at the least, should be treated with suspicion.
Customers should keep in mind that funeral directors have been known to offer illegal commissions (aka kickbacks) to nurses, clergymen, and others who often have need to call for a funeral director on behalf of their clients. Such dubious agreements are certainly not in keeping with a grieving family’s best interest and care should be taken to assure that your funeral director is not partaking in such practices. If a funeral director arrives at a death to which he has not been called by a family member, the best course of action for a family to take is to simply dismiss him from the case immediately and call another funeral director. You may also wish to inquire as to who called the first director, as it is clear this was likely an attempt to collect an illegal commission. Funeral directors should always wait for a family to call them to action.

How to Get Help When Dealing With a Pushy Funeral Director

In today’s technologically-crazed world, the first reaction of many people who have dealt with a funeral director they believe is too push is to simply tell their story, immediately, via Facebook or Twitter. This is likely a mistake. Since a death in a family is usually an emotionally trying time, minor disagreements or miscommunications can potentially flare into significant battles that only lead to more heart ache for all involved.
The best recourse to take when working with a pushy funeral director is to simply hire a new director. This must be done quickly into the process of arranging a funeral, or a memorial service may end up being delayed.
If circumstances make hiring a new director impractical, consulting a lawyer is often the next step that family’s pursue. But this also can lead to more trouble (and expense) than is necessary. Consumers should always remember that plenty of funeral consumer groups in almost every state have the experience and resources to help resolve just about any dispute one may have with a funeral director. Another great source of help is the company that makes or sells any product that a funeral director may be discouraging you from buying for your funeral. A quick call to a third-party retailer’s customer service office explaining one’s story of trying to do business with a pushy funeral director will often result in a firm-but-polite call to the funeral home that will help smooth things along for the grieving family.
In summary, families who are searching for a funeral director to lead their loved-one’s memorial service should take solace in knowing that pushiness is not a universal trait among funeral directors. But they should be ready to take defensive action should they encounter it during these trying times.

Funeral Cremation Urns

What To Look For In A Cremation Urn

What To Look For In A Cremation Urn

As cremation becomes more and more popular across the United States, cremation urns are becoming a more and more common sight across the nation. But many urns of today are a far cry from the traditional “Grecian” style (though, to be sure, that style is still readily available and popular). The large selection of urns available through retailers today can prove overwhelming, a consumer guide is necessary. This article aims to answer the question that often proves to be surprisingly complicated: “Which urn should I choose for my loved one.”
Uses for an Urn

The first thing to consider when searching for a cremation urn is where it will likely end up. Urns intended to be buried or permanently stored, out of sight, in a columbarium need not necessarily be as sophisticated or complex as an urn that will be displayed in a home or some other public place. Plenty of simple, stylishly sophisticated, and relatively inexpensive urns can found in most any retailer’s collection that will be entirely suitable for brief display at a memorial ceremony followed by permanent transfer to a burial site or columbarium. These are probably the best choice if an urn is not intended to be on permanent display (whether public or private). And, while a decision to purchase one of these types of urns narrow’s one’s options considerably, there is still typically a sufficiently large number to choose from to assure that your loved one’s personality is adequately represented, and honored, by the choice.
Likewise, if an urn will likely end up on a special shelf – whether it be in a home or a public place – most any retailer will have a surprising number of artistic options that will capture and represent your loved one’s memory perfectly. From religious scenes to tributes to one’s favorite sport, the memorial products industry has an almost overwhelming number of options for beautiful urns that will carry anyone’s legacy forth, gracefully through the ages in just about any indoor setting.

Urn Size

The next thing to consider as you search for a cremation urn is the size. Urns today can be categorized in three ways according to their size: Keepsake Urns, Individual Urns, Companion Urns.
Keepsake urns are the smallest size and are intended to hold only a small portion of a person’s cremation remains. (Small is a relative term, of course. Some keepsake urns are large enough to hold up to a about a third of the ashes, and others will hold only, say, a teaspoon or so.) Individual urns are probably the most common. As their name implies, they are designed to hold all of the cremation remains of a single individual. And, finally, companion urns are large enough to hold the remains of two people, such as a husband and wife. (Companion urns are, further available in two main styles: divided or combined. Divided urns are designed with the intention that the two people’s remains will be stored in separate compartments. Combined urns, on the other hand, have one large compartment in which the urns of both people are combined together.)
Many urn styles are available in all three sizes, but, then again, many are not. Consumers are advised to check with their retailer about the availability of an urn they may see listed in one size category but would like to buy in a different size. It is often available directly from a manufacturer in a publicized size.

Styles and Materials

Once you have determined the use and size of your urn, it is time to begin considering your many options for style and material. The key to this step of selecting an urn is to not rule out any option too early. At any retailer’s website, you will likely come across hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of urns to choose from, and it’s best to spend a little time pursuing as many as you can before making a decision.
Urns are available in wood, marble, granite, glass, silver, bronze, clay and, in the case of biodegradable urns, even cloth. (And that’s just the start of the list of materials from which urns are made today.) And each of these materials has its own unique properties that affect the artistic features of the urn you will select.

Personalization Options

Many, if not most, urns available from the memorial products industry today can be outfitted with features that personalize the piece to suite the loved one it memorializes. Metal plaques can be attached to many urns announcing the name and important dates of the deceased and, in some cases, a personalized message can be engraved directly onto the surface of the urn itself. And, in still other cases, urns can be individually crafted by an artist following explicit instructions from the purchaser. In the case of glass urns, some manufacturers even offer a service whereby a family submits a small portion of the cremation remains which are then hand blown into the piece itself by the artist.
Personalization Options are available on far more urns that a consumer may realize, and, while they do add to the cost of the urn, the amount is rarely a prohibitive factor. Inquiring from one’s urn retailer about personalization options is usually a worthwhile endeavor.

Prices

This consideration we list last, but, for many wanting to remember their loved ones, it is the most important. It is important to remember that there is no shame or dishonor in being a frugal shopper for a cremation urn, and it should be pointed out that cremation urns are often some of the most reasonably priced memorial products available today. (Especially when compared to headstones and caskets.)
Prices literally range from less than $100 to more than $4,000. The least expensive urns are those stylist pieces that are most suitable for brief display at a funeral followed by burial or storage out of sight. And the most expensive urns are those that involve considerable artistic skill to create. Prices are also based on the quality – and sturdiness – of materials. Biodegradable cloth urns are typically among the least expensive available, and they are much less expensive, by far, than their bronze, or even hard wood, counterparts.
If you follow these guidelines as you search for the best urn for your loved one, it is certain that you will not go wrong in your final choice.